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Just wondering where your B.Tech (mfg & mech) places you in this mix of building designers you are talking about.

I do disagree with a lot of what you say below but this has dragged on long enough and I have more important things to do so have decided not to try to extend the discussion.

At 05:15 PM 14/08/2009, you wrote:
Gil, and others

Gil, I don't disagree with you there. They get's what they pay for!

Part of the original issue is what value the structural engineer? If the
structural engineer is only interested in simple frame and fabric box like
structures, then they cannot expect to gain a large remuneration for their
contribution to a project. They should also expect and be aware that the
skills/service they are offering also overlap with those of other
occupations, from architects to engineering associates. As a consequence
their services may be dispensed with all together.

Also if the market place, does limit everything to simple boxes, then it
could be said the market has little need for structural engineers, and
greater need for say structural engineering associates. But gets complex, if
a 50% pass mark gets a B.Eng, then "engineers" operating at level of
engineering associates. If 50% gets associate diploma/degree, then
engineering associates operating at level of drafters. But some engineering
associates get 100%, and are operating at a level above the lower level of
those with the B.Eng. These engineering associates hit a problem turn to an
engineer, and fail to find the level of competence they expect. If increase
the minimum pass mark to 90% then create an entirely different environment.
Or from another aspect if market only requires structural engineering
associates, then civil engineers will suffice and no need to extend to
providing structural engineers. {But what can a modern time (2000's) civil
engineer do? Test water quality?}

The collectives of architects, structural engineers, and engineering
associates have little to do with the market place, such titles and
classifications refer to idealistic specifications of competence and service
provision. The market place is much more complex, people have to get by with
the limited resources they have access to. Creating licenses does not help.
The license simply defines the absolute minimum quality of service to be
provided, and required to be provided. Anything more is unnecessary
otherwise it would be in included in the license requirements. Thus fees
diminish to the level of the licensed task: which has little to do with
design or engineering, and more to do with code checking.

Also from an historical perspective: Robert Stephenson, who built the
Britannia bridge, turned to Fairbairn for advice, mostly experimental, he in
turn, sought the assistance of Hodgkinson for a more mathematical
assessment, using those new fangled theories from the continent. Who or what
we call the people on the project is largely irrelevant as long as the
required skills for the project are enlisted: and adequate evidence of
suitability for the proposal is produced.

Thus community can either look for an architect or look for Frank
Lloyd-Wright or Frank Gehry. It can look for a structural engineer, or seek
the services of Ove Arup. For the most part however, people will look for
some one with a local reputation: the name and reputation more important
than the group they belong to. Unless group is the name of business: like

On the other hand icons can be important, icons set very high bench marks:
now who is the current icon of structural engineering? Trehair for steel,
Hancock for cold-formed steel, and Holmes for wind loading, Murray for
vibration. But who for structural engineering?

Which individual or which business is the Mega-Star of structural
engineering? Are they represented on this list? Further more who is the
favourite in line to replace them when they retire? What will we loose or
gain in the process?

The discipline of structural engineering exists, because the field overlaps
civil engineering, mechanical engineering, architecture, naval architecture
and aeronautical engineering and has additional requirements as well. But
this doesn't mean that all the structural engineering aspects of
architecture and naval architecture should be handed over to structural
engineers, nor that civil and mechanical engineers should be excluded from
practising in the areas. When turn to the structural engineer really looking
for that additional specialist aspect of their skill base, not the common
aspect which over laps with other fields. That specialist aspect however,
typically has infrequent demand, and thus a small market. So the bread and
butter work, typically has significant over lap with other occupations,
hence large number of potential suppliers, but still not a great volume of

Universities and learned societies defining jobs is a major problem and
obstacle to technological progress. One group of people concerned about
their status, another simply want to get the real job done, not some
idealistic perspective of what the job should be. The community wants
buildings and machines, not pictures of, nor calculations about. The market
doesn't care about the professions, and nor does business. Business will
organise in what ever way it sees fit, to supply to anticipated demand.

And for the most I would say the modern engineer has become the Hodgkinson,
or Euler: great at mathematics, but for everybody's sake should probably
keep most of them well in the background. It is a complicated balance: we
need people with the higher analytical ability but in so acquiring they tend
to loose perspective of the more practical aspects of design. Those with the
more practical skills tend to lack the higher analytical ability. Need the
balance of skills in both individuals and within the community.

That balance is where we have an increasing problem. The middle area is
shrinking. The trade/technical skills are diminishing at one end, and the
analytical skills increasing at the other end, and a huge gap in between. So
can analyse complex systems, but cannot get made. So the system is
simplified to what the skill base can produce and then the system is seen as
defective. But our society is focused on pushing people through university
to the neglect of the more practical technical skills. Any attempt to direct
education to be more in tune with the needs of the community, is seen as an
attempt to deny access to university. So university is what the market
demands, but not necessarily what it needs. In response create all kinds of
new occupational degrees, and new professions, or rather new higher status
titles for old jobs. More pride in their job title and profession, than the
quality of their work. Increasingly degrees are pursued as a ticket to
employment, and not any real interest in the field of practice: just which
profession gives the highest remuneration for the least effort.

As I said in an earlier post. Structural engineers are simply an industrial
product, which like any other product can be displaced from the market.
Already have architectural engineers with overlapping skills, with emphasis
on building structures. And building engineers, who combine the skills of
the electrical and mechanical engineer for building services. Given an
engineering degree is 4 years, and an architecture degree 5 to 6 years, it
is not difficult to perceive that the architectural engineering and building
engineering degrees could be combined to create a single say 5 year degree
taking account of the over lapping arts and sciences.

Human knowledge can be organised into all kinds of different packages to
create a whole variety of different professions at different times. Whilst a
professional title may remain, a large portion of the knowledge base may

Therefore the value of a structural engineer, and their contribution to a
project, has to be investigated relative to the resources available in the
local market environment. The meaning of the term itself also has to be
considered relative to a given local environment. In Australia anyone with a
B.Eng is considered to be a professional engineer (PE), the top echelon is
the chartered professional engineer (CPEng.), or those with state
registration/licenses which may or may not be compatible with
NPER(structural). Thus in Australia a structural engineer, may well be
deficient of skill and experience, but if don't employ NPER(Structural),
then cannot expect high quality. But does community really know NPER exists?

Largely doesn't matter because people look for persons who can provide the
services they require, compatible with what they can afford. Whilst safety
is governed by codes of practice, and various review and approval processes.

Achieving compliance with codes is a given. Quality and Value of service is
determined by that provided over and above the routine. And such is not
provided by collective groups (architects and engineers) and others who want
to protect titles, rather quality and value is provided by individuals. Such
individuals also tend not to make too much reference to any particular
professional group, for to do so is to undervalue the full extent of their
skill base: their skill base is not so limited. So status lies in personal
reputation or that of the business they have built.

So those looking for higher remuneration simply because belong to a
profession, and think profession deserves more, then they have the wrong
attitude. They as individuals have to contribute more, and extend themselves
beyond merely doing the job. It is also their choice as to whether they let
their enhanced reputation rub-off on a chosen profession.

As for fees. I don't believe fees should be based on percentage of
construction costs or capital value of works, nor hourly rates. The client
has a budget, which cannot be exceeded. The principal consultants task is to
distribute the use of that budget to get the maximum possible value
end-product. Kitchens, bathrooms add value to houses for the first owner and
all future owners, concrete hidden in the ground does not add value, but
represents cost, a cost which may not be recovered by sale. Engineering
drawings, calculations and the construction labour simply add costs, but no
real long term value to a project. A good design adds value, quality labour
adds value. The objective is to distribute the materials in the structure so
that provide maximum possible value.

The principal consultant accepts project for the available budget, if they
can get the end-product for 50% of the budget they keep the other 50%. If
they use 99.9% of the budget to get the end-product then they only get to
keep 0.1%. If consultant has in-house wages to pay at hourly rates, and
spending too much of budget on such wages, then will have to work smarter
and harder to get the end-product from the remaining budget: for they have
to supply the end-product within the budget. That is their task: achieve the
maximum benefit from the limited but available resources. Any fool can do
the job for more than the available budget. If task seems impossible within
the available budget, then don't accept the job. Of course it really helps
if fulfil role of both chief builder and chief designer. So if we choose to
be sub-consultants to architects and similar, then our value to the project
is transformed into a cost to be reduced: therefore expect fees to be pushed
down. Need to get control of project in whole, to get maximum possible
portion of available budget. And design-construct is not some new fangled
thing: it is ancient tradition. I believe we need to get back to it, and
ensure enterprises are available with a skilled workforce in-house: none of
this reliance on labour all being individual sub-contractors. It is
basically a matter of individuals starting businesses and setting new
benchmarks of quality, rather than settling for the status quo: no easy
task, but may be interesting.

Conrad Harrison
B.Tech (mfg & mech), MIIE, gradTIEAust
South Australia

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Regards  Gil Brock
Prestressed Concrete Design Consultants Pty. Ltd. (ABN 84 003 163 586)
5 Cameron Street Beenleigh Qld 4207 Australia
Ph +61 7 3807 8022              Fax +61 7 3807 8422
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