Engineering Reports - What You Should Expect
Licensed Professional Engineers

by Bruce E. Holmes, PE
Holmes Enterprises


Does this sound familiar? You have just “read” an engineering report prepared by a licensed Professional Engineer and are wondering what they said and how in the world did they come up with their opinion based on what was presented?

Confusing language, facts not clear, opinions that do not appear supported by the report, and the ultimate….”we reserve the right to change our opinions if…..”.  

Licensed Professional Engineers

The licensing of Professional Engineers provides protection for the health and welfare of the public through rigorous standards of education and high standards for ethics.

Licensed Professional Engineers are required to be truthful in their engineering work and utilize “due care” in performing in an engineering capacity and to have “due regard” for acceptable standards of engineering principles or could be subject to discipline for engaging in negligence in the practice of engineering.,

Forensic Engineering Investigations

Key elements that should be expected are:

A demonstration of a clear understanding of the problem.
Due diligence to obtain facts and pertinent information.
Gathering of evidence of the failure and possible symptoms.
Analysis of alternative theories for the failure.
Identification of the failure mode and rationale for selection.
An opinion based on empirical facts and engineering principles.

My Observations

I have had the opportunity over the years to review and critique many engineering reports prepared by other licensed Professional Engineers. Here is what I have found in "too" many cases.

1. Reports are confusing - In many cases reports are obtuse and not logically presented. Use of unfamiliar technical terms without explanation and rambling descriptions of findings are common. Maybe the client is not supposed to understand?

2. Inadequate due diligence - As indicated earlier, “due care” is required in performing in an engineering capacity. If there is not a sufficient effort to obtain pertinent facts regarding the situation, how reliable can the report be?

3. Lack of consideration of credible alternatives - In many cases, consideration of different rationales are given short shrift and one explanation for an observed condition is latched onto without “due regard” for acceptable standards of engineering principles.

4. Naked Opinions - Just because one say something is so, doesn't mean it is, licensed Professional Engineer or not. Professional engineering opinions, in my opinion, should be based on pertinent engineering expertise, observed conditions, similar empirical evidence, credible research, and consideration of alternative causes. If a report does not include such information, has “due care” been used?


In my practice, I focus on using a “Failure Modes and Effects” approach to engineering investigations.  In many cases, diligent gathering of facts, analysis of symptoms and consideration of alternative theories of the cause of the failure will lead you to the truth rather than down a rabbit hole.

Bruce E. Holmes, PE
Holmes Enterprises
561 215 8435
415 792 7813

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Copyright. 2019, Bruce E. Holmes, P. A.