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RE: Certification of Structural Engineers

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I am not sure if I follow Ron Hamburgers comments - are you in favor of a
two tiered licensing or do you desire to leave engineers practice under the
umbrella of a PE or CE designation?

A couple of comments I have:

1. I don't favor SE's or SE-II's defining the fine line separating SE-I and
SE-II for a number of reasons. Obtaining an SE license (or a CE for that
matter) does not insure competency in any one material - only the ability to
learn a sufficient amount needed to pass the SE exam. Of course the same
holds true of the CE license.
I am not criticizing the SE for lack of knowledge, but am pointing out that
an SE may be competent in steel and concrete and have little or no
experience in wood. Case in point: One of our List members is an SE who held
a job for years in public works. By no choice of his own, he found himself
in the private sector and needs to make a living using his skills - however,
there are not many private sector jobs for public works projects in a small
one man firm.
He has started to obtain work from local architects whose projects are
primarily wood design. This engineer is not skilled in wood (other than what
he may have had to pass his SE exam years ago).
Is it proper for him to develop his skills "in the field" without completing
either an apprenticeship under a licensed engineer who practices wood
What differentiates this SE's lack of ability to understand and practice on
Wood structures that is not shared by a CE who is equally deficient in
concrete or steel?

2. If, using this as an example, the dividing line between SE-I and SE-II is
the practice of low rise buildings, using static analysis on buildings
defined within the code as regular in shape, do we simply allow SE-II's
without skills in low rise buildings to design them?

To answer my own question, I would suggest that any regulation established
to define the limits of an engineers basic abilities be done by a board of
their peers which include equal representation of SE-I's and II's.

3. An SE-II many obtain his title by education (a PHD). However, does this
assure that he has the ability to apply his knowledge to the practical
application of structural engineering - treating it as both a science and a
business? How do you treat those who have more work experience than
education and who not complete a degree but have a thorough practical
experience sufficient to prove competency on the exams?

4. The guidelines require, above education, a number of years working under
the supervision of an engineer AND at least two years in responsible charge.
What exactly does that mean. How many young engineer who leave school with a
degree and go to work for a large office are in a position after two to four
years where they are left in responsible charge. I would guess very few
could qualify.

5. The same young engineer works for the same large firm, yet he or she may
never have an opportunity to do more than a small, highly limited, design or
detailing on the entire project. This is typical of apprenticeships in a
large firm whereas, those in small offices are more prone to being exposed
to more of the project from responsible positions to the business side of
engineering. I believe it is very important that we not simply focus on the
science, but that we remember the business of engineering so that we are
aware when pressure is on, that one side should not dominate the other as
long as safety is our primary goal.

Finally, an with all respect to competent SE's, many of you make a living
defending one side or the other against SE's who make mistakes. They are no
more infallible to error than the CE and, as I have noted above, may be
qualified to do time studies, dynamic analysis, but may be deficient or
lacking in the ability to design low rise structures - especially wood as
one of our own is now finding out.

Please understand that these are real issues to consider and I am not
criticizing an engineer thrust into the private sector from doing what it
takes to feed his family while he comes up to speed on a material that he is
not well versed in. Knowing the engineer, the only problem I see him facing
is his need to over compensate until he develops a sense for how wood
structures perform.

My point was to draw attention that obtaining an SE license or SE-II
designation does not assure expertise in all materials or types of
structures. Therefore, when deciding where the division should be (and I
think it is best left to the state requirements for building type as it
presently is for CE and SE) that each side be equally represented on a board
made up of our peers.

Dennis S. Wish, PE
The Structuralist Administrator for:
AEC-Residential Listservice
(208) 361-5447 E-Fax