We need to control the improper use of structural engineering programs at the
building department level rather than restricting sales. There are architects
well qualified to practice engineering - albeit they are few and far between.
There are others who purchase software and use it under the supervision of an
engineer who understands the principles.
This goes to the root of the Architect/Engineer debate. How do you stop an
architect from practicing engineering if you know that he does not posesses
the minimum skills? The Architectural Lobby is unfortunately strong enough to
counter such action against them. The only avenue that we have which makes
sense is to use the interpretation of the building official or contract plan
reviewer. Not a perfect solution, but better than none at all.
A building official who discovers that the user of a program does not have
the basic understanding of the principles of engineering should report that
engineer or architect and prevent him/her from practicing engineering until
they can past the basic PE exam.
It's difficult to restrict them from the start, and I would think much easier
one their weakness is documented.
Finally, I think any software that is released to the public before it is
ready and can provide ACCURATE results should be held responsible for a
portion of the liability. However, this does not include those programs which
were beta tested and believed to be accurate. There has to be an intention to
defraud the public by knowingly releasing software whose results can affect
life safety. This is a difficult one to prove.
All software should be tested for the most common uses it was designed to
calculate. Creative use of any program should be the responsiblity of the
user who must be able to justify the methodology and show why the program
satisfies that particular need.
Any software that becomes buggy from the installation of another software
which happens to write over a modified DLL file should not be held
responsible. This should have been addressed at the Operating system level
rather than the developer who acted in good faith.
Finally, any user can ask the questions to determine if a developer has taken
proper steps to insure the accuracy of their software. Has it been beta
tested, for how long and what known issues resulted in the beta testing. If
the developer refuses to provide this information, the user should look for
another tool to use.
Dennis S. Wish PE
In a message dated 5/16/99 11:01:57 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
<< >In fact, the brochures
>state: "Easy to use structural software for architects, builders, drafters,
>engineers, and building departments."
Welcome to 'black box engineering--cheap. One size fits all.' It very
common for mechanical engineering FEA developers, one of whom claimed it
was 'child's play.' Irrespective of the quality of the software
(something which never makes it into the ads) if the user hasn't a good
grasp of applied mechanics and the applicable codes, if the program
contains code compliance assessment, you are cruising for a serious
bruising if you assume _anything_ any FEA program puts out is gospel.
I've been in the FEA biz for about 25 years and in that time software has
proliferated and quality has generally gone right straight to hell. There
a few exceptions, but the MicroSoft 'bugs be damned, bloat up the feature
set and ship,' philosophy is common. I sometimes wonder if there's a
certain critical size engineering software which is unsupportable--so
many features aimed so many different sub-disciplines that no single
person really understands it all.
Christopher Wright P.E. |"They couldn't hit an elephant from
chrisw(--nospam--at)skypoint.com | this distance" (last words of Gen.
___________________________| John Sedgwick, Spotsylvania 1864)