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RE: Structural Engineers (CE & SE)

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-----Original Message-----
From:	Joe McCormick [SMTP:jmccormick(--nospam--at)]
Sent:	Tuesday, September 30, 1997 12:42 PM
To:	seaoc(--nospam--at)
Subject:	Structural Engineers (CE & SE)
Not all doctors are "surgeons"...but all surgeons ARE

Joe, your comparison is absolutely correct - however, the public 
knows to go to a Doctor when they are sick, but don't know that 
they can go to a Civil to design their home.  The similar 
problem is that Civil is all-encompassing, The public, on the 
other hand, does not know this. If I tell you to go buy a box of 
Kleenex would you know that I meant that you could by another 
Each of us studied civil engineer, we know what specialty areas 
this covers. The public and other professionals are not so well 
informed and believe that the only engineer qualified to work on 
structures is a Structural Engineer - period.
If you surveyed the public and asked them to look for an 
engineer to design the structure of their home or office, I b  
elieve that over 90% (who did not first go to the architects 
section of the book) would look under the category "Structural 
Engineer". The first impression by the layman is to assume that 
an Architect designs all aspects of a building. The second 
impression is to look for a specialist based upon the subject 
that they are searching - structural. Civil connotes a different 
meaning to the public.
Phone book advertising and semantics are issues that I wanted to 
avoid since the real issue is the publics perception of who is 
qualified to design their home and work place.
Next and most important issue: If the public is informed that a 
Civil engineer can provide his structural engineering needs, how 
is John Q Public assured that the engineer he chooses is 
actually qualified to do the work and not just trying to pick up 
a few extra dollars while grading plans are slow?

Why can't we trust one another to practice within out areas of 
competence like so many other professionals do?  We waste too 
much time focusing upon the few "bad apples" that are bound to 
occur no matter how the system is set up.

I don't believe this. There are more than a few bad apples that 
crawl out of the woodwork after a natural disaster with hopes of 
obtaining their share of the market. The public pays for this by 
spending more money on construction when a trained 
Civil/Structural would provide a safer structural fix at a more 
economical construction cost.
I inspected hundreds of structures after Northridge and often 
came up against a report produced by a land civil that either 
suggested the structure be torn down (while there was minimum 
damage). I have seen many designed repairs that did not address 
load path. I have also heard many complaints by owners where 
engineers (land/Civils) were provided by their insurance 
adjuster to minimize their claims.
The issue is not a "Civil" war among engineers, but the 
protection of the public by titles that they clearly understand.
We must get rid of the bad apples or we will all pay for it as 
our profession becomes labeled by as zealots trying to carve a 
niche in the market to increase our income rather than working 
for the safety of the public.
I believe this can only be accomplished by making the term Civil 
the generic in the equation. Such as; Structural Engineer for 
all Civil/Structural specialties and Structural Engineer 
Specialist for high-rise and essential facilities. This still 
elevates the SE to a specialist authority who is the only one 
allowed by license to practice upon special structures.

It is counter-productive and dangerous to allow a chism to occur 
within the
ranks of the Civil Engineering community.  If we separate 
ourselves into tidy little independant groups, we will find 
ourselves the foder of architects, politicians, lawers and other 
vicious and tidy little
independant groups.  I'd suggest that we all start acting like 
Civil Engineers more, and not "civil-civils",
"civil-structurals", and "SE's".

Joe, this is great for us! This is not the answer for my next 
door neighbor who is not part of our fraternity. Without a clear 
distinction in the title, those who are unqualified to practice 
structural engineer except by license (land Civils and 
architects) are simply sprinkling sand over quick-sand and 
waiting for the unsuspecting public to fall into the trap.

Give due respect to those who have achieved the distinction of 
SE, but do not exclude them from the proud ranks and traditions 
of Civil Engineering!  And if they forget their roots, kindly 
and respectfully remind them of their lineage.

Thank you, I agree. I just feel it is important for us as a 
fraternal professional community to resolve this issue in the 
public trust. If we don't, enough abuse will bring the 
bureaucrats in to do it for us and with measures that will hurt 

I am ashamed to say that I did not put my argument into the 
perspective that you so clearly pointed out - we are all Civils 
and need to act as such without letting our ego's get in the 
way. From all of the posts, it is my opinion that we need to 
take our focus out into the community. We need to understand how 
we are perceived by the public as Civils (not structural's) and 
what we can do to improve the communication with those who don't 
have a clue what we do for a living but may need our services 
next year or in times of disaster.

Dennis Wish PE