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Re: non-engineers

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In design reviews, we used to say that most folks don't understand digital or analog circuitry, but everybody owns a washing machine. Electrical is seen as a black magic (and some of it, admittedly, really is), but everyone has some experience with mechanisms or structure in their daily lives.

As for aircraft, you'd probably get the same comments as for buildings if everything was made from rectangular sections where most of the material is just ballast, but then - of course - they would never fly either. Every one of us (on the list) knows that we could easily have less than half the steel, and probably 20% of the concrete in every structure we design, but our design fee would far exceed the cost of the building, and it would require special forms, special materials, and special fabrication jigs to build it (which is, coincidentally, just like a 747).

New-construction residential contractors never see what happens to a CMU wall after 30 years when the foundation drains clog up. Next time you have a contractor with a bug up his @ss, ask him how many of his buildings he's inspected for sags, cracks and other damage 50 years after it was built. If it's less than 50% tell him he's missed most of his failures, and then recommend he use a competitor you don't like for his next job.

At 09:12 AM 7/22/2004 -0400, you wrote:
I wonder if power line workers say to each other, "Man is this transformer ever over-engineered, what was that EE thinking. This is only 440 volts."

Or the guys at Boeing in the factory, do they say, "Man, are you kidding me with all these screws and welds in this 747 wing?! What an over design."

So while running on the treadmill at the Y yesterday I was watching "Dream House", where they show the design and construction of an extremely high end custom home. This house was in Portland I think, on the side of a large hill, multi level, part of the house on columns (like stilts), with huge concrete cast in place walls, etc. Some of the retaining/bearing walls were 16 ft tall. There were embed plates and base plates, and all types of cast-in-place concrete walls and columns, heavy-duty stuff for residential.

The contractor states normally a home basement requires about 800lbs of reinforcement steel, but this one took 5 tons. But he seemed to see why, due to the magnitude of the project why this was necessary. Well, the home owner's dad shows up, and he is a former home builder, and he starts ranting and raving about all this concrete and reinforcement and what a waste it is. "This thing is way overengineered and overdesigned! When I did basements it was half of this concrete and foundation. This thing isn't going anywhere. A lot of wasted concrete there." (I have heard that line before.)

Anyway, I must have looked silly mouthing at the TV, "Oh yeah, you did the calcs. You have done lots of design and have a license in engineering too. All that talk but will you sign your name on the drawings and take full responsibility? You wanna pay for your son's new house when things start settling and cracking and...." Then I looked around and realized nobody was watching, listening , or caring, and if they saw me they would think there is something wrong with me.

Sorry for my random rant.

Andrew Kester, PE
Longwood, FL


Jordan Truesdell, PE



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