IMPLICATIONS OF A RECENT DISCIPLINE CASE: STRUCTURAL DRAWINGS AND BUILDING PERMITS A recent disciplinary decision (summarized on the following page) confirmed the requirements for professional engineers who submit drawings for building permits, and puts a spotlight on the practice of submitting sealed but incomplete drawings as part of building permit applications.
must have been adequate because the building permit was issued. However, a plan reviewer employed by the municipality of Whistler testified that the municipality performs only a basic information and completeness check when it receives a building permit application—not a “check” of the design as described in the BCBC. The municipality does not conduct an engineering analysis at all; instead, the employee of Whistler said, the municipality relies on the assurance of the professional engineer that the submitted drawings comply with the requirements of the BCBC. Mr. Lim also explained that the sealed Schedule B Assurance he included with the building permit application was like a “promissory note”—his commitment to later update and evolve the drawings to a buildable level. Several witnesses in support of Mr. Lim explained that incomplete drawings were commonly used for building permit applications as a way to “get in the queue”, and one witness said that these drawings would eventually “morph” to an “as-constructed” set. THE DISCIPLINE COMMITTEE’S DETERMINATION The Panel of the Discipline Committee, which operates independently from the association, analyzed all the evidence and the submissions and ultimately rejected Mr. Lim’s key arguments. The Panel stated that Mr. Lim’s Schedule B Assurance was his guarantee that the design substantially complied with the BCBC. The Assurance is not a forward-looking promise that the design will comply in the future; the Assurance clearly applies to drawings as submitted . And the Panel also explained that an engineer’s seal on the drawings means that the drawings comply with the relevant legislation—in this case, the BCBC. The Panel also rejected Mr. Lim’s argument that his drawings must have met the standards outlined in the BCBC, because the municipality “checked” the drawings and issued the permit. The Panel said that the municipality does not perform a design or engineering “check”, only a completeness check, before it issues a permit. The Panel wrote: “. . .plan reviewers do not conduct any engineering analysis. They are not trained to do so. The Municipality relies upon the engineer.” Finally, the Panel rejected the argument that Mr. Lim’s drawings were adequate because it was common industry practice to submit incomplete drawings for building permit applications. The Panel reasoned that “common practice” should only be accepted if there is a body of competent and responsible opinion supporting the practice. WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE? Engineers and Geoscientists BC will soon issue a Practice Advisory related to this practice area. When complete, the Practice Advisory will be provided at egbc.ca/guidelines . For questions about submitting drawings, or other practice-related questions, members can contact an Engineers and Geoscientists BC Practice Advisor at PracticeAdvisor@egbc.ca .
The decision, involving a professional engineer who submitted incomplete but sealed structural drawings to a municipality for a residential building permit, clarified that this practice contravenes the BC Building Code (BCBC) and is considered unprofessional conduct. DO I NEED TO CHANGE MY PRACTICE? Engineers and Geoscientists BC will soon issue a Practice Advisory that guides members on their obligations in this area. The advisory outlines the recommended practice for professional engineers, including emphasizing the requirement in the BCBC that structural drawings submitted as part of a permit application are required to be of “sufficient detail to enable the design to be checked” by a professional engineer. The advisory will also verify that it is “not acceptable to submit sealed documents that are incomplete. . . to establish a position in an administrative queue with the intention of providing a more complete version of the document at a later date.” WHAT HAPPENED? In July 2016, a member of the public submitted a complaint to Engineers and Geoscientists BC regarding a Vancouver-based professional engineer, Mr. Edward K. Y. Lim, P.Eng., who had signed and sealed a set of drawings for the complainant’s family residence in Whistler. Mr. Lim had also sealed a Schedule B Assurance—his guarantee that the drawings submitted in support of the building permit substantially complied with the BCBC and other applicable enactments. The drawings were submitted to Whistler as part of an application for a building permit, which the municipality subsequently issued. The complainant later said that a building contractor could not estimate the cost of the building because Mr. Lim’s drawings were not detailed enough. In March 2018, after a thorough investigation, Engineers and Geoscientists BC issued a Notice of Inquiry, alleging that that Mr. Lim’s sealed drawings for this project were materially incomplete and deficient. Notably, the association also alleged that that the drawings “did not contain sufficient detail about the structural members to enable the design to be checked” as required in the BCBC. The association’s core allegation was that, in signing and sealing the submitted structural drawings, Mr. Lim had demonstrated unprofessional conduct. THE HEARING Mr. Lim’s view was that the detail of the submitted drawings was adequate for a building permit, because the municipality “checks” the drawings as required by the BCBC before issuing the permit. Mr. Lim said the drawings
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