Guest Column - January 2010
Find a printable version here


Get Your Skatepark Done Right
Why You Should Use Professionally Sealed Drawings

By Paul W. Hayman

Increasingly, municipalities are faced with a multitude of development projects and options with regard to their recreational areas. More and more they must decide which kinds of projects to pursue and which individual service providers to use for each kind of project.

The issue of drawings sealed by local engineers and architects often arises when it is a requirement for the permitting process. Many state statutes mandate that the state or a political subdivision may not construct a public work involving engineering in which the public welfare or safety is involved unless the engineering plans have been prepared or reviewed by an engineer licensed within the state.

There are many types of public works projects that should always be reviewed by an engineer. Projects that everyone knows require an engineer to seal drawings would be things like bridges, tunnels, dams and piers. But there are projects, especially parks projects, where many people don't think about the necessity of sealed engineer drawings. These projects include things like bleachers, swimming pools and skateparks.

There are many reasons that a professional engineer should seal the drawings for such public works projects:

1. Professionalism
A company that routinely works with a professional engineer and is comfortable having their work reviewed by an engineer shows their experience and professionalism. If you were a public works director choosing a contractor for a skatepark and one contractor uses professionally sealed drawings and the other doesn't, which would you choose, all other things being equal?

2. Liability
By requiring the company to provide professionally sealed drawings, you create an extra layer of review and liability protection. In this legal climate, a municipality may even open itself to liability claims for not requiring sealed documents when it has an option to do so. ("That skatepark injury might have been avoided had the project been reviewed by a locally licensed professional.")

When a licensed professional reviews, and in some cases supervises the drawing of, these documents, they then put their professional seal on them. This means they take full responsibility for all the information provided. If the project is built as drawn and sealed, any resulting failure or defect that shows up during or after the project is constructed is their responsibility.

3. Project-Specific
Most professional companies have an engineer review and seal the construction and manufacturing details of the product they produce. Unless required, these companies won't usually have an engineer review the application of their product for area-specific applications. Performance requirements vary from state to state and even county to county, so it is important that an engineer licensed in the project state and who knows the local requirements reviews and seals the drawings.

4. Confidence in Your Project
If the drawings are professionally sealed, you can be confident that the project or product that you are perusing is top quality. A skateboard park designer may believe that his design is complete and needs no professional review, but how do you best transfer that confidence in the project to the people responsible for the public safety?

Public works and parks directors perform a great service to the communities they serve, providing infrastructure for everyday life and increased quality of life. They also have the difficult responsibility of ensuring the projects they manage are constructed with the public's safety and best interests in mind. All of this must be done while following a strict budget, basically getting the best and highest quality at the most competitive price. The cost that is associated with having a contractor provide engineer-sealed drawings for a project is vastly outweighed by the amount of peace of mind and risk mitigation that is gained.


Paul W. Hayman, P.E., is founder of Hayman Engineering LLC. For more information, visit