There are many stories that this phrase brings to mind, and this one comes from Bill Gusnard of Birmingham, Alabama:

In 1987, Bill was doing the mechanical engineering design for a small architectural firm in St. Louis. They had a client with retail stores (similar to Wal-Mart) and had previously designed six mid-level stand-alone stores for this client. When the request for bid was issued for another store, they bid on it, but it was awarded to another firm. Their contract with the storeowners allowed them to see copies of the competitor's drawings. When Bill looked over their drawings, he was amazed at what he saw. The winning bidder had copied all of his details on Stan-Pat and placed them on their drawings. Even more amazing, they had also copied all of the design down to the air handlers, chillers and other HVAC equipment as specified by Bill.

This was upsetting except the "Cheap man" law once again struck! The store they had chosen to copy was one designed for the Chicago area and it had some design errors in the chillers that were solved after construction and there were no as-builts made to correct the drawings. (Could this be another sign of a cheap man?) To make a long story short, the copied design included these errors in the new store. What could make this story better? Nothing but the truth. Yes, the copied store was designed for Chicago weather, and the chiller errors must have been corrected as were done in the original store. The final problem for this cheap client was the new store was in Dallas, not Chicago. Would anyone care to guess how efficient the HVAC operated? This all came about from a client who attempted to save approximately $5000 in engineering costs (the charge for doing new calculations and a code search).

What was learned from this? Watch what you copy! It somewhat reminds me of some of the plants that were built in the seventies that were "identical to the original except opposite hand." But that is another story.

Dennis Novotny

© 17 November 2000