To obtain appropriate permitting and meet required specifications, many construction projects require stamped drawings. Stamped drawings bear the seal of a Professional Engineer. They may take the form of a general arrangement drawing or provide more detail for a project or piece of equipment.
In this article, you will learn the purpose of stamped drawings, the process, and alternatives.
Purpose of Stamped Drawings
Stamped drawings show that a professionally trained engineer reviewed the subject drawing and they meet code and safety requirements. The requirements to become a professionally trained engineer. While the exact criteria vary by state, the same general standards apply:
- A four year engineering degree by an ABET accredited university.
- Passing the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam (FE)
- Four years of active engineering practice
- Passing the Principles and Practice Exam (PE)
This process ensures the stamping engineer has proper credentials to perform the work. Most frequently, the stamping engineer does not actually perform the drawings. So by stamping another’s work, they verify the design and certify the work as quality. In short, when an engineer stamps plans, they take full responsibility for those plans.
Commercial building drawings commonly require stamping. Such a drawing would require all architectural, mechanical, and electrical (A, M & E) professionals’ participation. Multiple stamps would need to be applied, depending on the responsible engineering firm.
In nearly all cases, civil projects are the most frequent discipline that employs the stamped drawing process. This makes intuitive sense as civil projects affect the public’s wellbeing. Thus, any failure results in catastrophic results and likely fatalities.
Stamped Drawings Process
In nearly all cases, drawings are prepared electronically via a 2D drafting system such as Autocad or a 3D program like Solidworks. The person charged with providing the drawing should have a strong understanding of design or draft under an engineer or designer’s direction.
Upon drawing completion, the asset owner must submit to local building officials architectural and engineering drawings stamped by a licensed architect, professional engineer, or both to receive a permit to build or change specific structures. Local building codes and statutes govern these drawings.
In some cases, the responsible engineer does not send the stamped drawings to a government entity. The stamping requirement may be in place to ensure oversight by a professional engineer.
The engineer in charge of a project must affix their stamp and sign every sheet of the drawings or reports before submitting them to the client. Engineers may also apply a notation identifying their role in drafting and assessing the documents.
Even if a project does not include stamped drawings, a formal and structured review process of the drawing may occur. This process should be inter-disciplinary whenever possible. Input, changes, and results should occur with clients, contractors, and any technical stakeholders on the project.
Depending on an organization’s needs, design reviews and design checking may supplement or provide an alternative to stamped drawings.
A good design review begins with right-sizing the invitee list. Too large, and people’s time is wasted. Too small, and the lack of necessary expertise may result in future change orders. Design reviews differ from the more common project meeting as the focus should be strictly technical.
To ensure a productive meeting, the project manager should dispense drawings and evaluation documents to all stakeholders prior to the meeting. Evaluation documents include customer specifications, reference drawings, calculations, and code references that help provide further context to the drawing.
The meeting should run with an agenda in a controlled format. In many ways, a well-run design review varies little from an effective HAZOP with analysis of each part of the drawing proceeding in a controlled and systemic manner.
Design checking is a quality control process. It validates a design and/or a design calculation to ensure an error-free document. Checking adds value to a project by incorporating sound engineering principles, aesthetics, and cost savings, resulting in a more excellent overall value for the client. Typically another professional provides design checking as a part of their usual job duties. However, at times, the checking role may be a dedicated job duty.
A quality check in design provides:
- Confidence that the deliverable (drawing, calc, etc.) is error-free.
- Assurance that it adheres to the applicable design standards and codes.
- Consistency in the design approach and aesthetics across units in the design
- Optimization for design and cost.
- Lower probability of field rework
Design checking provides a standard quality check in nearly all project work. In rare cases, design checking costs more in manhour costs than the financial cost of making a mistake.