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Re: Architect cheating on structural calculations - where's the building depa...

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On Dec 8, 2005, at 7:16 AM, Ray Pixley wrote:

I agree with a lot of your stuff, but what I haven't seen yet are suggestions for other ways to address the concerns that should be looked at.
Very tricky because what you're looking for is a means to ferret out the unexpected. Errors are easy to find if you know where to look. That's the fundamental problem--finding something non-obvious that's not supposed to be there.

Arithmetic checks are easy. Dimensioning errors and stack-up problems used to be easy to find when there was a senior drafter assigned as a checker--checkers tended to know where things get screwed up because it'd happened before. Makes me think that the first requirement is that design reviews be done with a few people as possible, all of whom are senior enough to have made plenty of mistakes of their own.

Project post-mortems are really great tools to memorialize what went wrong as well as what might have gone wrong in successful projects. Engineers don't do enough of this kind of retrospection these days, except for some of us who are inclined to dwell on dodged bullets and what might have been. I think good checkers and reviewers also tend to remember embarrassments and learn from them.

You can't rely on systems and procedures--checklists, meetings, process specifications, for example. Systems are systematic--errors and flawed thinking aren't. Procedures don't each critical thinking or skepticism, both of which are absolutely vital to proper design review, although unfashionable in business circles.

The flaw in this is that management doesn't think this way. Managers like hierarchy, systems, metrics and policies and they're much better at laying blame after the fact than avoiding problems. Another major difficulty is managers who think that CAD and FEA software eliminates errors just because computers can do arithmetic and render models so well. Checking is seen as non-productive and finding errors has a negative connotation. No prizes for uncovering the fatal flaw, but plenty of money for damage control after your customer finds it. Embarrassment is something to be swept under a rug, not learned from.

Unfortunately, the current approach is just like Churchhill's quote on how great democracy is.
Except for two things--democracy works and contains the means to fix itself.

Christopher Wright P.E. |"They couldn't hit an elephant at
chrisw(--nospam--at)   | this distance" (last words of Gen.
.......................................| John Sedgwick, Spotsylvania 1864)

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