Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Another Thought on Popper: Structural/Mechanical Design

DanQuo's applied science: Another Thought on Popper: Popper’s idea of falsifying rather than verifying a hypothesis is essentially what structural engineers do during the design process. The...

I believe the preceding article describes exactly the process which was criticised by Popper.

The whole structural/mechanical design process described concerns accumulating supporting evidence of suitability. Suitability is determined by comparison with some predefined acceptance criteria: increasingly some code of practice. The proposed structure once assessed against the acceptance criteria and found compliant is then approved for construction. Once constructed it becomes a real world experiment. Once it eventually fails, the acceptance criteria in the codes of practice are revised. {The alternate hypothesis that the beam will fail holds true.}

What I believe Popper was arguing is that need to deliberately go looking for the evidence which will falsify the proposed hypothesis, not wait for it to turn up. The evidence collected in Europe suggests that all swans are white, the evidence in Australia suggests swans are black. What ever the evidence supports it is necessary to go looking for the complement, opposite, alternative or challenging hypothesis. The evidence to date suggests that swans are either black or white: but what evidence is there to support that they cannot be blue, green, yellow or red? Other birds have these colours so what prevents swans from having these colours?

From statistics have the null hypothesis and the alternative hypothesis. The null hypothesis is that the structure is fit-for-function or suitable for purpose. The alternative hypothesis is that the structure is not fit-for-function and it will failure. Quality robust design does not seek to minimize the probability of the failure event but rather deal with the failure.

Traditional structural design was primarily concerned with gravity loads and preventing the structure from sinking into the ground or collapsing under its own self-weight. Real world failures have resulted in increasing requirements for consideration of wind loading, seismic loading and live loading.

The Ronan point disaster, was the consequence of failing to consider a potential failure event. The gas explosion lifted the floor up, and blew the wall out, and the floor then had no wall to sit on. Having a mechanical and manufacturing engineering background, I have always found the structural codes to be some what deficient when it comes to loading considered. I believe there are typically considered to be 6 degrees of freedom, though I have a tool design handbook which identifies 12. There are three axes of translation, and 2 directions along these axes, and three axes of rotation and 2 directions of rotation about.

Structural codes have a tendency to only consider a given axis and only consider movement in one direction relative to. So tradition check gravity loads and prevent movement towards the ground, but otherwise ignore upward wind loading, or ignore upward loading from an explosion. A failure event occurs and codes revised to consider the other direction: thus now consider wind uplift. As I understand recent discussions on SEAint listserver, the international building code (IBC) ignores vertical seismic actions and only considers horizontal, whilst the nuclear industry apparently considers the vertical. However requirements for robustness in structural are starting to introduce more consideration of qualitative acceptance criteria into structural design, if not explicitly identified in the codes. As I understand it good seismic design is more to do with detailing than altogether resisting the magnitude of the forces involved.

Resisting forces is a problem. The alternative hypothesis that the structure is not fit-for-function and will fail holds true: the structure will fail. It is not possible to design earthquake resistant buildings, or hurricane resistant or flood proof buildings. The so called earthquake resistant buildings will be destroyed by earthquake, the hurricane resistant buildings will be destroyed by hurricane, and the flood proof buildings will be damaged by flood. Because structural design is based on supporting evidence rather than falsification these failure events are not considered.

The BP oil rig was always going to fail, and it was always going to leak oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Good design is not to make its failure a low probability event, but to design for the failure event. If failure events are made low probability then people become complacent about the hazards, and emergency services are otherwise cut. What could just be an inconvenience escalates into a disaster. It has been suggested that earthquakes and floods in undeveloped countries are less of a problem than in developed countries. The argument being that the people in the undeveloped countries have less to loose and also consequently less to recover. Whilst the developed countries have highly integrated and interdependent systems of supply: life style and life support is entirely dependent on the infrastructure of the city: loose the infrastructure and life is severely affected. If struggling to survive in the first place, then life after the earthquake, is still the same struggle for survival.

Engineers are sued and/or prosecuted because they put forward false propositions, such as the building is safe or that the building is earthquake resistant, when the building is no such thing, and cannot be made so. The point of moving towards limit state probabilistic design is so as to avoid such false propositions, to be more explicit that the design is based on low probability of failure, not zero probability of failure. What is the probability that a US ship will be boarded by the enemy: until the USS Pueblo was boarded it was zero, afterwards increased to one. The failure event needs to be dealt with, not ignored because of low probability. Good design does not involve increasing the design loads every time a structural failure occurs: it requires consideration of the mode of failure and the response to failure. {NB: not suggesting buildings be designed to resist meteor impacts or aircraft flying into them: the cause of the failure is a different issue.  The issue here is that failure has occurred by what ever cause.}

When the multi story buildings in a crowded city collapse, there is no clear space to escape to, there is little clear space where a person can stand and a collapsing building will not fall on them. Increasing the resistance of the structure doesn't provide protection from the failure level event. There is little merit in strengthening existing hospitals to new higher magnitude loads, if the day after strengthening is complete, an earthquake of greater magnitude occurs and destroys the strengthened buildings. Far better to consider the response for the failure event in the first place. Cities have more buildings not compliant with current codes than are compliant, buildings are typically compliant with older now obsolete codes. Strengthening existing buildings may satisfy insurance companies who do not wish to pay out for replacement and therefore want to minimize such pay out, but it does little to really address safety.

Consider the operation of a submarine without instrumentation, all that the captain knows is that there is a 5% probability that he will operate the submarine at a depth which will collapse the submarine: the magnitude of the collapse depth is unknown, and the operating depth is unknown. The captain is unlikely to operate the submarine. When it comes to buildings people either believe their buildings are resistant to extreme events, or aware that there is potential for failure but not under what circumstances. People are poorly informed relative to the decisions they have to make. It would be preferable that people know that a structure is going to collapse before they start hearing the creaking and feeling the movement. When to shelter in the building and when to evacuate the building or when to evacuate the area altogether? If know when the building or other structure is at risk it is not necessary to strengthen to comply with current codes: simply respond accordingly to the current state of the dynamic environment.

Similarly design structures themselves to respond accordingly to loading events. For example a Mongolian Yurt is unlikely to crush its occuppants if collapsed by an earthquake, whilst a concrete apartment block will. Whilst a yurt unlikely to resist a hurricane, it can be packed up and occupants and dwelling evacuated together.

Additionally to be quality robust the structures need to be fabricated and constructed using processes which have low variability, maintained by processes that have low variability, and otherwise designed to have acceptable performance no matter what the variability of the operating environment. Acceptable performance does not mean equal performance no matter what the operating conditions, but some type and level of performance which is considered acceptable for the operating conditions.

Designing and constructing reinforced concrete apartment block in a region where steel is in short  supply is not quality robust. No matter how much inspection is provided the required steel is not going to get into the structure if it is not available. A welded steel structure is not going to be fabricated by certified welders if none are available. The null hypothesis is that the structure can and will be constructed to the specification, the alternate hypothesis is that it will not. If not built to the specification how defective and hazardous will the structure be when placed into use?

Normal design process is largely built around supporting evidence that the proposal is fit-for-function and can be made to specification. Design is a justification process, not a process of falsifiability or refutability. Interpreting Popper as business as usual for the design process, misses the point, we have to deliberately search for that evidence which refutes the hypothesis that our final design is fit-for-function, and further more design for the failure event. Failure of the production process, failure of the product in service and failure of the maintenance process. Whilst the failure event is not possible to avoid, an appropriate response can be determined: and we return to square one: the null hypothesis that the structure is fit-for-function backed up by our supporting evidence of suitability for our predefined acceptance criteria. At some point have to decide that have done all that is practical with respect to supporting and refuting evidence.

When a decision is made it shouldn't just be on the basis of the benefits obtained but also the detriments incurred. Politicians put forward supporting evidence for the benefits of a proposal but leave out the detriments, the opposing politicians present only the evidence supporting the presence of the detriments. In a court of law the coroner and prosecution will accumulate the supporting evidence that a design was defective, the defence will have to provide evidence supporting fitness-for-function in the face of evidence to the contrary.

As far as I am aware thus far no designer has been held responsible for a design which could not be made fit-for-function using the resources available. Thus far manufacturers and builders are held responsible for not making and supplying to specification: for thus far few have put forth the alternate hypothesis that the specification was not fit-for-manufacture, not fit-for-fabrication and not fit-for-construction.

So to recap: null hypothesis structure or design is fit-for-function. The alternate hypothesis the design is not fit-for-function and will fail. How will it fail, what is an appropriate response? When consider resolved this issue, then have returned back to the null hypothesis so reconsider the alternate hypothesis once again. Repeat whilst practical and refuting ideas available.

The difference between DanQuo's article and what I describe, is subtle. I took DanQuo's description to be the stock standard structural design process, which reaches a predetermined conclusion of fitness-for-function. That is the process is iterated until a design-solution which meets the existing acceptance criteria is met. I am suggesting this process does not involve the falsification process, it is all justification. I am saying that when this conclusion from the routine process has been reached, that is the point at which the alternate hypothesis should be addressed, and should attempt to prove the conclusion is false and the design is not fit-for-function. Further more it can always be proven not fit-for-function, and therefore helpful to be aware of those situations. Failures are important.

TEDxYYC - David Damberger - Learning from Failure - YouTube


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Karl Popper, Design, Regulations and the Fallacy of Evidence-of-Suitability

DanQuo's applied science: Encountering Popper: “We have to admit that, strictly speaking, scientific laws cannot be proved and are therefore not certain.”[1] I have just recently beco...

Karl Popper, remember reading about in New Scientist magazine in the 1980's, never read his books, but often refer to the classic example of the white and black swans, and the problems of collecting evidence. Whilst I otherwise refer to Edward de Bono's idea of proto-truth. The refinement of language can cause all sorts of problems in communication, the meanings of words is not always clear: most especially in engineering. Engineering involves transforming objects and creating new objects, and what names to give these derivatives and new creations? When is a table, not a table? When does an object belong to a particular class of objects and when does it not? Where are the boundaries and where are the overlaps, what is contained within what? Each new instance of an object within a class, is it a repetition of something which forms a subclass, or is the start of a new subclass?

Sometimes the role of designer seems to be more one of technical lawyer, than one of dealing with the physics or mechanics of a system. When is a wall a partition? When is a partition a barrier? When is a barrier a partition? When is a veneer not a veneer? What is cladding? What is a buildings fabric? What is fabric and when is fabric not a textile? When is the proof load in the code inappropriate for testing? Is a destructive testing requirement appropriate for testing existing construction? What is structural failure? What is fitness-for-function, or suitability-of-purpose?

If think have an answer for these questions chances are, someone else will have a different answer. Design and acceptability of the design is a matter of subjective judgment. In an attempt to minimize the variation in judgments we have regulations and codes of practice: but these are open to interpretation. The actual written word in the code versus the intent and meaning behind the code, magnified by the views of different people. To obtain approval from the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) there is a requirement to present evidence-of-suitability. Thus a building is not considered compliant with the performance based requirements of the building code of Australia (BCA), unless adequate evidence-of-suitability is presented. Many people in the industry haven't quite got a grasp of this requirement: they think that all that is required is to provide a description of the proposal then approval will be granted.

There are two basic options, only one of which is desirable:

1) Supply evidence to a court after failure.
2) Supply evidence to an AHJ before implemented.

Supplying evidence to a court is not a good option. If something ends up in court, then already have some one who is piling up evidence that the product is defective and is not suitable for purpose: the prosecution. The defence, is thus going to have difficulty demonstrating fitness-for-function, when there is already a case of failure before them.

All products, once released to the environment, to the market, will be put to all manner of uses beyond the intents of the designer. So after failure, the issue is not so much as whether the product was fit-for-function, but rather was if suitable for the end-users purpose, and was there anything misleading which indicated that it was suitable. This all leads to more and more disclaimers on products, all explicitly expressing what the product is not suitable for, rather than indicating what it is suitable for. But often times these appear silly: for example hammer with notice not suitable for hardened nails. What is a hardened nail, how would you know if using one? If a carpenters claw hammer, then expect to use with nails driven into wood, rather than nails driven into masonry. But if driving nails into masonry then preferable that are wearing safety glasses in the first place. If nail ends up in hammer rather than wall, did the manufacturer really need to have listed all areas that it is not suitable for? Would a user, use a wooden mallet or rubber mallet to drive nails? If chips fly of the head of the hammer and damage someone's eyes, is it really the manufacturers responsibility. A lack of common sense and personal responsibility wastes a great deal of designers and manufacturers time in court.

The result is more an more legislation and regulation, with increased requirements to seek approval from an appointed authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) before implementing anything. The problem with regulation however is confusion over the purpose of the approval. For example I often get clients who are unhappy with local councils (AHJ) and some engineer. Especially builders, but occasionally owner-builders, the usual complaint is something is over-engineered and otherwise unbuildable, and everyone (council and engineer) are idiots, especially council for approving. The council however is not concerned with the buildability of a proposal, the councils concern is whether the proposal imposes inconvenience or hazard on the community. If the proposal does not pose an inconvenience or hazard, then can go ahead and build, if the building proponent did not figure out how to build it then that is their problem.

As for being over-engineered, that is a silly term. Something is either over-sized due to a lack of engineering, or under-sized due to a lack of engineering. The problem is only going to be resolved by providing more engineering. The issue to resolve is: to stop the builder leaving their drawings, requesting calcs-for-council and then clearing off. Got to get the builder to sit down and think about what they actually want to do, are willing to do, have the resources to do. This is planning and design, not the crunching off numbers. It is important, because if check the numbers then the first design is most likely to turn out compliant, and not over-engineered as they say. The problem is that whilst the structural numbers may be correct, it is not a design-solution to the real problem. As they say 2/3rds of the solution lies in putting the question correctly, running into a consultants and requesting calcs-for-council, was not putting the question correctly: they got what they asked for, but it is not what they needed.

Legislation and restriction of service doesn't help resolve this issue, it is those who are currently on the national registers who are largely responsible for just pushing out the numbers: simply meeting the requirements of legislation. At present the national professional engineers register (NPER) is a voluntary thing, and legislation varies between the states which makes reference to such register: some states have their own additional registration and/or licensing schemes. So whilst maybe on the national register, have additional fees to pay in each state. Any case South Australia, does not have any independent registration system, and the there is no restriction of trade: such likely to be opposed on basis of federal fair trading laws. Other states had their systems prior to federal laws, and on review were able to demonstrate retention of: not that the reviews were really open to the public. Those with the authority simply decided to retain such authority, with nonsense about public safety. In South Australia (SA) such policies are typically seen as a grab for work, and opposed. In SA the legislation only restricts with respect to the approval process, the authority having jurisdiction. So anyone can supply design services, if person chooses to employ a drafter instead of a designer, then the buyers problem, if the application for building approval keeps getting bounced back and forth whilst the drafter attempts to supply all the required description of proposal and the required evidence-of-suitability. Whilst all this regulatory compliance is taking place there is little consideration of buildability taking place.

I would like to say that the people should employ an architect or engineer in the first place to ensure design which complies and which is buildable: unfortunately it does not happen to be true. Why? Because all swans are not white. As the advertising goes: oils ain't oils. It is also difficult for the public to know what they need, at the same time for consultants to know what is required. So when people phone consultants up, asking for a fee, its like asking: how long is a piece of string? Consultants really need to see what is involved, for much of engineering, that typically involves drawings produced by others. For large building projects the initial drawings likely produced by architects, and the architect seeks the services of engineers for specialist input. For smaller projects, it is likely the owners or builders who approach the engineers directly. Unfortunately the assumption for the smaller projects is that the design is complete, and calculations are just required from the engineer, to demonstrate compliance of the proposal with the building code: that is the engineer provides evidence-of-suitability in the form of calculations. The assessment of suitability however only gives consideration to the minimum acceptable performance of the end-product in service and at extremes of operation.

The suitability for fabrication, handling and transportation and construction are seldom considered on the smaller projects: massive projects no choice in the matter: all the available equipment and resources of society are pushed to the limits. For structures, when the available steel sections are not large enough, then really have to consider fabrication, when larger than will fit on the back of truck, then transportation has to be considered. However, if a steel beam has to be spliced, that is not just a fabrication issue, it is also an end-product performance issue which requires approval by the AHJ.

If a characteristic is assessable against the building code of Australia (BCA), or other national standards then it has to be disclosed in the development approval or industrial plant licensing application. If it is not assessable then it doesn't need to be disclosed. See the problem: evidence-of-suitability only applies to that which is disclosed, to that which is assessable under the regulations: that which is beyond the scope of the code is ignored by the regulators and all those that supply services solely for gaining approval.

In particular there is much confusion about the requirements for seeking development approval. Development approval in South Australia comprises of two parts:

1) Development Plan consent
2) Building Rules consent

Not all projects require both consents. Internal modifications to a building, may only require building rules consent. There is also a matter of occupational, health safety and welfare (OHS&W) act and regulations. If a space is used as a work space, then it has to be compliant with the building code. When a building is new, then it will comply with the version of the BCA current at the time building permits were granted. The BCA is revised each and every year, to resolve ambiguities and otherwise in an attempt to remove state differences. A developer can get development approval for an empty warehouse (despite lean: there are lots of warehouses being built.). Once built, the tenants move in and fill with industrial racking, this racking can make the building cease to comply with the BCA, the racking gets in the way of access to required exits, increasing travel paths beyond those permitted. The building that was compliant based on submitted evidence-of-suitability is no longer so, and in all probability no approval was sought for the variations.

So another problem have to deal with, is observations of the built environment. Why can I not do that, for they have? Just because something is present in the built environment does not mean it was granted approval, and if it was granted approval it doesn't mean it will be granted approval today. When changes to planning and building rules change, the new rules are typically not imposed on existing. However if an accident occurs in a workplace, the workplace is likely to be assessed against current regulations, not those current at time of development approval. Failure to upgrade the workplace maybe seen as negligent: now compliance may be impractical, and therefore the intent of the code needs to be addressed and alternative solutions implemented, justified by appropriate documented evidence-of-suitability. The real issue is not about going through approval, but about having adequate evidence-of-suitability to defend decisions taken, should those decisions be placed under question. This is a particularly important for OHS&W for there is no formal regulated assessment process, except for a few items of mechanical plant (eg. pressure vessels, cranes). The OHS&W regulators are more likely to prosecute people for breach of relatively generic regulations after some one has been injured rather than go around attempting to impose: employers and employees are typically equally responsible for a safe work place. Collecting evidence-of-suitability after an accident has occurred is the wrong time to be doing so.

Suitability cannot however be based on mere compliance with codes of practice, or observations of what others are doing. For example one situation, all along one road transportation companies, with loose gravel driveways and parking spaces. Apparently the truckies prefer this, it makes it easier to turn, unfortunately it kicks up a lot of dust. The result of this dust is that new transportation businesses in the area cannot have loose gravel surfaces, the result is typical implication of concrete paving. The gravel is permeable and storm water can soak into the ground, typical concrete paving is impermeable and so expensive drainage systems need installing to limit surface run-off and limit drainage to street main to that before the development. This makes it more expensive for new businesses in the area.

The problem with prescriptive based regulations to an apparent problem is that it limits the scope of possible solutions: it hinders innovation. However performance based regulations are more complex to write since need to identify the desired characteristics with out reference to anything specific. Also often times in design required characteristics are often contradictory and conflicting. As far as I know the truck drivers requirements cannot be met by any material which will also meets the regulators requirements. On the other hand the problem seems more like an issue with the trucks: after all the roads and destinations are not surfaced with gravel. Tarmac, asphalt may provide the desired surface the truckies are looking for, but I believe such surfaces abandoned in ports and harbours due to the expense of maintenance. Gravel needs occasional regrading, the asphalt more difficult and expensive to fix.

Suitability has to do more than dig down to the required characteristics, do more than simply collect and compile evidence-of-suitability. The lack of suitability also needs to be addressed. The concrete pavement may be suitable relative to the regulations and public, but it is not suitable relative to the needs of the end-users the people mostly directly affected by the design.

Much of the work that flows through the office where I work, I classify as "nominally existing":

1) Illegal construction for which notice has been issued requiring application for development approval or removal of the construction.

2) Manufactured structural products for which require revised calculations to revised code of practice, or for custom features.

3) Applications in council (AHJ) and awaiting further information.

In all situations there is a lack of available evidence-of-suitability. It is difficult to assess things which cannot be seen. For example how long is the bolt, that disappears into the wall, what fasteners are used inside a wall, and what is buried in the ground? Then there are properties of materials: what strength grade timber as been used, what grade of bolts? For a period steel was relatively simple, it was Australian made by BHP, but no longer can have such certainty. Additionally the strength of steel has varied over the years, and always had different strength grades of hollow sections. So need some non-destructive means of assessing what has gone into a structure. After failure, easy to take test tokens of materials for testing, and dig things up, and get inside. Determining if something should be demolished is not so easy: councils don't want to look bad moving in a demolishing someone's building: engineers don't want to approve something that may be hazardous, on the other hand also don't want to waste materials or effort. Regulations can get in the way: just because something does not comply with codes does not make it a hazard to the community or to other future users. The intents of the codes have to be considered, and also the objects to which they apply.

Pedantic code pushers only approve subject to the exact wording of the codes, those that understand or otherwise contributed to the writing of the code are more likely to refer to the intent rather than the letter of the law. For example the proposed object does not have the characteristics of a swan, therefore does not have to comply with performance criteria for, on the other hand the intent of the code was not limited to swans, and therefore some performance criteria do apply, but the level of performance may be extreme for the object under consideration.

The fundamental requirement is to document the evidence-of-suitability, but also giving due consideration to situations for which is unsuitable, most especially those situations where suitability may be inferred or implied.

Not everything is regulated explicitly. The most fundamental laws are those for fair trading which require goods and services be fit for purpose. Those prosecuting a supplier have to demonstrate that the product supplied was not fit for the purpose that the supplier indicated that it was fit for. That is the end-user cannot simply demonstrate that the product was not fit for their purpose and failed. An end-user has a responsibility to select products suitable for their needs, if they cannot properly specify their needs then they will have difficulty selecting a suitable product. Thus some products require the end-user to appoint someone else to select a suitable product for their needs. But how to select a suitable person to select a suitable product for such needs? Professional qualifications represent a rapid filter for the selection process, but not a reliable filter and not a particularly helpful filter. The end-user still needs to dig below the surface, and get their own evidence-of-suitability as well as check out the lack of suitability.

Most businesses advertise on the basis of suitability, rather than disclose their unsuitability. To start with traditionally architects and engineers were not permitted to advertise: whilst this has been relaxed in recent times: there is a restriction on simply describing projects worked on: no grandiose claims permitted. No architects or engineers would say they are unsuited for monumental type projects, at the very minimum they at least want to be offered such projects. The description of past projects however represents evidence-of-suitability, finding out that a consultant was more of an hindrance on a project is more difficult for the public to find out, unless the project was in the mass media.

Perspective is important. Many consultants seem to think a good idea to promote they were involved with multi-million dollar projects. However from the perspective of others, the response may be, if more competent consultants employed the project would have been off far higher quality for significantly lower cost. More than one way to skin a cat, and more than one perspective on things. Collecting evidence of suitability is one perspective, collecting evidence of unsuitability is the complementary perspective.

Don't just rely on supporting evidence also seek out the contrary.

The Innovative Educator: School is Not School. A Place Where The Community...

The Innovative Educator: School is Not School. A Place Where The Community...: I recently shared three radical ideas to transform education without school . In it, I shared Linda Dobson’s timeless article, When the S...

Not something new rather something lost. Consider that Henry Maudslay workshop was a centre of learning, with apprenticeships there sought after. Refer to the biography of the iron workers by Samuel Smiles

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 Principles for eliminating the words "engineer", "engineered" and "engineering" from vocabulary.

Professional #engineers within IEAust and elsewhere, complaining about their recognition and status, year after tedious year is so tiresome. So have decided to work towards completely removing the words "engineer", "engineered" and "engineering" from my vocabulary. Here is a starting set of principles to assist in doing so.

Principle#1 : If use tools and techniques, though abstract and analytical, then with in the scope of the generic meaning of #Technician.

Principle#2 : If it is not #engineering when done by others then it is not engineering when done by #engineers.

Principle#3 : #Engineering is what #engineers do. Not vice versa.

Principle#4 : True #engineers are the ingenious innovators who beget #Technology, and provide #TechnicalScience for future adaptation.

Principle#5 : Last years #Engineer is this years #Technician.

Principle#6 : Understanding history, geography and ethics of technology and society is the role of the #Technologist.

Principle#7 : As defined the #Engineer shall always be placed subordinate to the #Technologist. Not vice versa.

Principle#8 : The words technologist, technician, associate and officer shall not be prefixed with engineering or postfixed with engineer.

Principle#9 : Institutions and societies of #engineers shall only have rights to define profession of #engineer, and no other occupation.

Principle#10 :Legislation shall not limit a single profession to supply of service. Only review and approval shall be constrained.

1) Spelling corrected principle 7. Principle 10 rewritten.

Eliminating "Engineer" and "Engineering" from my Vocabulary

Been reading the discussions taking place on the Engineers Australia LinkedIN group, most seem  to be focused on either:

1) The status and recognition of Engineers
2) Recognition and accreditation of foreign qualifications

Seems mutual recognition agreements haven't improved mobility much. As for status and recognition I think they are highly confused people. Edward de Bono apparently did an experiment in which he hypnotised someone and asked them to draw a square circle: the person got really stressed and frustrated. So called professional engineers seem to be in a similar state, not really knowing what they want.

The english language is highly dynamic, with the meanings of words under going subtle changes through the use of metaphor, analogy and poetry., with the passage of time the most commonly accepted meaning of a word can change significantly from its original meaning. Professional engineers, want to be the guardians of the words "engineer" and "engineering" and only permit the meanings which they define and redefine as they please from time to time. For these engineers: engineering is what engineers do. Anybody else who does what an engineer does, but does not meet the specification of an engineer, then what that person is doing, is not engineering.

The other issue is that the institutions and societies which represent engineers, typically have promotional campaigns which are misleading about what engineers do, and completely ignore the multitude of other people involved with planning, design and management, such as: architects, industrial designers, surveyors, quantity surveyors, building surveyors, applied scientists, industrial and applied mathematicians, and industrial managers, just to name a few.

A civil engineer maybe able to use a theodolite and measure or set out a site, but a licensed surveyor is required to identify property boundaries. A civil engineer may study building structures, but that doesn't make them a structural engineer. A structural engineer may be competent at analysis and design of pinned and braced structures or diaphragm boxes, but it doesn't mean they can analyse cable-nets or tension membranes. A structural engineer may be competent at designing steel reinforced concrete but that doesn't mean they can design aluminium or glass structures. Similarly structural engineers may be competent with statics but not with vibration and structural dynamics. The knowledge base is immense.

Unfortunately many of todays graduates and employers are confused and believe that a university degree contains the knowledge required for the job. It doesn't, it contains the fundamentals necessary to be able to learn the specifics of the job: a great deal of additional self-study is required to do the job. For example at university study the basics of strength and stability of materials, but then have to learn the specific requirements and approaches of different materials codes. The steel (AS4100) and cold-formed steel (AS4600) structures codes are in the main similar, but the differences make the cold-formed steel structures code more time consuming and difficult to use. To further compound the difference most designing steel structures to AS4100, use simple look up tables, known as design capacity tables (DCT's), thus avoiding the need for detailed calculations. Those designing coldformed steel (AS4600) structures have to do the calculations. Additionally as start to push the materials to their limits need to review and expand studies and understanding of the strength and stabilities of materials. This can be achieved by returning to university to study for higherlevel academic awards, or by self-learning. Given that don't get personal tuition at most universities, and the student has to do the work, and university is about passing exam's not getting the job done, most such additional learning has traditionally taken place on and off the job. Engineers and others spend late nights trying to solve problems or just understand the behaviour of a physical system.

However as society gets more complex and integrated, then inconvenience to others, hazards and public safety start to become issues. The community starts to specify minimum education requirements and academic awards, impose examination, registration and licensing, in an attempt to control quality and public safety. This however leads to confusion and contradictory perceptions. If engineers are the leaders and innovators, then when looking at the review manuals and examination requirements for the USA Fundamentals of engineering exam (FE/exam) and the professional engineers practice exam (PE/exam) administered by NCEES is this licensing exam truly for engineers or design technicians? Is it really possible to test engineering ability or only ability to apply Technical Science? What is this engineering thing?

Further more whilst the FE/PE exams provides a far better assessment of technical competence than writing career episode reports and work practice reports, and a more detailed assessment than the part 3 examination of the IStructE, it still is not a good enough check on technical competence. The work practice report idea is based on identifying competences so generic that they could apply to anyone in any job, and as a complete collection, potentially apply to no one at all. But still they provide the flexibility to qualify a person as an engineer, engineering technologist or engineering associate, irrespective of what the individuals actual job function and career path involves: it makes no prior judgment of the technical knowledge used on the job. The latter flexibility is also its flaw. A person maybe good at delegating but otherwise actually hopeless at design. Good at concrete design but should be kept away from welded aluminium. Problem is, that writing a work practice report, hasn't actually tested if the person is good at concrete design: because the generic competences do not deal with the specifics: that is where the FE/PE exams make a better assessment.

Engineers are the only people I know who think engineers drive trains, or fix plumbing. As far as I know the population at large think engineers : "do the numbers" and are good with mathematics. Still not a good picture for an engineer.

So heres the thing. Engineer sounds like engine. The first trains, were steam engines on wheels, and designed and built, maintained, operated and tamed by the one and same person, and characters like Casey Jones do not equate to simply being a driver. If a person calls themselves an engineer, then its likely to bring to mind engine, and from there something to do with engines: trains and cars.

But if say structural engineer, chemical engineer, electrical engineer, then it does not immediately bring to mind engine. Since no engineer is technically competent across all disciplines, nor in depth within a discipline, no engineer should be lazily referring to themselves as engineer. Do that then expect to be equated to a train driver and get poor recognition. Engines and engineer go together, if want to differentiate then do so. Do not insist on incorporated engineers and engineering technologists as not being engineers, and then leave engineering discipline out when referring to oneself as an engineer. Further more in terms of identifying the technical competence that the community needs to hire an engineer the major discipline alone is simply not good enough.

Since engineers complain of lack of recognition and acknowledgement, then dropping the use of the word from our common language shouldn't be a problem, its not being used anyway apparently. If we don't have engineers then no engineering can be taking place. Will modern industrial society collapse? No it won't because we are simply arguing semantics.

From this point forward as far as is practical the words "engineer", "engineered" and "engineering" are to be eliminated from the language associated with the planning, design, management, application and adaptation of established technology.

Determining the size of a beam is not engineering it is technical design. Determining the size of a mechanical drive shaft, not engineering design but technical design. Want the flow of water in a pipe network, that is technical analysis, sizing and selecting a suitable pump : technical design. In the future there will be technical planning, technical design, technical analysis , technical science, and technical management. Further more persons qualified in the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) from level 6 down have the potential to carry out such work. To implement legislation which requires and restricts to AQF level 8 upwards is unacceptable.

There should be far greater enforcement of increase depth as go from one AQF level to the next, breadth should restricted to the same level. There should also be distinction between enabling knowledge and competence, from required competence and proficiency. Just because a person knows something and is able to perform a task does not mean they are suited for employment in such activity. We don't train everyone that can run for the olympics.

Similarly not everyone able to do a job is suited to the job: business is a real world experiment and a competition for survival. To survive need to be flexible, multiskilled and adaptable. Things get designed once and can be made many times, so typically far more work available for producers than for designers. But products and technolgical systems have life cycles and therefore become obsolete, so need to come up with new innovative ideas to keep occupied as producer. So if only partially innovative only going to be in role of designer for short time frame, and will after design over, need to be producer for greater portion of time.

Given 95% of businesses are small business, then as owner/operator going to be doing everything: chief cook and bottle washer. Aiming for the top level of the AQF does not bring job security, it may be something interesting and challenging to do, but it does not meet the needs of industry or the individual need for survival. Survival requires breadth.

The problem is whether educational institutions impose a requirement to study breadth sequentially or permit it in parallel. For example is it permitted to study business and technical science at the same time or is it required to decide which to study first? If they are combined in a single award what is it called: does the name of the award hide the content and cause confusion?

There is benefit in keeping science, mathematics and technology as separate streams and awards. With occupational and professional qualifications kept separate from the generic knowledge. For example a degree in engineering hides content such as: mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science, and the technology covered.

Historically people studied the arts and sciences then went into industry, if they were innovative they put it to use. In the modern world there is a focus on needing a degree in engineering, but at the same time someone with such degree would be excluded from a job position in industrial mathematics. To truly retain flexibility occupational titles are not helpful in academic awards: there is need to differentiate between the learning and the job qualification.

A degree in economics, business or accounting is not helpful if it hides an equivalent diploma in applied mathematics. When the economy changes, the starting point from a diploma in applied mathematics is more flexible than that from a degree in accounting: there are more pathways from which to move forward.

By starting at AQF level 1 and moving along generic streams the articulation requirements of the framework are better met. Qualification requirements for occupations and professions can be met by independent national and international qualification boards, along with training institutions which provide for the development of proficiency independent of learning institutions. The issue is that most modern degrees contain breadth not depth, and also lack the synergy which makes a whole out of the component parts. When jobs are in short supply it doesn't really matter, the education is to keep people of the streets, not train for employment. But when there is a mining and construction boom, or other up turn in the economy it is not sensible to be declaring shortages and educating for breadth when the work typically requires specialisation. For example someone educated at AQF-6 is capable of designing the typical concrete structure it is not necessary to educate to AQF-8 or increasingly to AQF-9 to do the job. So whilst AQF-9 may be increasingly the requirement to join the profession of engineer, it is not engineer that is required to do the job: unless there is some silly grab for work legislation been permitted to be put in place.

By removing the word engineering, from engineering associate and engineering technologist, and not describing the work as engineering, it is possible to reduce confusion that the work is engineering and therefore requires an engineer, and where there is no restrictive legislation it can deter such being implemented. Secondly if legislation does exist and if professional engineer is poorly defined as a unique entity, which it usually is, and technical competence is not properly assessed, then others can step in and set the required levels of technical competence.

With respect to the FE/PE exams in the USA, there is relatively clear definition of engineering, and also restrictive legislation. However where such legislation and licensing dominates there is little innovation: innovation tends to occur where the industry exemptions are in place. Engineering may be what they choose to call the content of these eaminations, but is it really engineering? There is need for technical science at many different levels and in a variety of areas. The depth and breadth of the PE exam may be the requirement for an engineer: but others don't need the same depth and breadth. Others may be carrying out the same task but that doesn't make it engineering, and just because its done by an engineer doesn't make it engineering.

As I have mentioned many times previously: last years engineer is this years technician. So that which was engineering last year is not engineering this year. It is professional engineers who keep increasing the required duration of education and inventing alternative names for people with less duration of education. It is professional engineers dictating the terms and setting the agenda, I am simply following through with that which they are imposing on others.

Cannot draw square circles. If it is not engineering when carried out by others it is not engineering when carried out by engineers. Therefore there is little that is unique to engineering, and thus little need for engineering, but there is a great deal of need for the application of technical science.

What does pre-engineered mean? If engineers are commonly percieved as the ones who do the numbers, then as far as the public is concerned pre-engineered simply means the numbers have been done. Since fitness-for-function is dependent on qualitative characteristics as well as quantitative characteristics, then something that is pre-engineered is not fully designed. Design however is increasingly perceived as non-functional, so something pre-designed may be pretty but fall apart the first time it is used.

One of the main uses of "pre-engineered" is in respect to buildings such as:

1) Pre-engineered metal building systems (PMBS)
2) Pre-engineered metal building (PEMB), or manufactured buildings

If something is pre-engineered then the inference is that the engineer's needed input has been provided already. Elsewhere I have indicated that engineering takes place at the frontiers of science and technology, once the science and technology has been established then the engineering is over. Hence the engineers needed input has been provided and the engineers continued input is no longer necessary. Further application and adaptation is a matter of technical design. All established technology is effectively pre-engineered. That something is custom engineered by an engineer is largely irrelevant if it is based on a variant of a generic and established technology. Engineered and pre-engineered are basically irrelevant terms, no replacement words required, simply don't use them, or accept where already used, and avoid introducing any additional terms.

Also in reference to pre-engineered there is failure to differentiate between end-products, systems and installations. Typically the building system is pre-engineered, but the specific assembly of components is not pre-engineered, nor is the anchorage and installation on site. Consequently PMBS/PEMB still require much technical analysis and design before regulatory approval for building can be granted. So better to simply refer to building system. We don't refer to bolts as pre-engineered so why refer to larger more complex assemblies as pre-engineered?

Also if engineering is at the frontiers of science and technology, it does not do well to advertise product as engineered, for it tends to suggest experimental and that the science and technology is not yet proven nor established. That is "engineered" should have negative connotations for the product, not positive. Thus engineered means there are potential hazards not yet identified and designed for. No matter how much testing occurs before released to the environment, the technology is still a real world experiment. Established technologies are still real world experiments with inherent hazards, however the risk of experiencing the hazards has been minimised.

Calling something "engineered" detracts from its value rather than enhances it, so don't call it so. If something was designed scientifically, and such design-science was not provided by an engineer, then don't call it "engineering". If its called engineering then professional engineers may claim exclusive right to do such work, and get legislation introduced to restict practice to engineers and otherwise make a grab for work. Do not provide professional engineers with opportunity to claim credit for that which they have not done. If you do not match the professional engineers technical specification for an engineer, do not call yourself an "engineer", you are simply giving credit to an elitist class of people who are not actually doing the work.

Do not use titles like incorporated engineer, engineering technologist, engineering associate/officer, engineering technician. If not engineers and not doing engineering, then by using such terms invented by the professional engineers, credit is being given to the persons who did not do the work. Do not use terms which the public are likely to abbreviate, adding to the confusion.
If tools and techniques are used, even though abstract and analytical, it is still the generic work attributed to a technician.

There is no need for job titles, occupational classification or profession, such are relatively modern inventions resulting from a high division of labour in industrial society. In more ancients times we were all hunter/gatherers then subsistence farmers. In modern industrial society where we have no direct access to food and water, we are trading enterprises trying to exchange what we have for what we need. We are effectively all businesses, and every employee is a microbusiness.

And for those against national identity numbers, it is the compilation of the doomsday book for taxation purposes which basically gave us our surnames: taylor, blacksmith, arrowsmith, waters, farmer. We have already been classified by occupation. Further more what one person can do a group can do, and what a group can do a single person can do to a limited extent.

Buckminster Fuller suggested there are craft tools and industrial tools. Craft tools are those made by one person working alone. Industrial tools require a team. WIth industrialisation and capitalist competition, the concept of having society on a national or even city scale is some what questionable. True society is some what limited to family, business or other small group. What a person needs to contribute to a group can change at any time, and certain tasks need to be shared and/or taken in turns (eg. handling garbage). Occupational classification even at the professional level is still extremely limiting and based on an inadequate knowledge base. Continuous professional development is just continuous learning, and with respect to the industrial landscape it should produce a significant level of commonality after several years. Job titles and job specifications typically fail to reflect the true nature and synergy required for the job. Employers typically write job specifications on the basis of a limited knowledge and understanding of the last person who held the job, and they typically fail to find the right person. So stick to own name rather than adopting a job title or seeking after a job title.

It is also typical advise to use own name in a registered business name whilst this is beneficial for a sole practitioner it can become problematic for: an employing organisation and partnerships. It is also not advisable to have the name of the service or product supplied in the business name: a name should be relatively simple and have no particular meaning other than as a unique identifier. The activities of a business enterprise expand, contract and change with the passage of time. Some modern businesses now have abreviations which are considered names in their own right and no longer have the original meaning due to the diversification of the businesses (eg IBM, ASTM international). There is also another issue with business names, and that is cannot register a generic name which would prevent others from naming te type of business they are in, which results in some strange things. For example a business that sells apples cannot call itself Apple, but a business that makes computers can. So as previously mentioned, every employee is a micro business, as such better for the individual to get credit for the work than the occupational group. If the occupational group is credited for the work, then any member in the group can be replaced by any other. However there is a need to balance individuality with the needs of the larger group forming the business which the individual works for. Clearly it is easier to provide loyalty to a group formed for the benefit of the members, rather than the benefit for some other group. Business, competition, survival: forget about professions they are too limited and an obsolete invention.

Industrial Awards

In Australia we have both State and Federal industrial awards which define conditions of work including pay rates. Pay levels tend to be defined in terms of educational awards, and presently are not aligned with the 10 levels of the current Australian Qualification Framework (AQF). Aligning pay levels with level of education has the benefit of being simple but is not entirely appropriate: it is only really relevant for one aspect of wage relativity.

Some examples which may or may not be obsolete as new awards are coming into play:

Metal Industry (South Australia)
{similar awards exist for building and other industries, though they can involve more complex wage classifications structures: too much division of labour}

C14 Production Employee Level I
C13 Production Employee Level II
C12 Production Employee Level III
C11 Production Employee Level IV
C10 Engineering Trades Person Level I
C9   Engineering Trades Person Level II / Engineering Technician Level I
C8   Engineering Trades Person Special Class Level I / Engineering Technician Level II
C7   Engineering Trades Person Special Class Level II / Engineering Technician Level III
C6   Advanced Engineering Trades Person Level I / Engineering Technician Level IV

Draughtspersons, Planners and Technical Officers

*C10 Engineering Trades Person - Level 1 (Not part of award, reference level only)

C9 Engineering Technician - Level 1
C8 Engineering Technician - Level 2
C7 Engineering Technician - Level 3
C6 Engineering Technician - Level 4
C5 Engineering Technician - Level 5
C4 Engineering Associate - Level 1
C3 Engineering Associate - Level 2
C2a Leading Technical Officer / Principal Engineering Supervisor / Trainer / Co-ordinator

In some earlier awards professional scientists and professional engineers were set at level C1

Professional Scientists (General Industries)
(APESMA classify's engineering technologists as professional scientists.)

Level 1A Professional Scientist
Level 1B Professional Scientist
Level 2 Professional Scientist
Level 3 Professional Scientist
Level 4 Professional Scientist

Professional Engineers (General Industries)

Level 1 Graduate
Level 2 Experienced Engineer
Level 3 Professional Engineer
Level 4 Professional Engineer

Technical Professionals
New Federal award covering scientists, engineers and information technologists.

Engineers Australia, only recognises and accredits qualifications for: engineering associates/officers, engineering technologists and professional engineers as part of the engineering team: excludes the engineering technicians shown in the awards.

Subject to various international accords engineering associates/officers are equated to engineering technicians elsewhere in the world. Not sure that such is valid, since engineering associates were never just drafters, nor trades persons in an engineering area of practice. Nor are the engineering technicians particaularly advanced level trade persons. For example electrician is not an abreviation of electrical engineering technician. An electrician needs to be licensed, whilst an electrical engineering technician does not need to be unless they do the work of an electrician. Electricians are primarily concerned with supply side of electricity, from the GPO in the wall, back to the power station. Though from the building supply point and the power station likely to have a different name again, such as linesman.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Casual Gardener: City Says I Have To Pay To Put a Shed On My Proper...

The Casual Gardener: City Says I Have To Pay To Put a Shed On My Proper...: Sitting next to my lovely back yard shade French Potager kitchen garden made from found objects and creative shade plants is the ugliest par...

Sheds then there are sheds. Once it becomes a place of education, then the regulations are there to protect public safety: access/egress , disabled access, fire safety, health and amenity all tend to become greater than structural issues for small buildings: for which the structure has probably been pre-engineered. Which tends to lead to people not disclosing what they actually using a shed for: not a sensible thing to do.

By passing building regulations not a good idea likely to get caught eventually. Large part of the work we do is assessing illegal construction: life would be a lot easier if it was at least documented, photographed and measured during construction, along with all invoices and receipts clearly identifying materials used. If cannot be assessed then cannot be approved, and therefore has to be removed.

Having removed probably a lot more expensive than getting designed and approved in the first place.