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Re:Certification of Structural Engineers

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Curt:

We don't really disagree. The original intent of the proposal is to protect
the general public from misrepresentation and abuse within the field of
Civil Engineering. The National Exam would provide a minimum standard of
competency within the field of structural engineering to help deal with
comity between states, however, each state would still have the power to
require additional requirements for reciprocity and licensing. The present
SE designation is governed by a Title Act (see below) which limits the power
of Civil Engineers by the special stringent design requirements established
after the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake and the 1971 San Fernando Valley
(Sylmar) earthquake. The provisions of the proposal for standardization,
require a change from the Title Act (which is rather unique to California)
and a Practice Act (which is common in Illinois, Texas and a few other
states).

Your observations and "natural" conclusions are, in my opinion, right on the
mark. The proposal by Warren, Ship and Castle attempt to rewrite the
provisions established by the 1933 Fields Act and 1971 Hospital Act which
created the designation of Structural Engineer in order to contend with more
rigid design requirements of essential facilities that was deemed necessary
after the damage caused by the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake and the 1971
Sylmar Quake.

In March of 1999 - SEAOSC President James Lai wrote to the membership urging
support for the 2-tiered Structural Engineering license as well as support
of the provisions to change from a Title Act (as noted above) to a Practice
Act. This is where my disagreement begins. I think some of the problems
start as a result of ignorance of engineers as to the actual meaning of
Title and Practice acts. I certainly did not know the difference as a CE who
has no desire to sit for the SE exam.

In the March 1999 James Lai stated During the October SEAOC (state) Board
meeting, the SEAOC Board voted to adopt a resolution supporting licensing of
structural engineers by the State of California as a practice act. This is a
departure from the long-established title act which grants qualified
licensed civil engineers the authority to use the title of structural
engineer. In conjunction with a nationwide movement towards licensing
requirement for structural engineers through a two-tier national examination
prepared by practicing engineers and towards mandatory provisions for
continuing education, we may find the California State Legislature willing
to consider a change of the registration law. This resolution is necessary
in order to safeguard against the possibility of generic P.E. licensing and
having the structural engineer authority sunset through legislative action.
"

The problem is that changing from a Title Act to a Practice act requires a
stricter definition of the responsibilities for the SE-I license. The SE-II
is unlimited in scope of power. There is no practical way to do this without
restraining an existing CE from practicing beyond the scope of
responsibility that Bill Warren defines in his proposal for a
(http://www.structuralist.net/Professional/Abstracts_Pubs/) Proposal -
Establishment of the Academy of Structural Engineering - SEAOC Professional
Licensing Committee. In this document, Warren suggests the following
limitations for the "Entry Level SE-I" :

1. To design Low-rise buildings not to exceed 3 stories, and

2. of regular shape as defined by the code and

3. limited to static analysis procedures

Clearly this would require "grand fathering" in CE's who currently practice
dynamic analysis or other cyclical based analysis procedures into a SE-II
category. The alternative is to strain the CE or SE-I from practicing in his
specialty until which point he has obtained sufficient experience and has
passed the exams necessary to re-classify him or her as an SE-II. This alone
creates a dichotomy which Dr. Gene Corley, in his publication . The Case for
Licensing for Structural Engineer , warns could happen without
standardization and national Licensing.

My concern is that NCSEA is moving too fast on these provisions without
informing the professional community of the conflicts and problems. They are
doing a lot of PR to extol the virtues but as we can see, this provision, if
not well thought out, can cause harm to the practicing engineer.

Inasmuch as the title act is not restrictive by practice, Warrens proposal
places the authority to define the limits of practice to those engineers
without restrictions - the SE-II's. This would lead to restrictions and more
importantly, potential restraint of trade for engineers who currently
possess both the knowledge and ability to practice beyond these very
restrictive limits.

So, in agreement with your argument, I would only support the act on the
provisions that the definition of practice be limited only to the current
limits as defined by the Fields Act of 1933 and the 1971 Hospital Act. The
difference of practice should be defined as limited only by the application
of the practice on buildings considered essential facilities. This leaves
further restriction in the hands of the building officials for what they
require in excess of the minimum standard for licensing.

For these reasons and all that you stated in your post, SE's should not try
to define a limit of practice, nor should they act in sole responsible
charge to regulate the structural engineering community. This must be done
by nothing less than a panel of our peers which is equally represented by
SE-I and II - with neither having a majority vote.

Regards,
Dennis S. Wish, PE
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