Tuesday, September 10, 2013

State of Play 2013/wk37

Been working setting up wordpress for business website. Having closed down the office and retracted the business back home, now need to make better use of the Internet. Most especially with the intended future move over to Maitland on the York Peninsula. The business exists mainly because we are local. That is people attempt DIY building development applications, council advises they need structural engineering. They ask what is that and they are given a list of consultants who submit work for the area. Only one of the consultants is actually in the area, and as both individuals and small builders, have no desire to go into the city or the other side of the city, they come to us. Moving over to Maitland therefore is potentially a major stumbling block.

On the other hand there has been a down turn in work, our regular clients have experienced a reduction in work and that has flowed onto us. As for private individuals, and small builders with one-off projects, whilst they represent some 80% of projects, they represent very little in terms of income, like around 20%, yet they consume a disproportionate amount of time. Their emergencies and urgencies tend to result in them applying pressure to jump to the front of the queue, and otherwise cause delays for our regular clients. Their projects also interfere with our capacity to pursue larger projects. They contribute to keeping our earnings low and barely scraping in incomes equal to the Federal minimum wage. That I don't so much mind, but I object to the hassle and the pressure.

I mean, there are people in the world who don't have housing and our time is wasted by people who don't follow the rules get into a mess and expect we dig them out off a hole for a low fee. Meanwhile people who try to do the right thing, have to have extreme patience, as they keep getting pushed further and further along the queue.

To me it seems there is a need for some means of providing engineering services like legal aid. Though I did take a look at legal aid services, they seem to have highly restrictive requirements as to who can get such aid.

The alternative is to design a service which properly informs people, so that they don't build stuff without approval, and so that they don't produce DIY applications. More prescriptive building solutions are required along with the necessary evidence-of-suitability.

The problem however are people who do not care, think they know what is required, and do not do any research. Such people are always going to be around, the main people to serve are those who go looking for information but cannot find anything suitable. Those who don't do the research, and think they can do what ever they want on their property no matter what hazards it poses to the rest of the community, will hit a bigger problem. That problem, will be no one to get them out off a mess. Since they don't see any reason to get building approval in the first place, they also don't see any reason to pay for the design and engineering services required to get approval. So this bunch are not really worth while clients. Can generally tell who they are from the start by their attitude, the difficulty is telling them to take a hike at the first meeting, and that not interested in their project. I believe it is preferable to refuse service to these people, Assisting them just encourages them to continue disregarding the rest of the community. Members of the Engineering team have sworn to a code of ethics, which typically places the community first, above the client and above the employer.

Sure much of the time, the city councils are just being picky, and its all a matter of just getting paper work in place.  The city council doesn't really want to enforce a demolition order: it makes them look mean. But there are some members of the community who need to learn that their property is part of the greater environment and just about everything they do to their  property has an impact on their neighbours.

Any case there has been a down turn in work load, and locality is not really a major issue any more. As most work has always flowed in from regular clients either by the telephone, fax, post, or email. In terms of post that is often in the way of clients dropping documents off in our post box after hours. We have lost our land line telephone number, but most clients already have either our email address or mobile phone number: and for a while now most work has flowed in via email. With only occasionally seeing people in person. Not getting out off the office can be some what depressing.

Still it would appear that an Internet based information resource, both with information provided gratis and other information provided for an up front fee, would resolve many issues. Admittedly there are plenty of sites already, but few providing the engineering information, and further more it is clear that people are not finding the information that is available.

Informing people has always been a problem for small business and organisations. Mail leaflet drops can be expensive, and reach few people, with the leaflets typically going straight in the bin. Yellow pages advertisements don't really attract much attention, may be good for some services but not much use for engineering: its too specialised. People may look in yellow pages when told they need an engineer, but they don't look otherwise, they don't know what they are or that they need such services. Engineers services are thus not altogether in the appropriate place in the phone directory. Being elitist not necessarily a good thing: engineers really need to be along side the drafters, fabricators and the builders.

Door knocking just presents the individual as a nuisance, as does phone calls. Advertisements in local paper can be useful, but delivery of  this paper is poor, with it just being thrown into gardens, the plastic wrap is not much protection. So during winter the paper gets soaked with rain,  during summer it can soaked by sprinklers watering the gardens. The result the paper often just gets picked up and thrown straight in the bin. Advertisements in other papers more useful, but can otherwise be expensive.

The fundamental problem is that engineering is relatively abstract and esoteric, and consequently of little interest and value to the community. Engineering services need to be made more accessible, more tangible and more value to the community which they serve.

Not sure how I can do that, but if do not seek, will not find.

Earlier in the year I created some additional blogs. I have now modified this blog, removing some of the pages and changing their menu tab to link to these other blogs. I have also added some extra tabs to link to other sites where I have uploaded stuff.