Sunday, August 01, 2004

The Other Side ...

One aspect of my web site and this blog is that I cannot really tell the clients who want engineering calculations for building approval to "Take a Hike".

Thus far I have taken a relatively sympathetic approach, one tending towards agreement with them. Yes councils a pain. You've had this structure (carport, verandah, shed, enclosed verandah) for some 6 years and councils random surveys has just identified it as an illegal development and wants calculations. It's been standing for 6 years so why do they need calculations? Primarily because they, council, want someone else to take the responsibility of declaring that the structure is not a hazard to the surrounding community.

How do these illegal developments get identified? Several ways:

1) Council employees doing spot checks driving around the community. Sometimes on their way home, taking the long way home. Different paths everyday.

2)Aerial photographs taken at different times of the year and compared.

3) Sale of the house.
a) Real estate agent will conduct a check that the whole property as had building approval

b) Banks and other financiers will check that they are loaning money for an approved development.

c) Insurance companies will check that they are providing insurance for an approved building that as an acceptable risk of failure.

Note that last comment : "An acceptable Risk of Failure"

The question is not whether what you have constructed will fall down or is a danger to the community. Nor that what an engineer designs is not a danger to the community.

Both what you build and what engineers design both constitute a danger to the community. The difference is that engineers design structures that present an accepatble hazard or risk to the community. Whilst that which owner/builders and builders for that matter, build respresents an unknown risk to the community.

Sure it hasn't fallen down yet, nor as the wind blown it over or sent it sailing down the street. But can you say that such an event will only happen at the same time that everybody elses structures start getting airbourne. That is the requirement.

The minimum risk to the community occurs when, the community can be prepared for an hazardous event.

If a pedestrian is just walking down the street and the next thing they know a piece of corrugated roofing hits their head. Actually they don'y know, for their head is taken clean off and delivered up on a corrugated platter.

If we know the winds are strong enough to start causing damage we can be prepared, on the lookout for low flying debris that may cause harm.

But if no warning is issued, and it is just some low quality rubbish that someone as assembled in their own back yard that as started flying apart and floating around the neighbourhood, then that is plain unacceptable.

Roughly speaking I am required to take responsibility for declaring that little johnnies head won't be delivered up on a corrugated platter in front of his little sister suzie, except under extreme circumstances which the parents should be aware of and thus are resposnible for keeping their kids safe.

It is not a joke and not a matter I take likely.

In consequence the attitudes of owner/builders, builders, fabricators/suppliers over the years has started to become more than annoying. Hence I am getting an increasing desire to tell them to "Take a Hike!". Actually I would like to tell them something more explicit than that, such as go fourth and multiply, using Russian sounding words ending in OFF.

Doing so however may be counter productive. To start with when it comes to technology and advanced understanding of the nature of the world of all kinds, kids tend towards educating their parents. For kids are learning new perspectives, and learning new habits from the start. Parents have to unlearn old habits and old perspectives.

My site therefore exists to get the message of risk across. Who wants to hold the responsibility? Do you know what responsibility you are taking on when you construct something without appropriate technical assistance?

It is currently a still a work in progress, trying to find the right format and the right approach.

But I figured the best approach towards illustrating the process of design is to make the design process itself public.

So here I am beating about the bush trying to reach some as of yet, not very clear destination.

But then from the quality assurance(QA) philosophy viewpoint, having a destination is a bad thing. The journey is far more important than the destination. The destination is just another step along the path way, another move forward, Preferably with a persepctive of adaptation to your current environment, rather than a mindless quest for continuous improvement. A stupid movement that one.

How many businesses have gone bust, ceased to exist because they were on a quest of continuously improving that which was obsolete and of no value, benefit or use.

Systems have to be dynamic for sure, but continuously adapting not improving.

The concept of progress is nonsense.

That is roughly where I am at. Teachers tend to suggest, or at least they use to, while since I was there. That if you don't get an education you won't get a job. Now what they meant by education, is a formal education that keeps teachers employed, and provides the recipient with a relatively worthless scrap of paper (certificate, diploma, degree). From my view it is worthless, from the teachers view it is of value.

I say it is worthless, because an education is not the requirement. It is the destination/journey problem. The education is seen as the required destination, once the scrap of paper has been obtained, learning stops! Further more what was learnt was and is worthless without imagination.

It is learning that is important continuously learning, acquiring knowledge about the world you are in and putting that knowledge to use in the best way possible to aid your survival.

Teachers believe the rubbish they preach. It is rubbish because for the most part you do not have to be qualified to do most jobs, and further more few people are qualified to do their jobs, neither in the formal sense nor the competency sense. Some take an interest in their work and learn how to do it well, to the best of their abilities. Others couldn't care less, as long as they make an income, earn a crust. Now it would be good if we could just pay these also-rans a crust, for that is all their dismal efforts are worth. Unfortunately we can't.

So I am operating in an environment where skills are not what they should be, further more such skills are deteriorating as the competent retire. It is a problem, quality assurance as the potential to resolve.

Basically everyone wants quality product. That causes a problem of traing people on the job, but unfortunatly people cannot really be trained in schools. Basic knowledege can be obtained from a school. But competency and proficiency has to be obtained from practice under real conditions. Further more those that are employed need to learn new things to stay employed, as technology changes and the operating environment changes. And not everyone gets the opportunity of attending technical schools.

Having an education actually makes you a member of the priveleged few. From my viewpoint that means that the educated have a responsibility to share their knowledge and educate people on the job. Not the traditional approach, of arrogance and superiority and secretive retention of knowledge. After all much learnt in universities is rubbish any how, and those outside have learnt such knowledge by other means.

Education and learning is thus largely a matter of communication. Of sharing ideas or expressing opinions.

Unfortunately complete communication is hindered by emotional outbursts. Listening stops and so does learning. It ceases to be communication, which is a two way process and becomes a one way monologue.

Which is what this is. I am talking to myself.

But I get to say what I have to say and want to say with out interruption. Who ever replies also gets to say what they want to say with out interruption.

Thus whilst emotion may still be there: anger, disagreement. It doesn't interfere to the same extent with communication. There is a better chance/opportunity to come to a mutual understanding.

Thus instead of upsetting clients face-to-face. I upset them here, preferably before I see them face-to-face. Preferably before they have no choice in getting engineers calculations. Well they do have a choice, calculations or demolition. If I have to take responsibility for some unknown materials I am for demolition. Otherwise the calculations tend to be fiction based on assumed properties of materials.

The task is therefore to educate. To explain that engineering is not so complicated but the responsibility is great.

Not even all that willing to take responsibility for the rubbish built by supposedly licensed builders. So why would I, or any one else for that matter, be willing to take responsibility for rubbish built by an unlicensed owner/builder, who cannot even decribe what they have built or what materials they built it from.

Ya Gotta be Dreamin' !

Monday, July 26, 2004

Stuffing Around on Computer

Where does this thing gets its date and time from, certainly not my computer. what's the good of a computer if I have to do the thing myself.

Still just experimenting here. Here I am wasting time surfing the net when I was supposed to be modifying some building plans top meet Building Codes requirements I had missed. Well not that I exactly missed them, it just that the certifying authorities would prefer an explicit declaration that particulars will be complied with, add a few pointless comments to the drawings and its all ok! Well at least I will know next time, I reluctantly get stuck doing the architectural/building design drawings as well as the engineering stuff.

Wish people would see an Architect and same me some time. You can't do it yourself. Sure you can draw, but you can't design to save your life. And how am I supoosed to engineer something, if I don't know what it is.

The other month some fabricator asked me for a quote on calculations for a canopy with 4.8m clearance below the the beams. They haven't got it yet. They want free estimates of member sizes so that they can quote on the supply of the structures, but expect me to quote and carry out calculations on stuff all! I don't think they got my sarcasm about infinite spans and infinite length structure with an infinitly variable roof pitch.

Got a new approach. I am the engineer. Well strictly speaking Technologist, but who gives a stuff about. You think the engineer is going give something better. You have to be dreaming, more likely to charge more for significantly less. So as I was saying, I am the engineer, there is only one approving authority, and that is myself. I will not deteriotate my design to comply with the minima of regulations just so you can get something cheap. At the end of the day I am responsible, not the approving authority, they can approve any rubbish and usually do.

So you built the rubbish in your back yard. Council as identified and decided it is an illegal structure, and require engineers calculations. Well here is my response tough! Let council demolish it. You thought you knew what was required, that what you build is stronger than required. So you prove it and accept resposnibility for it.

Why should I issue a certificate and accept responsiblity for the safety of your neighbours, on the basis of the rubbish you have built in your back yard. Take a hike! You are arrogant disrespectful people who have endangered your neighbours and passing travellers with out thought or consideration for their welfare.

You want me to agree with you that council is a pain and unreasonable. No way! You want me to help you out and have sympathy with your plight. No way! If it was me I would just simply bulldoze the illegal structure. I wouldn't give you options. Remove your rubbish from my neighbour hood.

As for builders and fabricators. How come you always do things right, but in your opinion everybody else produces rubbish. Open your eyes, your stuff is rubbish. Your very approach to design and engineering indicates you have no understainding of levels of performance that have to be achieved by your products. You have no interest in the needs of your customers, just how much junk you can sell per year.

If you were interested in the needs of your customers, then you would not consult me on the basis of: "I need calculations for council".

Instead you would consult me on the basis of improving your product, increasing its value to your customers, making it more durable more robust of higher quality whilst reducing production costs. You would ask how you can demonstrate such higher value to your customers and thus explain higher prices. You would ask me to be help you innovate and design unique and original products.

But instead your are all largely copycat manufacturers, who copy with out knowing the full specification of requirements. Thus many of you unwittingly use substandard materials. As do the owner/builders who believe they can build it cheaper than you can supply. And why ? Because your businesses have a public image that clearly indicates your technical incompetence. If you demonstrated technical competence then far few potential customers would go away beleiving they can do themselves cheaper.

Even your organistion of fabrication and erection indicates technical incompetence that flows around the market place and puts people of buying from you, and encourages them to be owner/builders.

Now that is a sorrowful state of affairs when people believe that they can produce higher quality goods than offered by enterprises that are supposed to have all the skills and resources necessary to produce high quality product at minimum cost.

The building and construction industry really is a mess!

More on this topic to come. Also see other articles and Technical notes at:


Sunday, July 18, 2004

Metamorphs Journal 2/1

This is the alternative version of my journal. My existing journal is available in pdf format at This original website as constantly under going change of purpose and direction. It is fluid, probably better described as amorphous rather than metamorphic, but hey whats in word! Lots!

Well thats a start until, I figure out what this blogging is about.