NSPE's Gateway to Private Practice PEPP Talk Winter 2010 

Checking Social Sites for Information on Candidates

As firms become busier, many seem to be searching for easier ways to gain information about prospective employees. Many have found that accessing online social networking sites can provide a background check that otherwise would be impossible.

Online communities such as MySpace or Facebook are tremendous sources of information. Often, that information provides a highly personal self-assessment or even evidence of criminal behavior. Such sites with profiles, and others with blogs or visible chat sessions, can provide background information on prospective employees that most employees would probably otherwise conceal.

Online Information Is Considered Public

Information posted on social networking sites or in blogs is considered public, and some of the information placed on these public sites can be extremely revealing. Students and others who are using online community sites seem to have an unreasonable expectation of privacy. Many seem to misunderstand that if they are exhibitionists on the internet, document their own bad behavior, or provide comments that reveal too much, they will damage their reputations and their opportunities.

Searching online as part of background checks can provide important perspective on candidates, many of whom may be more honest online than on their resumes. According to Rosemary Haefner, vice president of CareerBuilder.com, a company that surveyed hiring managers, firms have reported that artificial credentials are the most common online discovery that leads to disqualification of a prospect. Unlawful behavior discussed by the candidate seems to run a close second.

Searches May Lead to Employment Discrimination Actions

Usually, a comment by an interviewer or an inappropriate question provides a rejected candidate with the basis for a discrimination complaint. Most firms are very careful to ask only those questions relevant to the job and avoid personal questions that could be used as evidence of discriminatory conduct. Employment screening that first looks at personal Web posts on social Web sites may encourage inappropriate questioning. Interviewers should avoid inadvertently including questions about comments prospects have made online.

Firms may want to spell out policies about their use of online tools for employment screening to avoid the risk of being accused of discrimination, but there are no reported cases yet in which a rejected candidate has filed a discrimination suit based on information found online. A blog or posting on a social site may lose a person a job, but proving that it was because of their race, gender, or age is a difficult requirement.

Services Exist to Purge Web Sites

As the realities of online background checks grow, some candidates are deciding that they need to purge inappropriate behavior from their digital record, and entrepreneurs are offering such services. In most cases these new “sanitizers” conduct extensive online searches before a candidate applies for a job. The services often are able to eradicate evidence of undignified behavior, immature indiscretions, or indecorous comments from all but public records. Firms using online background checks, however, may respond by considering an “absolutely clean” online record of a prospective employee as suspect.

Making online searches part of a firm’s background check for a prospective employee is likely to become a standard practice. Firms should look at such screening carefully to avoid exposure to discrimination claims, allegations of defamation, or injudicious rejection of candidates who otherwise may have become productive and creative employees.

© 2010, Victor O. Schinnerer & Co. Inc. Statements concerning legal matters should be understood to be general observations based solely on our experience as risk consultants and may not be relied upon as legal advice, which we are not authorized to provide. All such matters should be reviewed with a qualified advisor. Victor O. Schinnerer & Co. Inc. is managing underwriter for the Schinnerer and CNA Professional Liability Insurance Program, commended by NSPE/PEPP since 1957.


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COFPAES Holds QBS Workshop and Federal A&E Forum

The Council on the Federal Procurement of Architectural and Engineering Services sponsored a QBS Contracting for A/E Services workshop, where U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chief of Architect-Engineer Management Bruce Ware, P.E., taught a sold-out crowd of agency and private-sector professionals. “USACE believes in quality selection,” Ware said.

COFPAES also held its semi-annual Federal Architecture and Engineering Forum. Speakers included agency and congressional staff members who encouraged dialog among the agency and private-sector audience by discussing procurement issues and asking for feedback. Molly Wilkinson, Republican Deputy General Counsel for the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, discussed the outlook for acquisition policy in the 112th Congress. Geoff Bowman, staff member for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, warned of the potential difficulties stemming from the end of earmarks.

NSPE is a founding member of COFPAES, an organization dedicated to protecting and promoting the use of qualifications-based selection.


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Federal Engineer of the Year Award Sponsorship Opportunities

Engineers play a vital role in national security, infrastructure improvement, disaster recovery, new technologies, and other important areas. The National Society of Professional Engineers will recognize the top federal engineers at its 2011 Federal Engineer of the Year Award ceremony. This award is the only one of its kind to solely recognize outstanding engineers employed in the federal government.

Each year, federal engineers from across the country are recognized. They are nominated by their employing agency, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Naval Facilities Command, U.S. Air Force, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy, among others. These nominees are then judged and ranked against each other. On February 24, 2011, leaders from both private and public engineering sectors will recognize the agency winners, the top 10 finalists, and the individual selected to win the Federal Engineer of the Year Award at a luncheon and ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. This event provides a unique opportunity for organizations to interface with hundreds of attendees, including senior engineers and agency administrators from multiple government agencies.

Your company can be a part of this prestigious event by becoming a sponsor. You can find more information about the event and how to become a sponsor on the NSPE Web site athttp://www.nspe.org/InterestGroups/PEG/Resources.

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Integrated Project Delivery Sets New Team Objectives
Steven Storts

One of the more general misconceptions about integrated project delivery is the assumption that IPD is just an expanded version of the design-build concept. While design-build principles may be closely aligned with the fundamentals of IPD, the latter actually pitches a larger tent; design-build simply shares space under that tent.

Construction industry sources point out that design-build procurement and management methods can differentiate among projects and may or may not include the owner to varying degrees. If design-build moves more toward a procurement process or a project management that does not include the owner, it also begins to move away from the fundamental principles of IPD. Conversely, when design-build is used according to its best practices, it also aligns with the best practices of IPD. This is where the two concepts are sometimes inadvertently considered synonymous.

In its 2007 report Integrated Project Delivery—A Working Definition, the Integrated Project Delivery Task Force released its now widely accepted statement: IPD is a project delivery approach that integrates people, systems, business structures, and practices into a process that collaboratively harnesses the talents and insights of all participants to optimize project results; increase value to the owner; reduce waste; and maximize efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication, and construction.

The IPD Task Force, an interdisciplinary group sponsored by McGraw-Hill Construction and the American Institute of Architects/California Council, notes that within the ideal IPD and design-build models, the owner, designers, and builders work jointly from a project’s inception to mutually establish the performance, budget, and schedule within the constraints of the owner’s business model. Moreover, IPD principles can also be applied to a variety of contractual arrangements, with project teams including members beyond the basic triad of owner, engineer/architect, and contractor—all aimed at a life-cycle approach toward constructed facilities.

As part of its core definition, IPD is a “deeply collaborative process that uses best available technologies, but it goes beyond merely the application of digital tools, such as building information modeling (BIM),” the task force report notes. Unless all parties are committed to a set of essential principles, integrated practice will not succeed, the task force emphasizes. These principles include mutual respect, mutual benefit, early goal definition, enhanced communication, clearly defined standards, appropriate technology, and high performance.

To some, those principles may sound reflective of the construction partnering process. However, the AIA/California Council contends that partnering is purelyaspirational, with project stakeholders signing a nonbinding agreement that supports joint and open interaction. “Partnering does not, however, change the basic contract and liability relationships, nor does it create incentives and consequences that flow from achieving or ignoring the collaborative goals,” the council explains.

In contrast, IPD is a value-driven process, where project goals are reinforced through shared risk (appropriate liability allocation) and reward based on the best interests of the project as a whole rather than individual performance.

Noteworthy, too, the council says that acceptance of IPD’s essential principles does not necessarily guarantee project success. “Although integrated projects can proceed using various business models, some approaches are better suited to an integrated project than others,” according to the IPD Task Force, which represents the interests of architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, owners, and attorneys.

For instance, under the more traditional design-bid-build approach, key participants cannot be identified until bids are received—too late to meaningfully participate in developing the integrated design, resulting in a likely failure to achieve the efficiency and performance benefits of an integrated process, the task force points out. For this reason, progressive design-build delivery methods have the potential to be more consistent with the integrated approach.

If a business model is a good fit for IPD, there are eight primary sequential phases that comprise the integrated approach, the task force reports:

Conceptualization (traditionally known as pre-design): the beginning of determining what is to be built;

Criteria Design (traditionally known as schematic design): where the project begins to take shape;

Detailed Design (traditionally known as design development): concludes the what-is-being-created phase of the project;

Implementation Documents (traditionally known as construction documents): where the focus shifts from what is being created to documenting how it will be implemented;

Agency Review: use of digital technologies such as BIM, early involvement, and validation by agencies to shorten the final permitting process;

Buyout: complete buyout of remaining contracts;

Construction: where the benefits of the integrated model are realized; and

Closeout: delivery of an intelligent 3-D model to the project owner.

For construction organizations considering an IPD approach, proponents recommend business models that promote early involvement of key participants; equitably balance risk and reward; have compensation structures that reward best-for-project behavior or provide incentives related to project success; clearly define responsibilities without discouraging open communication and risk taking; and implement management and control structures built around team decision-making.

What has been your experience with the IPD approach? Please send any feedback or comments to pepp@nspe.org.

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Freese and Nichols Receives 2010 Baldrige Award

Tuesday, November 23, 2010 (Fort Worth, Texas)—U. S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke announced today that Freese and Nichols is a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Freese and Nichols is the first engineering and architectural firm ever to receive this award and one of seven businesses to be recognized this year. With 450 employees, the Texas firm is one of three recognized in the small business category.

The Baldrige Award is a prestigious national recognition that promotes excellence in organizational performance, recognizes the achievements of U.S. organizations, and publicizes successful performance strategies. There were 83 applications submitted for the Baldrige Award in 2010. Applicants were evaluated in seven areas: leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; operations focus; and results. The evaluation process for each recipient included about 1,000 hours of review and an onsite visit by a team of examiners to clarify questions and verify information.

Freese and Nichols Inc. is a full-service professional consulting firm serving municipal and county governments, river authorities and water districts, transportation entities, the U.S. government, higher education and the energy industry. With offices in the Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Lubbock, San Antonio, and Tyler areas, Freese and Nichols' 450 employees provide engineering, architecture, environmental science, planning, and program management services throughout Texas.

Named after Malcolm Baldrige, the 26th Secretary of Commerce, the Baldrige Award was established by Congress in 1987 to enhance the competitiveness and performance of U.S. businesses. Since 1988, 87 organizations have received Baldrige Awards. The Award is managed by the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in conjunction with the private sector.

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PEPP 2010-11
Executive Board

Mark Davy, P.E.
La Crosse, WI

Andrea Martinez-Graves,
Tampa, FL

Dawn Edgell, P.E.
Chicago, IL

Immediate Past Chair
Bill Clarke, P.E., F.NSPE
St. Louis, MO 

Vice Chair, Northeast Region
Randy Petersen,
Washington, DC

Vice Chair, Southeast Region
Charlotte Maddox, P.E., F.NSPE
Tampa, FL

Vice Chair, Central Region
Kent Buehrer, P.E., F.NSPE
Maumee, OH 

Vice Chair, North Central Region 
Karen Stelling, P.E.
Kansas City, MO

Vice Chair, Southwest Region
Chris Richard, P.E.
Lafayette, LA

Vice Chair, Western and Pacific Region 
Wes Segawa, P.E.
Hilo, HI 

Young Engineer Representative 
Carlos Gittens, P.E.
Deltona, FL

SSEC Representative
Pat Christians
Birmingham, AL

PEPP Staff
Kim Granados, CAE
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