In our previous blogs (see links at the end of this page), we discussed the mandatory requirements of the City of Los Angeles’ Soft Story Retrofit Program and the Tenant Habitability Program (“THP”), which requires the owner / landlord of a Soft Story building to mitigate the impact of retrofitting activities on the property’s tenants.   In the blog entry below, we explain how the owner / landlord of a Soft Story building typically hires a structural and/or soil engineer to design the project, and a construction firm to carry the project out!

Hiring a licensed Structural Engineer

Property owners / landlords must hire a licensed structural engineer to design a retrofit project.  Such an engineer typically works at a structural engineering firm, or in-house, at a specialty construction company which is experienced at seismically retrofitting Soft Story buildings.  The professionals at Weinstein Construction have many connections within the engineering industry and can either introduce you to a structural engineer, or we can design the engineering plans for your project using one of our licensed, highly-credentialed, and experienced in-house structural engineers.

It should be noted that hiring a qualified, experienced structural engineer is not always an easy task, as comparing cost proposals from various engineering firms can be confusing.  Property owners / landlords must exercise caution when comparing one engineering cost proposal against another, as there are many factors which either increase or decrease engineering costs, and a “budget” or low-cost engineering option is not always the best one!

For example, one engineering cost proposal may assume that you already have building drawings, and therefore reduce their cost accordingly.  A second proposal may assume that drawings are not available, and therefore increase costs to allow for additional job site visits, taking measurements, and drafting new drawings.  Similarly, one engineering cost proposal may take into consideration having only a single in-person engineer visit to the job site, and a second proposal may contemplate three or more such visits.  Since each engineer’s visit to the job site typically costs hundreds of dollars, multiple visits often increase costs substantially!

What complicates matters further, is that we have unfortunately come across a number of unscrupulous engineering firms who do not always have their clients’ best interests at heart.  As such, we must advise property owners / landlords to proceed with caution when hiring outside engineers.  Having said that, the good news is that the professionals at Weinstein Construction are always on your side!  We will always have your best interest at heart, and will always work hard to advise you, and help you hire the best engineers that fit the needs of your Soft Story project!   Don’t get caught in a jam – come to Weinstein Construction for advice first!

Hiring a licensed Soil Engineer

Property owners / landlords may also find out that they need to hire a licensed soil engineer from one of many geotechnical engineering firms, for those Soft Story projects that involve a structure built on a hillside, or on top of unstable soil.  The professionals at Weinstein Construction can typically advise you if you need to hire a soil engineer to conduct a geotechnical survey of the soil under your Soft Story building, and we can refer you to experienced and licensed soil engineers that can do this work.  The soil engineer will typically visit the job site and will bore into the ground to take soil samples, and then provide you with recommendations on how to remediate any issues that they find.

Hiring a construction firm and submitting engineering plans for the City’s approval

After the structural engineer has completed the design of the project plans, property owners / landlords of Soft Story buildings will typically seek to hire an experienced, licensed contractor to provide a cost proposal for carrying out the Soft Story retrofit.  Unfortunately, the process of picking a contractor is also one of those project steps that can prove to be difficult to manage!  This is because there are many construction firms bidding on Soft Story projects, and quite a few of them are unlicensed, or have minimal experience and qualifications to do this type of complicated work.  Oftentimes, we have also seen how some unreliable construction firms “low-ball” their initial price, disregard major aspects of the work that should be taken into a cost account, and then later-on pile on charges for items that were not included in the original cost proposal.

So, this is another area where owners / landlords of Soft Story buildings must proceed with caution, and pick a reputable construction firm that is fully licensed, bonded, and insured, and that has already done many, many Soft Story projects.  Happily, this is where the Soft Story specialists at Weinstein Construction can help!  We are experts at Soft Story retrofits, having worked on hundreds of such projects!   As part of the proposal costing process, we will visit your property, evaluate your engineering plans, and will work seamlessly with you and the project engineers to provide you with the highest possible level of service, at a reasonable price!

Our staff will also be pleased to assist you in submitting your plans to the City’s Building and Safety Department for review, and can work with the project engineers to answer any questions or requests for plan modifications from the City’s Plan Checker.  Once the City approves the plan, Weinstein Construction can collect the City’s permit on your behalf and begin the Soft Story retrofit construction project!

In our next blog entry, we’ll discuss how a construction firm such as Weinstein Construction actually carries out a Soft Story retrofit project!

Meanwhile, if you wish to discuss with one of Weinstein Construction’s Soft Story experts the process for hiring an Engineer, or if you’d like for us to recommend one to you, please call Weinstein Construction at (800) 862-6582.  At this time, we can also schedule you for a free, no-obligation inspection and estimate to retrofit your Soft Story structure!

Other Weinstein Construction blogs on Soft Story Retrofits and the Requirements of the City of Los Angeles can be found below: