One of the most important questions an apartment owner can make when deciding to move forward with an earthquake retrofit, is determining the best approach to get the job done.

Most public agencies recommend the “design-bid-build” approach rather than hiring one contractor to do both the engineering study and construction project.

The City of Los Angeles states that property owners “must hire an engineer or architect licensed in the state of California to evaluate the strength of the building. The engineer or architect must then develop plans for the building’s seismic strengthening in compliance with (the city) program.”

Here are the three best steps to take to ensure better control over the scope of work and the costs of your project:

STEP ONE: Design

There are definite benefits to hiring an engineer or architect to perform the scope of work on your project. Why? These licensed professionals will identify the most cost-effective approach to your project because they have no financial interest in making an engineering plan bigger than it really needs to be.


Having a complete scope of work for your project enables building owners to solicit construction bids from multiple contractors so you can get the best price for your project.

Your engineering plan allows for an apples-to-apples approach to getting cost estimates on the construction of your seismic retrofit project. Without it, contractors may submit estimates with different recommendations on how the job should be done. This makes it very difficult to compare the proposals you’ve received.

Hiring a qualified contractor to follow your approved engineering plan is the best protection you can have against hidden costs, future problems and liabilities. Your approved engineering plan will stand on its own and set a benchmark for what should and should not be done on your building.


With a full set of design plans in-hand, and multiple bids to choose from, building owners are positioned to have better control over the construction process. There should be no need for change orders, because the scope-of-work has already been determined.