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RE: Structural 'Best Practices'

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Probably not much help, but a few years back the institution of structural
engineers (UK), published a few articles on best practices and key
performance indicators for structural engineers and the construction
industry in general. It follows on the back of ISO:9000 quality assurance,
and benchmarking. As far as I know "best practices" is just jargon, and is
not an absolute measure of best practice, just some organisations judgement
of best practice: the organisation could be an individual business or an
industry wide enterprise.

Most consultants who have ISO:9000 accreditation/certification simply have
common sense document control systems in place, and  have those systems
highly documented. (Beyond that the organisations and the ISO auditors have
zero understanding of quality assurance.)

Items such as continuing professional development, being up to date with
legislation, codes of practice and relevant standards, as well as latest
research findings, also add to best practice. Along with review and checking
of calculations and drawings. Controlling flow of information. Supervision
of construction. Contract management practices and dealings with clients.
And the systems which make sure all the good intentions actually happen.

Other items may be consideration of health and safety during construction.
Considerations of increased off-site fabrication, modular construction, and
other aspects of the design which may improve delivery time and quality of
fabrication and construction. Proper consideration of local resources both
materials and skills: no point specifying welding if welders in short supply
and would cause a delay. Consideration of environmental impacts both in the
finished building and during the fabrication and construction works.

For manufacturing the benchmark is typically the Toyota Production System
(TPS). This tends towards lean manufacturing, just-in-time rather than MRP/I
or MRP/II, concurrent engineering, and total quality management, and quality
robust design. All of which are slowly being adapted for the construction
industry. For example lean manufacturing becomes lean construction. All of
which should be easy for construction, since manufacturing is aiming to be
more like construction and make to order.

Basically do you believe you can complete the task with a minimum waste of
resources throughout the system: waste of time, waste of paper, waste of
steel, waste of concrete. And produce a final result which has a minimum
level of installed defects, and a minimum impact on the environment. If so
how do you intend on achieving such, and what systems do you have in place
to help achieve such?

Mostly jargon. And higher than practical idealistic expectations, seldom
actually achieved.

Still the government tends to want to see ISO:9000
certification/accreditation to at least give the impression it selected a
quality organisation on merit rather than the lowest fee.

"Best Practices" also tend to be more informal documents, and cover areas
for which there currently is no code of practice, national standard or
regulation. Those for stormwater are because no code of practice, and aiming
to promote preferred methods of practice, which are considered an
improvement over more traditional and routine methods of stormwater drainage
and water management. (Here the traditional methods are considered part of
the problem.)

So LEED, or life cycle analysis of materials in a structure may be
considered a "best practice" for selection of structural materials. If it is
practical then it would be "best" and most desirable, if not achievable then
something less than "best" and more practical would still be acceptable.
"Best" is what is aimed for.

At this stage "best" to keep it simple, and simply provide a brief
description of design philosophy and management practices. Then develop a
"best practices" document with the passage of time.

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

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