Sunday, September 16, 2012

On Regulation ...

Regulation to be based on the following assertions:

1) Dynamically Adaptive: with continuous monitoring and feedback.
2) Comprehensive, continuously revised codes of practice exist.
3) All persons in the system on both sides of the equation are incompetent.
4) No approval is based on 100% compliance with the codes of practice.

Assertion one follows from the natural environment being dynamic, and the very presence and action of life in the environment changes the environment. Consequently it is necessary for life to adapt to all changes in the environment if it is to survive. A regulatory system has to regulate, maintain a position of desired equilibrium within the environment of chaos. The acceptable equilibrium position of the system can be variable, it can shift depending on available inputs and accepted outputs.

Assertion three, follows from the fact that "acceptability" is a matter of subjective opinion and judgement, and regulation is imposing the view of one or more persons on the rest of the population. So at any point in time, the population at large is not fully conversant with the imposed regulations, and those imparted with the authority to admininister also not fully conversant with the requirements. This is due to the "requirements" being continuously revised, otherwise being ambiguous, and the intent and purpose not fully disclosed. Further the majority of projects encountered by any individual only involves a subset of the complete code of practice: and each individual has experience based on differing subsets of the total.

When regulations are introduced it is because someone somewhere considers that things should be different. The purpose of the regulation is primarily to control and otherwise change human behaviour, achieve a certain level of consistency and certainty in a world of chaos.

When professions emerge, they are all about they know and others don't. So architects supposedly know better than builders. Engineers supposedly know better than architects. And project managers supoosedly know better than builders, architects and engineers. Its nonsense, because across these professions there is no common core of competency, which is increasing from one profession to the other. A project manager in particular, largely concerned with managing time and money, is likely to get people killed if really needed the competencies of a construction engineer. Where once upon a time, one person took a project from concept to reality, a multitude of people are now involved, and a vast array of professions: all so called expert in something ambiguous and without clear definition. Most professionals themselves don't know what they and only they can provide. Most of which they declare to be unique to their profession, is not unique. When pointed out not unique, they declare they do it better.

Regulatory Systems based on professions and formal education are flawed. Professions are too broad and ambigously defined to form the basis of regulation of something specfic. Formal education provides foundational knowledge, it does not involve practice to the extent to develop the necessary competence and profeciency required for regulation. Regulation needs to be based on Quality Assurance (QA) principles rather than Quality Control (QC) principles. Most existing systems are based on QC principles, that is they are based on inspection of end-product, permit defects to a significant level, and then do something about fixing the defects. A QA system is based on principle that quality has to be designed in, it cannot be inspected in, that the journey is more important than the destination. Something like the old saying: take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves. That is monitor the process, and correct small incremental steps of the journey towards the final destination. This is all better achieved if workers have knowledge of the big picture, and the importance of their contribution to the big picture. Each is both a customer and supplier in the industrial foodchain. If the individuals supplies are poor then their customers supplies are also going to be poor.

Our most fundamental law is that concerned with fair trading and the need for goods to be fit-for-function. The problem is that fitness-for-function is a matter of subjective judgement. When failure occurs, the first issue which should be resolved is: did the end-user responsibly assess the suitability of the product for their purpose, was it acceptable for them to take it on good faith that it was suitable for their purpose?

My contention is that the individual should be held accountable first before any supplier. It is getting ridiculous the number of disclaimers and warning notices manufacturers have to place on their products on account of irresponsible people. It is also getting ridiculous on the number of warning notices city councils have to install along with fencing and the likes due to irresponsible people. It is largely irresponsible people playing the system to get rich quick, that causes all the inconvenience for others. It shouldn't be necessary to put signs around stating: don't stand on the edge of the cliff, or stay away from the water. So a fundamental part of a regulatory system is constraining those who would seek to exploit the system for their own benefit at the expense of everybody else.

Speaking of the ridiculous, we are not far from having to put labels on everything: warning: Shark, stay clear off teeth, sharp, very sharp.

To a certain extent professions themselves wish to exploit, when they seek to create legislation which constrains activity to themselves. Rather than bringing benefit to the community it is mostly seen as a nuisance and hindrance. As a consequence people find ways around it, or simply blatantly ignore the legislation and go against it. Registration, protection of professional titles, and licensing all becomes a joke.

We have registration of architects, it mainly protects the title. People think architects design monumental eye-sores of no practical value, consequently they go direct to builders, or to building designers or plan drafters. People think builders charge extortionate fees for no apparent service, hence people become owner-builders. People know what they want in terms of living space, so they think all that is required is to get some plans drawn up and then submit for development approval. Builders may advise that something is impossible, or otherwise quote high prices for the unusual. The result is that owner-builders become the builders of some of the more complex houses, whilst licensed builders construct boxes.

And what is the prime purpose of the builder works contractors act and regulations? Well! It doesn't have much, if anything to do with construction of bridges, water filtration plants, or multistory office buildings. The primary purpose is to protect buyers of houses, who are not considered informed buyers and not considered capable of determining the suitability of persons providing building services, or supplying buildings. it doesn't work, people still get exploited by both licensed and unlicensed builders.

The building works contractors act and regulations provides for two licenses:

1) Building works contractors license (BWC)
2) Building works supervisors license. (BWS)

For the purposes of the act, registered architects are taken as equivalent to building works supervisors. This highlights another potential problem with regulations: excluding appropriate people from the work, or otherwise adding extra costs to their being able to perform the work. There is no mention of engineers, construction engineers, construction managers, or project managers. So these professions will have to get their building works supervisors license if involved in works which may require the license or be found to require the license. Doing so may be difficult, because whilst the legislation defines some qualification framework, and that framework is primarily about supervision of works, in practice licenses are granted to persons with trades certificates. There appears to be no longer any specific requirement to have knowledge about the "construction" of a building and its component parts, nor any extensive knowledge of construction processes. Further there are restricted licenses and general licenses, most only have restricted licenses. So a carpenter has potential to get a license for single storey residential construction without necessarily knowing anything about buildings, other than the timber framing. Their primary task as a building works supervisor is simply to coordinate all the other trades, and largely they rely on the other trades to know what they are meant to do. That basically means the building works supervisor is not an informed buyer. Ah! But should be a building works contractor, shouldn't it?

A building works contractor (BWC) license can be held by either a corporation or a person. A building works supervisor (BWS) license can only be held by a natural person. The BWC has to appoint a BWS. Sole practioners require both a BWC and BWS license. The BWC license is primarily about having financial resources, and the ability to manage cash-flows to start, carry out and complete the works. The BWS license, is about being onsite coordinating and supervising the works. For many of the large builders the BWS, spends most of their time on the road travelling between sites, and consequently not supervising anything. Their role becomes one of QC with lots of rectification work, and consequential delays for new house buyers. And it is often the supposedly un-informed buyers pointing out the defects and demanding rectification: because the BWS was never there to supervise. Which leads to view of extortionate fees for both BWC and BWS, and hence large owner-builder culture. If want it doing right, then do it yourself. So the owner-builder manages their own finances, and otherwise coordinates the services of the sub-contractors, and otherwise relies on them to know their own particular role. Owner-builders not being licensed builders are required to live in their house for a minimum amount of time and are otherwise restricted from building another for a specified length of time.

A few years back, the role of developers was considered, and whether they should be required to have a builders license. I believe the basic argument was it wasn't necessary. Developers generally managing their own finances, or otherwise upto the lending authority to determine if developer able to manage finances. Secondly most otherwise employ the services of BWS, or otherwise coordinate the services of sub-contractors each of which has either a BWS and/or BWC license. For it seems it is possible to operate a business with only a BWS license, on condition not contracting to supply the building works, only to supervise, and the owner otherwise manages the finances, and otherwise all sub-contractors work direct for the owner and have both BWC/BWS licenses. I think its treading a fineline, and a risky approach, but otherwise possible. The issue is that the BWC normally completes a stage of work and gets paid for what they have supplied thus far, if they can manage the stages and cash-flows effectively then they can carry out works far in excess of their financial resources. When working through a BWS only, then the owner has to control the cash-flows and is otherwise responsible for insurance on the building. For the ultimate issue is not whether the owner is happy with the building, but whether the building is suitable for selling to others, and whether or not it poses a hazard or nuisance to the community at large.

Whether constructed by a licensed builder or an owner-builder, a building requires a certificate-of-occupancy before anyone can move in. The certificate-of-occupancy, is issued by a building surveyor (BS) either working for city council or as a private certifier. Building surveyors were once architects or engineers who specialised in the regulations, building surveying is now a profession in its owner right, with its own qualification framework. They now know more about the regulations but less about architecture and engineering: but possibly greater consistency in compliance checking against the regulations.

Any case the certificate-of-occupancy is dependent on certain inspections either by the BS issuing or BWS, or possibly others suitably qualified to ascertain that construction was in accordance with approved documents. When the 1993 Development Act and regulations were being brought in, there were attempts to get each sub-contractor to sign-off on their part of the work, it didn't get very far. On the other hand the principal BWS working for the principal contractor is responsible for accepting or rejecting the work of subcontractors (subbie). So the BWS can sign-off on the subbies work. That is the BWS can implement what ever systems they wish, to safeguard themselves. So principals can exercise more aggressive or assertive practices directed towards the quality of the subbies work. There is a standard form: Statement-of-compliance in the development regulations. This form is to be signed by both the BWS and the building-owner, and completion of such is part requirement before the certificate-of-occupancy can be issued. There are certain stages of work which need to be checked, most especially checking of that work which will be hidden on completion of the building.

Irrespective of what is mandated by regulations or how appallingly it may be administered, especially since 1993 when much of the city council inspections ceased, there is an intent and objective behind the code, and the primary requirement is to demonstrate that a finished building is suitable for purpose. Subject to the occupational, health safety and welfare act (OHS&W) there is also a requirement that the construction processes used are safe and that all industrial plant used is also safe.

The SA OHS&W Act and Regulations may now be obsolete. Not sure whether we have or have not adopted the national system this year, and what changes it makes. Quite frankly I don't really care. OHS&W clearly highlights the stupidity of regulations and regulators: make laws, institute penalties, and keep increasing penalties hoping the problem will go away. The entire solution and focus by OHS&W consultants is to create laws and make penalties greater as a deterant to unsafe practices. Laws and higher penalties doesn't solve anything.

Just take speeding on the roads. The government is annually accused of using speed camera's and handheld radar guns for collecting revenue. The government says not. The equipment is expensive and from overseas, they collect enough from speeding fines to buy more of the equipment.  The government advertising is that "speed kills". If this was true then the police would have a shortage of body bags, not an accumulation of funds to buy more speed camera's. They are accused of using statistics to determine the hotspots where they will generate most revenue. Its a QC approach, break the law, impose the penalty. The penalty just becomes a cost of doing business, or away of life. In the main people don't go out of their way to speed, they just don't pay constant attention to their speedometers. If the real concern was public safety then would take a QA approach and use the statistics to implement solutions which would slow the traffic in the hotspots, and both speeds and revenues would drop.

When it comes to OHS&W, the employers cannot implement safer systems if they just made a massive payout as a penalty. Nor can they implement safer systems if there is no guidance as to what constitutes a safer system. Further if decisions are purely financial, then a monetary penalty just becomes the cost of doing business. If the risk of a penalty is low, because risk of accident is low, and otherwise safer systems are high cost, then unsafe practices will remain. Employees are also partly to blame, which existing OHS&W regulations recognise. For example, employers provide safety glasses, but employees refuse to wear, and employer responsible for making sure they do wear. So if employee gets injured both parties are at fault. But there is another issue, and that is the one sided view of employees, that owners are getting rich whilst they get injured. Not always so, and it ignores the housing, cars and vacations that employees themselves expect to afford. The current workers maybe lucky and able to work safely, but a newcomer may not have such proficiency and luck, and the current workers luck may run-out.

The basic requirement behind all the regulation is that products and processes are suitable for purpose, and that actions taken pose minimum hazard to the community at large. The regulations are in place due to failure of individuals and corporations to exercise due-diligence, exercise a duty-of-care and select suitable products and processes and otherwise minimise risk of hazard. Regulations exist due to a culture of self-interest and not caring about others in the community. Everyone wants the regulations imposed on everyone else, but for themselves to be exempt.

Have a dispute with a neighbour, and one thing they will do is raise an issue with the city council about any building works that have taken place on neighbouring property. A city inspector may come round an inspect or may just get a notice of illegal construction and request to remove or apply for development application. If such happens then need to be able to demonstrate that the existing building complies with the building code. That poses a problem, because many of the required performance criteria are concerned with physical properties of: materials and or component parts of a building. These properties cannot be determined by a visual inspection. Further many things which require a visual inspection are no longer visible in the completed building.

Whether a building or other product, there is much in the finished product relevant to its performance which cannot be assessed by a visual inspection. Engineers coming out, kicking dirt and looking at stuff is largely a total waste of time. There is a need for evidence, real documentary evidence of what has been built. Not some paper shuffling exercise of what should have been built, but what has actually been built.

In the main we in Australia expect to live in a relatively democratic society with reasonably free market. Once again regulation is seen as failing. The competition watchdog, is protecting the wrong thing: it protects competition rather than diversity of suppliers. By protecting competition we allow the big retailers and supermarkets to wipe out local stores, it supposedly brings efficiency and lower prices. Once they attain monopoly, they may then experience penalty. What exactly is the difference between a large national retail corporation and a cartel? The big supermarkets are accused of pressuring farmers and pushing to buy for less than costs to produce.

But what does it cost to produce? One problem with manufacturing has been that protection of local industry dependent on certain productivity gains, but many of the gains claimed were pseudo improvements. There may well be potential in the farming industry to produce for less, but if no pressure to do so, then in the main they won't implement any productivity changes. That suggests that may be competition is required to bring about gains. Personally I don't believe the focus should be on competition, the focus should be on sustaining a diversity of suppliers. Each supplier having a clear differentiation from others. That suppliers focus on added-value and quality, rather than lower prices. The population is not altogether focused on a lower priced basket of goods. The populations focus is being able to afford the goods they need and having some cash to spare for luxuries. The spare cash has been decreasing. If they can get what they need at a lower price and at an acceptable level of quality, they will buy the lower priced goods.

Quality does not equal high performance, it equates to required and accepted performance at the right time. The more expensive product may last longer, but the lower cost product can be bought when needed: less need to save, less need to use a credit card. The added value is not so much in the lower price, but the associated payment schedule and otherwise lack of interest payments. In the long term the higher priced product may be an over all lower cost, but in the short term it is not an attainable goal.

That is where regulation becomes hindering rather than beneficial. Regulation sets performance criteria which whilst low are typically not low enough, and consequently hinder persons in buying goods best suited to their needs. Additionally once in place the performance criteria tend to increase from year to year, making it increasingly difficult for more and more people to obtain that which is suited to their needs. Legislation is primarily to protect buyers from unscrupulous suppliers, but there should still be a responsibility on the part of the buyer to become appropriately informed about the goods and services they propose to use.

The basic decision to buy rather than to make is because do not have time and other resources to do one self, knowledge is typically only a minor reason for choosing to buy. For example cannot perform surgery on yourself, but the doctor should not be so arrogant as to assume only they can understand anything about the operation. Its the patients body that the doctor (sawbones) is going to hack into, the patient has a right to know about the procedure and the objective and intent of the operation. The doctor may spend a long time studying to become a doctor, but they don't spend all that time on a single operation, and the science behind medicine is increasingly becoming common knowledge. Also when it comes to medicine people can grow the ingredients for herbal medicines, they can buy medications from supermarkets, or from pharmacists, or get a prescription from a doctor. They can also try the services of practitioners of alternative medicine.

In the main people have freedom of choice. The issues are:

1) Is the buyer appropriately informed and acting responsibly.
2) Is the supplier acting irresponsible and deliberately misleading.

Now all the law can do is punish after injury, and otherwise seek compensation. What we really want regulation to do is prevent the injury, and avoid the need for compensation. For example the people would rather that the global financial crisis (GFC) did not happen. On the other hand they would also rather that those responsible were punished rather than being given massive payouts. Punishment however doesn't solve the current problem, nor prevent future re-occurrence.

I spend a lot of time dealing with problems caused by a failure to carry out appropriate planning, design and management towards desired objective. Clients bumping into the regulations at the wrong time. Their behaviour is exactly why the regulations emerged in the first place. But the regulations based on QC principles permit far too much progress in the wrong direction before they kick into play.

Whilst I may often consider that my life would be easier if there was more regulation and could spend more time on design and avoiding problems in the first place, I ultimately conclude regulation wouldn't work. We have regulations, they fail, and they fail because we don't have the resources to properly police and enforce. More regulation would require more effort at enforcement.

What we need is less regulation, simpler regulation, more generic. As my dad is always citing, in England they apparently only had one simple driving law: driving without due care and consideration.

In Australia we have road rules which seem to be classified as law: so comes down to arguing technicalities. So lots of articles on current affairs shows about tolerances and accuracy of speedometers and speed cameras. So skip that person wasn't driving without due consideration to other road users: they weren't exactly over the speed limit, not known for certain anyway, therefore can get off paying speeding fine. With simpler law don't care about proving for certain above speed limit, only that they weren't at or below the limit.

Those that argue 10% error in speedometer, only consider one direction, and otherwise tend to be tailgaters. If there is such error, then when speedometer at 60km/hr, then have +/- 6km/hr variation. So vehicle's actual speed could be somewhere between 54km/hr and 66km/hr, a total of 12km/hr difference in speeds. If ask me that's too great an error to be permitted. The person being tailgated at the lower limit, the tailgater attempting to travel at the upper limit, the tailgater using the accelerator rather than the break, trying to pressure the slower vehicle out off the way: basically driving without consideration: driving by instruments rather than with care. Given the actual velocity can be 66km/hr, and the limit is 60km/hr, they have potentially exceeded the speed limit.

There has to be tolerance in regulations to allow for variation. In terms of the speed limit, it is an upper limit, variation is only permitted below never above. But there is an issue on ability to measure. If all instruments have a bilateral error, then at 60km/hr all measurements will indicate a real value which is slightly above the speed limit. Therefore would always have to be driving at less than the speed limit, so that the upper limit on the error is below the mandated speed limit. Such is impractical. It is therefore necessary to specify the method of measurement in particular its accuracy and precision. Is 60.1 km/hr above the limit, or is 60.05km/hr above the limit? What variation will we tolerate?

Most of our codes of practice are distinctly lacking in tolerances, most especially the building code of Australia (BCA). Though there are some general statements about: "to the degree necessary". It then being left as a matter of judgement. The BCA is currently revised each and every year, mostly removing ambiguities, and otherwise explicitly excluding from the scope of the code or otherwise explicitly bringing into the scope of the code. So the majority of buildings do not comply with the current code. All houses built prior to 2012, will not fully comply with BCA:2012, next year houses built this year will not comply with BCA:2013. More than that no house built this year will fully comply with BCA:2012. It will only comply to extent of the assessment made, in the time available. Another person looking at documentation may identify additional issues to be addressed and require design changes to achieve compliance. Another person looking at the actual construction may require additional changes before issuing a statement-of-compliance, compared to the person who issued such statement. 100% inspection seldom ever picks up 100% of defects. So there will always be defects in the design, defects in the documentation of the design, defects in the assessment of the documented design, and defects in the construction, defects in the supply of materials, defects in the inspection of the building at any stage. The ultimate objective is not to get rid of these defects, but to make them so small and insignificant to the extent that the product is robust enough to perform satisfactorily despite the presence of defects.

For me regulation is just a carry over from a culture with a QC mentality. As a culture we haven't really grasped quality assurance, and ISO:9000 series of codes is a relatively poor substitute for real quality, but probably better than nothing. The problem with ISO:9000 is that people have the wrong approach in the first instance: wanting accreditation: is having an accept or reject mentality: and that is something which has to be rejected to implement real quality systems. The implementations end up as bureaucratic paper shuffling, tracking defects produced and laying of blame. In short simply have it nicely documented that the business is defect ridden. Don't buy from ISO:9000 company because likely paying an extortionate amount of money for defects, whether the defects make it to you or not. Further their systems are slow, so a few years down the track, may get a recall, because now discovered supply of defected work. There is no real quality there. Now when start being more rigorous with audits, then get fewer accredited suppliers, but then it starts to become questionable as to whether it really matters. Are you imposing demands so high that shooting self in the foot? Well the answer there is you're not doing it, some third party is, who isn't interested in your needs. With the origin of QA the buyer did the audit of the supplier, the buyer was informed, and for the buyer it was better to improve the quality of suppliers, than to set up and make the component themselves. The buyer invests in the supplier and expects some return on such investment, such as lower supply price. If not then they will achieve the desired economy by making the component themselves. The buyers are therefore informed or capable of becoming informed.

If don't have informed buyers, and not able to properly police the regulations, then no real point to regulations. If must have, then simple and generic is preferable.

A Proposal for building Industry (possibly other areas).

Simply have a register of practitioners. No classification as with the Victorian system. I don't care about job titles of professions. From an industrial engineering viewpoint, I can divide and combine job functions and design a whole new array of occupations and professions, which have potential to do the job more productively and with higher quality than the current array. Such is not a technical problem however, but socio-political. Like engineers don't like being referred to as cogs within the machinery of industrial society. Apparently these employees are something more than a cog. Sorry! but no they are not, all persons operating within the machinery of industrial society are cogs without exception. Breaking free of the machine is extremely difficult if not impossible. Most don't want to break free of the machine, but redesign the machine and build it differently. For example a desire to impose regulation on others, and create exclusive little empires.

So as may have become apparent from other posts, I oppose legislation which restricts supply of services, and therefore I will oppose anything specific about engineers. I don't oppose in terms of approving authority, only in terms of supply of services. So the SA Development Act and Regulations has some activities restricted to persons on the national professional engineers register (NPER). The only issue I have with that, is that currently the assessment process for being on the register is based on largely irrelevant nonsense, and misses the real technical issues why we make reference to NPER. Put simply the legislation can bring us more trouble than benefit.

So my proposal is a simple register, without any prior assessment, there is no implication that those on the register are competent, there is no major restriction of services to those on the register. All persons working for regulating authorities and granting approvals, and all private certifiers, are required to be on the register.

The regulating authorities having jurisdiction, will only accept documents which have been endorsed by a person on the register of practitioners. It doesn't matter what they are, its not on the register. If scribble on the back of an order form by a salesperson, is suitable documentation for a garden shed, then a sales person can be on the register. The issue is when the salesperson submits similar scribble for a large industrial facility. Buyers who choose such approach largely deserve all the hassle they get from the authorities. However it causes a great deal of inconvenience to everyone else in the industry, and other buyers.

It causes inconvenience to other buyers because businesses which supply design services, have to spend their time fixing up other peoples mess. Whilst design consultants are fighting all these regulatory "bushfires", people who are trying to do the right thing are hindered in accessing design services. This results in people considering that seeking approval takes too long, and therefore they go ahead and build without development approval, which then becomes a future regulatory bushfire to put out. So system becomes a self perpetuating lock into fighting fires.

The proposal is hopefully a simple means of breaking out off the current system of endless emergencies all requiring immediate attention.

Its relatively simple in operation. The regulatory authority receives documentation unsuited to the scope of the project. The person who submitted is removed from the project, and a black mark put against their name on the register. Too many black marks they get struck from the register. This does not stop them from supplying, it simply prevents them from endorsing documentation for submission to the regulating authorities. They now require someone else to review their documentation, and endorse before submitting to the regulating authority. The other person has to be a registered practitioner (RP), since they risk being struck from the register for someone else's work, they will need to carry out a thorough review of the work, or insist they do the work themselves.

The consequence of this, is that many cold-formed steel shed suppliers for example will quickly have their salespeople struck from the register as quickly as they were first registered. The sales people will then have to seek the services of other salespeople who have remained on the register, or otherwise seek the services of drafters or engineers. None of which need to be registered, its just faster for all concerned if able to endorse and submit own work, rather than get it reviewed and endorsed by someone else. Owner-builders cannot be registered, but all practitioners in the industry can be registered. Note it is: can be registered, not a requirement.

The only requirement is that documentation submitted for approval is endorsed by a registered practitioner, and that the regulatory approval is granted by someone on the register. Getting on the register being easy, staying on the register difficult.

It also partly assists with respect to those complaining about fees. The plan drafter wins a job, but gets removed by the regulating authority, the job then has to go to someone else, and be reviewed and endorsed by a registered practitioner better suited to the project. If the plan drafter wants to take on more challenging projects and remain registered to pursue simpler projects without hassle of paying someone else to review their work, then they should seek review at the appropriate time. The need for such review becomes an extra expense, and the party providing such review may well be competing for the same work. More likely however, that the party reviewing the work, would never have otherwise been considered, and the work would never have existed. Some projects just need drawing up, and then otherwise should be reviewed and rejected without involving the regulating authorities.

What happens with salespeople, plan drafters and others in the industry, is that by the time a proposal has been bounced back and fourth between the regulating and authorities, and engineering eventually supplied, the proposal is far too expensive for the owner to pay for. Yet they have otherwise wasted money attempting to get regulatory approval. If they do get regulatory approval they also have a limited time in which to complete the approved building works. If it turns out more expensive than anticipated, then may use up all the available time getting approval for additional funding, and thus have to seek regulatory (development) approval again. Alternatively if too expensive, may then expend more time and resources simplifying the design and getting approval again. All of this is really supposed to have occurred before seek approval.

Plan drafters draw up floor plans of what the buyer wants, but it doesn't mean its possible to put walls around the space or roof over it, using conventional building materials and technology as desired and documented. Plan drafters don't design, and they don't assess fitness-for-function of designs against scientific principles, at best they may use prescriptive codes: though in general they have never read any of the codes, don't have the codes, and rely solely on regulating authorities to tell them what to change. It causes unnecessary delay for the buyer, and city councils are blamed for the delay (always changing the rules), making people think that councils are a hindrance. When in reality the plan drafters, builders and many others are the problem, because they don't know the rules: just one solution which sometimes complies with the rules, but not in all situations.

Under the proposal we will still have all the service providers we still have, and the delays experienced will remain. But the delays will now have a cost, for no longer can buyers use the city council building officials as design coordinators, nor as checkers of designs and documentation. However, approval itself should be faster, because the building officials will only be checking suitably documented proposals. That is the documentation received by council will be fit-for-function.

The quality of documentation will improve, hopefully due to more attention to design, and constructing the building on paper rather than: simply putting lines on paper as a token gesture towards representing the proposed intent.

Once the register is in operation some may suggest that registration be limited to those with suitable qualifications, such as building surveyor, architect or engineer, I propose not necessary. The purpose of most  regulation is to achieve minimum compliance for performance of end-products, the quality of service is little considered, that is how the end-product gets the required performance is irrelevant, only that it gets it. Compliance with some wishy washy definition of a profession, or its whimsical capability is of no consequence. Getting on the register is easy, staying on the register is difficult, getting back on the register is impossible or extremely difficult.

Staying on the register requires working within scope of capabilities and sustaining a portfolio of work that gets approval first time every time, with zero to minimalist requests for further information. Getting struck from the register means failed to work within scope of capabilities and work generating an annoying amount of requests for further information on a regular basis. What the annoying amount should be is a matter for determination, but I suggest 3 to 5 black marks against the name on the register, results in being struck off.

Getting back on the register requires working in scope of capabilities, and building a portfolio of work endorsed by a registered practitioner (RP) with little request for further information and little need for revision of the work. That is demonstrating the capability to stay on the register once granted approval to be placed back on the register.

Getting work reviewed and endorsed by an RP costs money each and every time: no regulated fixed fee as there is with development approval. Each and every review and request for further information generates additional cost. Further just as the plan drafters etc.. currently blame the city councils for delays, they will start to blame the RP's for delays. It is therefore not good for the RP's business to do review work for persons who think it is all a game. The RP's could increase costs of review work, to cover the hassle of being taken away from their design work: or simply ask the plan drafter (other) to go away, as not interested in their work as its more trouble than its worth. Increasing fees would simply put the cost of review beyond the capacity of the plan drafter to pay from the fees they earn from their work.

Defining qualifications not necessary, simply have to work within scope of capabilities and otherwise increase capabilities to match scope of work which they attract. As for the regulators, well they have codes of practice to ensure compliance with: they can do it blindly and pedantically, thoughtfully or whimsically. Qualified or not we have no real control over how well they do their job: but they are equally well in a position to be struck from the register.

Once there are two complaints against an RP, then an independent audit of that RP's portfolio of work can be carried out. If found unsatisfactory then the RP can be struck from the register, if that happens and they are on the approval side of the regulations, then they are also in a position where they can loose their job. At the very minimum, demoted and placed under supervision of another RP. New persons for the approval side of the regulations will only be taken from the register, and only after they have had a minimum of 10 years continuous registration. The skills on the approval side should therefore start to improve: no raw graduates with bachelor degrees in building surveying.

It should also be noted that an unofficial independent audit can be carried out at anytime by anyone at a cost. For all that is required is for one RP to get their work reviewed by another RP. For significant and complex projects, this is a desirable approach. Thus whilst one consultant may not win a given project, they may however pick up experience as an independent reviewer. In the market place an independent reviewer can be as harsh as they wish compared to government regulators. Government regulators are seen as obstructive when make harsh assessments. When a business makes a harsh assessment that's what they get paid for, don't like their approach then find someone else. This is not the same situation as private certifier where by cannot remove them from project once appointed. This is an optional and desirable review, and opportunity to see how others in the market work.

Returning to the shed salesperson's scribble again. Their starting point for an RP may be a plan drafter, but the plan drafter refuses to endorse the scribble: it is below the quality of work they normally produce. But the scribble on the back of an order form is all that is required, the problem is the saleperson lost RP status, and now requires an RP to endorse, but cannot find one at the right price and who can produce appropriate documentation in the right time. The shed supplier has a problem to solve. They can adopt computer software to resolve the issue of providing appropriate documentation in a short period of time, but still have an issue of getting an RP to endorse each and every project.

Shed suppliers have a habit of submitting any documentation in convenient reach, and not necessarily relevant to the current project. Further they fail to realise that they are making design decisions and the engineer responsible for the standard calculations is not responsible for the current project. The engineer is not the one who said the design was suitable for the current project, but the salesperson. The salesperson is the one making an assessment of the wind loading at the site and any other conditions. If the building fails, the issue isn't whether the building was suitable for intended purpose but whether it was suitable for the current purpose.

Now the RP endorsing the design for submission to the approving authority is not responsible for the design or its suitability for an intended purpose, they are however responsible for getting it designed to be suitable for intended purpose. Suitability assessed by approving authority is simply compliance with codes of practice. The RP is therefore responsible for employing the appropriate people to achieve a compliant design.

If the shed supplier makes use of software, they still need an RP to endorse that the input/output of the software is relevant to the current project. They therefore really need someone on staff, not an external consultant. They therefore either need a salesmanager who endorses all the proposals before submission to council. Or allocate the task to estimator, material take-off people, or employ appropriately skilled technical person on staff.: such as associate technologist(structures).

The approach is QC, since defects are permitted and penalties imposed. The penalty being: that get struck from register and commercial life is complicated as a consequence. At no stage is anyone identified as more competent and capable. The approving authority simply has a job to do, make an assessment against the approved codes of practice. The applicant for approval has a job to do, produce documentation which argues their case for being granted regulatory (development) approval.

In setting up the register, there is no concern about shortages, there is no concern about numbers to make the register work, there is no concern about the cost of assessing qualifications for there aren't any. Everyone who practices in the building industry (or OHS&W or other area as appropriate) is permitted to register. Most already know what type of projects generate requests for further information from council, and they know who fixes this for them. So it is their own fault if register as RP, and get struck off almost immediately. Setting a minimum period of say 5 years before can get back on the register, will provide some incentive to seek the services of appropriate RP in the first place.

By not setting required qualifications, the register assists industry to determine appropriate education, training and qualifications to suit its particular needs. Thus they train people to suit the scope of work. As the scope of work gets more challenging, the supplier starts interacting with consultants and other specialists. Individual RP's may improve their qualifications and obtain work with the consultants the shed supplier does work with. The shed supplier will then need a new RP. The shed supplier provides experience on simple and relatively repetitive projects from structural design perspective, but this becomes good foundation for designers moving onto more complicated projects. But the opportunity to tackle more complex projects can only be offered elsewhere. In similar manner, many consultancies have little repetitive work on which to develop basic skills to high proficiency, they need people with a higher level of proficiency at entry level positions.

Business can base its job roles on any suitable qualifications it chooses. So when the plan drafter turns up at an RP's office for a review, they can be advised to go elsewhere because they do not meet that businesses requirements for employment as a drafter, and as a consequence it will be a harsh and expensive exercise for them to get endorsement. The result of such behaviour, will be the formation of business networks suitable for particular types of project and providing for at an appropriate level of quality and productivity.

Clearly one shed supplier is not going to get their submissions endorsed by another shed supplier, but neither are they going to go to the big city consulting engineers to get endorsement. There is simply an imposition to rely less on the approving authority to find out what is required, and a need to pay someone to get the documentation right. Getting the documentation right requires technical design skills, not simply drawing skill.

My interest is getting design skills of an appropriate level into industry where they are used, rather than higher skills locked away in large consultancies where the skills are too expensive to buy, for those with the need, because the consultants over estimate their actual contribution, importance and worth to smaller projects.

It is easier to design, than solve problems due to lack of design. It is easier to design and achieve compliance in the first place, than it is to modify existing illegal construction and bring it into compliance.

If regulation is not appropriately policed and people see it as hindrance they will avoid. Regulatory approval needs to be fast, and needs to provide benefit. Approval cannot be fast if people still carrying out design whilst attempting to get approval. Need to get design done before approval is sought. Description of proposal is not design.

With the right regulation will build the skills of the workforce, increase competence, and improve quality and productivity. If implement inappropriate regulations then entry to the workforce, to an occupation becomes too difficult and expensive, and so does starting an alternative business.

Entry easy. Staying difficult. Getting back in, impossible or extremely difficult.

Sun 2012-Sep-16  00:09AM