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Fwd: Civil Engineering News Editorial (April, 1997 issue)

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I just received this month's issue of Civil Engineering News and read your
publisher's editorial. In summary, you suggest that we engineers stop
complaining about the state of our profession because we have it so much
better than our counterparts in third world countries.

In a sense, I agree that we should spend less time complaining and more
time taking action to either do our job better, find out ways to make a
better living or to change the state of our profession.

However, I mostly disagree with the premise of your arguement. I believe
just about anyone here in the U.S. could make the same statement about
their counterparts in third world countries. There is a reason so many
people want to emmigrate to the U.S. It's pretty good here. However, we
have worked hard and fought for these conditions. At least I did and my
father did. To compare a standard with that of the third world for any
other purpose than to feel grateful for the conditions we have built here
is a stretch.

My particular discipline in engineering is Structural Engineering. Here in
California, the codes are written so loose that just about anyone can
practice Structural Engineering. This includes Architects and Civil
Engineers as well as Structural Engineers. As you are probably aware, there
is extreme seismic risk in most of this state. However, a Civil Engineering
graduate with two years experience can stamp and sign just about any set of
building plans in this state. Most of my Structural Engineering colleagues
have a great deal more experience and are informally required to
participate in seminars, etc. to stay current in their field. I firmly
believe that it takes a great deal more expertise to do a proper job here
than the law requires.

Since we (licensed Structural Engineers) are faced with competing with
people who, I feel, are undercredentialed, our fees remain disproportionate
to the effort and risk required to do a good job. Further, in the field of
Architectural Engineering (i.e., building design) we are typically
consultants to an Architect. Due to the "trickle down effect", it is
usually difficult to submit fee proposals proportional to the level of
effort a good job requires nor the risks assumed after completion of the
project. There is still the perception that the Architect performs the
structural engineering on the building projects and the general public is
unaware that a special expertise is required.

You may also be aware that there are a lot of Attorneys in California. It
is common knowledge and practice here that, when we accept a Condominium
project, we WILL be sued 3-5 years after the completion of the project
regardless of the due diligence applied during design.

The "head in the sand" attitude presented in your editorial would do
nothing to improved these conditions. Although it may be true that the
conditions here are better than for our third world counterparts, there is
a great deal that can be and should be done to improve how we are perceived
by the general public as well as how we are compensated for the level of
professional development, effort and risk we contribute to a project.

Regards,
Bill Allen, S.E.


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From: "Bill Allen, S.E." <ballense(--nospam--at)concentric.net>
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Subject: Civil Engineering News Editorial (April, 1997 issue)
Date: Mon, 7 Apr 1997 14:58:37 -0700
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Richard Lewis, P.E.
Missionary TECH Team
rlewis(--nospam--at)techteam.org

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