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RE: Structural 'Best Practices'

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Also to note a code of practice is typically adopted by law, and specifies
minimum levels of performance, which are considered economically viable to
impose on all participants. Not all "best practices" are called up in a
handbook titled as such, but are otherwise presented in alternative
publications to the codes of practice. "Best practices" tend to impose
higher levels of performance, than the codes, and not everyone can afford to

Those for stormwater for example, in SA cannot be imposed on a private party
by a local government authority (LGA), but the owner/buyer can impose them
through a contract. The LGA's do however impose other criteria which make
the "best practices" for stormwater more economical than more traditional

Similarly complying with the building code, implements minimum criteria for
energy efficiency, but the "Green Book" and other specifications present
what are considered to be "best practices", they provide higher levels of
energy efficiency and may or may not be based on higher use of sustainable
technologies. These "best practices" can be imposed by contract and are
typically called up in government contracts.

Currently energy efficiency to the BCA has little to no impact on structural
design. Energy efficiency and sustainable technologies to "best practices"
can make the structural design far more cumbersome.

Similarly if the voluntary code of practice for construction safety, which
presents "best practice" for construction safety, is imposed on a contract,
then structural design can become more involved.

Best Practices for a structural engineer, may require that these other best
practices are to be imposed on a project by the engineer. In other words a
best practice for a structural engineer would be to adopt the voluntary code
of practice for construction safety. But not that simple. For example the
voluntary code is national, recent, largely based on the UK CDM regulations
(1994), whilst the SA OHS&W act (1986) and regulations(1995) already
implements similar requirements across all industry. Thus best practice for
one state, is already largely legal requirement in another.

"Best Practice", is what is preferred, but which cannot be economically or
politically imposed at this point in time, and therefore cannot be put in
the mandatory codes of practice. But government contracts can impose, in an
attempt to improve industry (construction safety), or prove technologies
(energy efficiency).

"Best practice" is really relative to the parties concerned, and need to
find out from the party imposing what they actually mean and expect. Is it
relative to business practices, the quality of engineering services, is it
with respect to the performance of the finished structure/building, or the
performance of the fabrication and construction processes as influenced by
the structural design, or all of these things?

Also the government authority concerned may publish "best practice"
guidelines for its suppliers, and which all prospective suppliers are meant
to know about.

As others have indicated it is more a contractual issue. Do not have to
comply with "best practices" if not called up in a contract. On the other
hand, following industry/technology based "best practice" may have its

It also helps to beware of what is on the horizon, for "best practice"
guidelines may ultimately end up in a code of practice and become mandatory.

This may help with a starting point:

whilst these are for the UK and Australia and elsewhere, there are probably
similar in the USA. Also note these sites largely concern how best design
practices lead to best practice in construction. From a QA viewpoint cannot
inspect quality in, it has to be designed in: therefore cannot leave "means
and methods" entirely to the construction contractor: such is over-the-wall
design and poor practice: but unfortunately the traditional basis of
building and construction contracts.

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


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