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

I work in partnership with my father who is a structural engineer
(MIStructE, CPEng, NPER). For simple framed structures I do the drawings and
the calculations and deal directly with the clients. As I said structural
mechanics is not just limited to civil engineers. More over my studies of
mechanics not just limited to providing resistance, but to the forces
required to intentionally cut, bend and otherwise deform and shape

Many of our clients are manufacturers and/or builders. Because of my
industrial, manufacturing and mechanical engineering background, I provide a
different perspective to say shed manufacturers than they typically get from
civil engineers. The civil engineers are more familiar with one-off building
design, and their approach is not really appropriate for manufactured
building products: especially when their designs are often little more than
conceptual and end up being implemented without their supervision. Often
what the manufacturer asks for is not what they really need, and not always
in their best interests. Therefore need to explain and advise about product
design and relationship to both their business operations and the market.

It is important to be able to relate the product design (building/structure)
to the process which produces such product, and where necessary modify the
product to better match the available process rather than attempt to change
the process.

So I often contribute more qualitative aspects to designs, not aesthetics,
and modify designs. 

So whilst I may agree that a design-solution is the most efficient
structural solution in the end-product, I may otherwise oppose because it is
not the optimum solution relative to the available resources, and further
more, the process of production will simply add cost not value. That is the
perceived value of the assembly will be less than the sum of the costs
involved in its production: thus the costs will not be recovered on sale.
Therefore an alternative design is justified.

I therefore tend to work more closely with, and more helpful towards those
who build things, than those who draw floor plans. Those who draw floor
plans, I typically ask how they proposed to build the building, and I never
get the sections or details I ask for and have to develop and draw myself.

In general I fill in the gaps, so that a design can get built. Now whilst
the builders often turn up criticising engineers. I explain that the
documentation they asked for merely defines the product/building in as much
detail as necessary to get building approval. It doesn't explain how to
build it, and yes it may not be practical to build, the approval process
doesn't check such things. We try to get them to go back to who ever they
have a problem with, but typically won't. Often builders also wrong, the
issue is they cannot build it, not that it cannot be built.

So it is a matter of finding out what resources a builder has, and what they
are willing to do, and finding design-solutions which match and also meet
the owners requirements. If necessary advise they should get someone else to
do the job.

Now civil engineers and structural engineers can do this. The issue is that
locally many are not. I have worked in big consultants offices, mostly as a
structural drafter, but still occasionally producing calculations. Like
drafter for 3 engineers, and designing and drawing own buildings at same
time. Apparently I am fast. Often times I was told to remove details from my
drawings and let them work it out on site. But my approach of attempting to
construct the whole building on paper, helps when checking workshop details,
and also helps when requests come from site for assistance. So whilst what I
draw may not get on the official issued drawings, it is available for future

Problem is that locally there is a shortage of structural drafters, plenty
of civil. So whilst civil drafters are designing and setting out roads and
stormwater drainage with minimum input from engineer. The cad jockeys
employed by the structural section are sat around waiting for sketches from
the engineers. In some instances I don't know why they bother with the
formal drawings, the building gets built to sketches issued by fax.

As you point out my discipline is not structural. So an example of state of
the SA industry. I went to one place, an apparent shortage of structural
drafters, it was short term contract for 2 weeks. On the first day I
struggled with ACAD, every command did something other than meant to. But I
revised drawings I was given, plotted and gave to engineer. They asked
something about time, and I explained I could probably do it faster once I
got use to their system. That wasn't their problem: the real job they wanted
doing wouldn't be ready until the end of week, they now had to find
something for me to do. The shortage did a remarkable change of direction,
daily the other contract drafters were dismissed, until by end of the week,
I was the only one left. The two weeks turned into about 3 years, and
eventually did drafting and calculations, at the peak I was supervising
about 20 drafters. Then structural tapered off, and I was spending more time
on civil drafting, and getting bored, meanwhile my father was otherwise
drowning in small structural projects: so back to working fulltime with my

Structural or not, I was taught to solve problems and design new
technologies to resolve those problems, buildings are old technologies and
are well documented. In many instances the structural engineers do not have
access to an effective team and many cad jockeys not interested in learning.

>From my experience structural engineers do want someone who can take the
architectural drawings, and place a structure inside the building and fully
document a solution, plot it out, so that the engineer can then refine the
design, and be able to discuss possible fabrication and construction issues.
Typically the traditional structural drafter trained for workshop detailing,
would provide that input. Failing that someone with knowledge of
manufacturing processes, and understanding of structural issues, will

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


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