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Spending Less on Plans Might Mean a More Expensive Project

John is a building owner in Garden Grove, California. To preserve the equity in his building, he decided to perform a seismic retrofit as protection in the event of an earthquake. He obtained quotes from several structural engineers tasked with preparing plans for the project. After reviewing the engineering quotes, he selected a firm.

Some time passed and he was ready to begin construction. He called Saunders Commercial Seismic Retrofit, stating that the plans were drafted, and he was ready to move forward with the project.

On first review of the plans, Steven Saunders became concerned. He noticed that the plans were over engineered in some locations, and called for weak connections in some of the most important areas of the building.

The current plans would cause construction costs to be double the normal costs, while not changing the PML (Probable Maximum Loss) appropriate to the construction costs. Probable Maximum Loss is a figure used by lenders and insurance companies to describe the total maximum loss likely in the event of an earthquake.

Steven called John to request re-drafting the plans by an engineer familiar with seismic retrofitting. This would save John time and money on the construction. John declined, stating his concern about the time required in re-drafting the plans and the imminent possibility of an earthquake resulting in the potential loss of his building.

Thus, Saunders pressed forward under the current plans. During the process of construction, numerous discrepancies arose between the engineer's plans and the actual building design. These were sent to the engineer for clarification. A response was not received due to the engineer's inability to answer the technical questions and he was becoming ill, so the project was stalled.

This dilemma caused Saunders to re-engage John about the use of another engineer. John agreed, so Saunders called upon a qualified engineer to modify the remainder of the details that had not yet been installed.

With this plan modification, the qualified engineer and Saunders were able to reduce the overall costs by $40,000, which included the new engineering fees. This was an 18% savings. Had the building owner obtained a qualified engineer from the outset, this could have resulted in a 50% savings or more.

The bulk of costs involved in a seismic retrofit exist in the construction, so hiring an experienced engineer to draft the plans will reduce the cost of construction. The reduced cost will most likely cover their fees, decreasing overall costs.

In addition, working with a construction company familiar with the type of project being undertaken allows an experienced secondary review of plans before implementation.

Saunders specializes in commercial seismic retrofits, prevention and repair damage from roof condensation, and structural repair projects, including renovation and rehabilitation. To engage a qualified engineer, call Amber Shea at Saunders Seismic Retrofit.

If you have experienced a similar circumstance or have an asset protection construction story to share, please send a description to Your story may be included in an upcoming newsletter.

Saunders Employee Spotlight: Amber Zamora

amber shea Amber has worked for Saunders Seismic Retrofit for eight years, primarily coordinating all current projects, including scheduling and contracts. She is also the point person for all questions before, during, and after a project. In addition to overseeing all projects, Amber functions as the liaison between the Northern California and Seattle, Washington offices, and supports Steven Saunders with marketing for the company.

Amber was born and raised in the agricultural area of Riverside California, and grew up with great family and friends. Her parents owned and operated their own fundraising business. After school and softball practice, Amber assisted in the office or warehouse, always eager to help.

Wanting to find her own adventure, in 1998 Amber relocated to Orange County, California, where she began working for Saunders. During this time, Amber attended evening classes at Cal State University Fullerton, eventually graduating cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Studies. She went on to obtain her teaching credential in Special Education, and her Master's Degree in Education. In 2003, Amber instructed for the Corona-Norco Unified School District, but returned to Saunders at the end of the school year.

When not working, Amber enjoys spending time with family and friends, as well as reading, camping and playing softball. She was recently married to Max Zamora.

Contractors Licenses: CA 616856; OR 193670; WA SAUNDCI953ND

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