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Re: Where are we headed?

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Take heart!

I've been in the trenches for nearly 40 years.  Yes, things have changed,
but not so much as you might believe.

And many things are *much* better.

Regarding liability, things seem to have become more litigious, but...  I'm
told that in Roman times, the architect and his entire family had to stand
beneath his recently constructed masterpiece while the
falsework was being removed.  If there were a structural failure, the
architect's entire family perished, putting an end to that particular *bad*
gene.  As a side note...  Never mind.

The Code situation is obscene.  I am not able to be appropriately critical
of the direction we appear to be headed.  'Remember the third-biggest lie
of all time, "I'm from the IRS, and I'm here to help you."

Structural complexity?  I've never seen a cathedral, only pictures, but the
designers didn't have a finite-element among them.

I like the computer, both for analysis and for making drawings.  I can do
lots of things better and faster.  And when you draw everything full-size,
it *fits*. 

I haven't noticed much shorter design periods.  In the early 70's, I looked
at a site (a cornfield in Ohio) on May 22, and we were producing 50
megawatts of electric power on June 1, the following year. No computers,
manual drafting, slide rules.  Of course it was fast track.  I never worked
on anything else until the early 80's.  I didn't realize you could have the
luxury of finishing a design before construction started.  

Design build?  'Nothing new there.  There *does* seem to be a tendency to
force it nowadays.  And if you aren't geared for it, you shouldn't.

Components engineered by others?  The pre-engineered metal building and the
manufacturer-engineered wood roof truss industries have grown
substantially.  I'm not offended by either.  How many engineers have
*actually designed* a steel bar joist.  

New materials?  Yes!!!  Silica fume, super plasticizers, wonderful epoxies,
high-strength bolts ('ever see field-driven rivets?).  And now (if you can
afford it) there are companies that disassemble wood and reassemble
"wood?".  It's square, structurally consistent, strong, and "higher than a
cat's tail".

Competition and pressure on fees?  In a fee-cutting environment, the
"low-baller" will either: 1.  Do such sloppy work that you lose one project
to him, and your clients don't do that again;  2.  Come back with extra
fees and alienate the client or; 3. Actually work better, cheaper, faster
than you can.  In case of "3", you (and I) are either in "deep mud", or
facing some personal retraining.  Don't look on it as a problem, but a
challenge and an opportunity!

Work for Architects?  'Could be, but I don't chase that sort of work.  Give
me a dirty, dangerous, unique, non-repetitive, industrial project any day. 

Contractors?  They "bid" every other trade, and like to bid engineering
too.  Generally, I'd rather wait until they get into trouble and charge to
bail them out.  Using the old cliche', "Never enough time to do it right,
but always time to do it over."

Attorneys?  Ambulance-chasers, you mean.  I don't like to work with
attorneys.  As a general rule, they aren't interested in either facts,
truth, or justice...  Winning is everything!  When an attorney calls me, I
tell him, "My *opinions* are not for sale; I sell my time."  This weeds out
the riff-raff.  I can work with those who are left.  As an aside, in
Pensacola, Florida, there are enough attorneys that you could take them to
the beach, stand them side-to-side toward the south, and they would stretch
over 1 1/2 miles into the Gulf of Mexico.  Y'know, I'm in favor of that.

Jim, you asked for *opinions*.

That'll learn ye.

Fountain E. Conner, P.E.
Gulf Breeze, Fl. 32561

> From: Jim Kestner <jkestner(--nospam--at)>
> To: SEAINT <seaint(--nospam--at)>
> Subject: Where are we headed?
> Date: Friday, June 16, 2000 4:33 PM
> I am sure that we all agree that our profession has changed
> substantially in the last 30 years.
> More liability
> More complex codes
> More complex structures
> More complicated and refined design and analysis techniques
> Computer analysis
> Shorter design period
> Shorter construction time
> Fast track
> Design build
> More components engineered by others (not the EOR)
> Less skilled construction workers
> New materials
> Greater competition
> Downward pressure on fees
> My question is where is all this leading? Will more engineers ultimately
> wined up working for contractors or manufacturers (fabricators) not
> Architects? Will the architect just create a concept and then it will be
> up to the engineer and contractor to design and build it? With the aid
> of the computer, will the design and detailing phases turn into one
> seamless phase? Will non-engineers be doing engineering work (for
> example wood trusses where a technician figures loads and inputs data
> into a enginner oversees the work and stamps it, but how
> effective is this? Is the engineer overworked, looking at hundreds or
> thousands of designs?)
> I realize that all of this depends on the types of structures that we
> are talking about.........
> I would welcome any and all opinions.
> Jim Kestner, P.E.
> Green Bay, Wi.