BY SCOTT R. DRURY, PE, FBPE MEMBER
William Shakespeare penned in the tragedy Romeo and Juliet:
‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy…
O be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
As an aside, I know what you are thinking. Yes, I am quoting Shakespeare to a bunch of engineers. And, for those of you that have not thought about Romeo and Juliet since high school, I will get to my point regarding engineering very quickly after I set the stage for my argument.
In the story, Juliet has fallen in love with Romeo, a Montague, which is the rival house of Juliet’s family, the Capulets. Juliet tries to argue that if his name was not “Montague,” then it would be okay for them to get married. The real question is if value is associated with the name itself, or if the value would still exist if it had a different name.
So, how does this apply to engineering? Engineering is our “rose.” Engineering work is engineering work, period. You can try to call it something different, but the smell test will reveal that it is engineering.
There is a common misconception among professionals who hold multiple licenses and certifications, especially when one of those is a license to practice engineering in Florida. This misconception is that an individual can choose which license or certification will be used for a particular project. The thought may be: “On this project, I will use my ____ license instead of my engineering license.”
Any work performed in Florida that falls under the definition of engineering as defined in Section 471.005(7), Florida Statutes, is considered to be engineering, and thus falls under the jurisdiction of Chapter 471, F.S., Engineering. The statute requires that all engineering work must be performed by a Florida Professional Engineer, unless one of the exemptions from Section 471.003, F.S., Qualifications for Practice; Exemptions, applies; otherwise, it is considered unlicensed activity. But, if you are a Florida Professional Engineer, you must comply with all the laws and rules governing the practice of engineering in Florida, even if one of these exemptions applies.
Let’s look at a few examples. Keep in mind that this article is focused on the engineering laws and rules, notwithstanding additional laws and rules from other regulating bodies.
Licensed Engineer/Licensed Surveyor
Both Chapter 471, F.S., Engineering, and Chapter 472, F.S., Land Surveying and Mapping, require all final drawings, plans, specifications, and reports issued by a licensee to be signed, dated, and sealed. For those that hold both a professional engineering license and a professional surveying license, which license do you use when you prepare a final document for surveying work? The answer is… it depends. Some surveying work falls within the definition of engineering, while other work does not.
If the surveying work is not engineering such as a land survey (metes and bounds), then you simply use your professional surveying license.
If the surveying work is an engineering survey (as included in the definition of engineering), then you use both licenses.
Rule 61G15-23.002(2)(c), Florida Administrative Code, provides a path to satisfy both licenses.
(c) For Professional Engineers who are in good standing under both Chapters 471 and 472, F.S., a seal similar to that depicted here may be used.
Licensed Engineer/Licensed Contractor
Let’s say that you hold a mechanical contracting license (under Chapter 489, F.S., Contracting) in addition to your engineering license (under Chapter 471, F.S., Engineering). You are working on a project that has heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment no greater than 15-tons and a total project value less than $125,000. According to Section 471.003(2)(h), F.S., this project is exempt from requiring professional engineering services. The project is still required to be permitted by local jurisdiction, so permit documents are created and submitted to the proper authorities.
Although the mechanical contractor part of you is not required to submit signed, dated, and sealed documents for permitting, the engineer part of you is. The exemption does not change the fact that the work is engineering; the exemption is from requiring this particular work to be performed by a Professional Engineer. If you had only a contracting license, you would not be required to provide sealed plans of the design for permitting. But, since you are also a Professional Engineer, you provided engineering services and are held to the same requirements regarding any engineering work.
Licensed Engineer/Certified Energy Auditor
Some professionals have certifications through professional organizations with specialties in fields in addition to their engineering license. These professional organizations are not regulated by the State of Florida, and the certification is not technically a license to practice in the state. For this example, we will consider Certified Energy Auditors, although this applies to various other certifications as well that relate to areas of engineering.
A Certified Energy Auditor evaluates how energy is being used in a facility, identifies energy conservation opportunities, and makes recommendations to reduce or optimize energy consumption. These recommendations often modify components in a facility or modifies how and when a system operates.
The professional organization most likely has its own rules and requirements for providing these recommendations and how they are to be presented. Notwithstanding the rules for abiding by those rules, as a Professional Engineer, any professional recommendation or report for a topic defined as engineering is required to be sealed.
So, what does this all mean? A licensed engineer is always a licensed engineer, at least while they hold a valid license in Florida. As a licensed engineer, you cannot choose to be an engineer on one day and not another day. It does not matter if you are licensed or certified as a surveyor, contractor, firestop inspector, energy auditor, commissioning agent, home inspector, or any other professional expertise; if you hold a valid engineering license and perform any work with the other license or certification that overlaps with the definition of engineering, the work is considered engineering and requires the seal of a Professional Engineer, as well as compliance with the responsibility rules and minimum standards of due care for the practice of engineering.
About the Author
Scott R. Drury, PE, is a licensed Professional Engineer in Florida with expertise in both mechanical and fire protection engineering, and is a certified Commissioning Authority (CxA), Certified Firestop Inspector, and LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP BD+C). He is a principal for H2Engineering Inc. with offices in Tallahassee and Gainesville. He began serving on the Board in February 2018 and is currently its vice chair.