About

Small family structural engineering design and technical services business, comprising of father (Roy) and son (Conrad). The business was formed in 1994  in response to the aftermath of the  “recession we had to have”.  The business operated in the northern suburbs of Adelaide, South Australia,  in particular in the Tea Tree Gully (TTG) area and surrounds, until 2014 when we moved everything to Maitland on the Yorke Peninsula. The trading name was solely Roy Harrison & Associates until 2009 when we registered the company name MiScion Pty Ltd: now the name alternates between the two.

Roy’s Partial Retirement

With Roy’s semi-retirement there are a few services which can no longer be supplied to new clients these are:

  1. Certificates of an Independent Technical Expert (CITE). Roy allowed his Chartered Professional Engineer (CP.Eng) status to lapse: too expensive and little value. We have rarely been able to issue such certificates in any case due to lack of independence: we are usually the first to make a structural assessment. We can still issue certificates of structural adequacy.
  2. Residential slabs and footings (soil & concrete).
  3. Retaining walls (soil)
  4. Septic tank certification
  5. Stormwater drainage
  6. Structural design of water tanks

Basically these areas are the civil side of structural engineering, involving concrete and soil mechanics, compared to the mechanical side of structural engineering. Exceptions apply for our long term regular clients. Further exceptions may apply in the future if there is suitable demand (eg. At least 5 clients, with each being able to provide us with a minimum of 10 projects per year over minimum period of 5 years).

NB: If you are looking for Roy Harrison. Note the name of the business is Roy Harrison & Associates, the entity is not a one person consultant for hire. If the initials on the top right of the calculations are not RGH, and the initials in the bottom right of the drawings are not RGH, then Roy Harrison did not do the work. Furthermore if the report looks like a spreadsheet printout, then chances are extremely high that Conrad created the spreadsheet: therefore the calculation formulae, the sequence of calculations and the presentation of the calculations were determined by Conrad. Therefore with Roy’s ultimate retirement there is no loss of technical competence with respect to the main areas of practice: wind loading, cold-formed steel, steel and timber. Also buildability is a consequence of Conrad’s formal education in industrial and manufacturing engineering, combined with Roy’s formal education in building. So we can assist manufacturers, builders and DIY  in a lot more ways than simply providing structural calcs-for-council.

Where our work gets located

Whilst one of the contended benefits of our business was that we were local to Tea Tree Gully, the majority of our work actually came by fax, and then by email. Due to clients in manufacturing (Sheds, Canopies, Balustrades), our projects have been located throughout Australia, such as the Eyre Peninsula, the York Peninsula, Katherine in the Northern Territory, Brisbane, and Melbourne, with the occasional project in PNG. For more detail of the South Australian council areas we have successfully obtained development approval take a look at: Our Projects by Council Area. For more background information look at the “our history“, and “state-of-play” categories.

Whilst working on contract for Australian Construction Services, we worked on design of various building structures for RAAF bases, and Bureau of Meteorology observation and weather watch stations. These structures were located across Australia, but particular focus in Northern Territory and Western Australia. Some of the structures being located in Tropical Cyclone Region D (AS1170.2).

Project Location Map

Map Showing Project Locations and Density for the Adelaide Metropolitan Area only. Red squares have the most projects, cyan squares the least projects. The colours fade through red, orange, yellow, green, blue, cyan. The chart indicates that the Main North East Road was an important supply channel.

Local Registration & Licenses

However whilst we can design structures for anywhere in Australia, some localities require local registration or certification:  for example there is Northern Territory certified, registered professional engineers in Queensland (RPEQ), and Victorian registered building practitioner (engineer). We do not have such registrations/certifications and have no intention of getting such. Our focus is design and documentation, whilst certification and registration is primarily a political issue more concerned with who gets the work, than who is actually competent to do the work.

A design accepted in one locality will be rejected in another, purely because of politics, not because of the quality of the design. For example a standard shed design produced by a self-certifying RPEQ in Queensland will be rejected in South Australia because self-certification of work is not acceptable, whilst going the other way, a design produced in South Australia and independently reviewed will be rejected in Queensland because the designer and reviewer are not RPEQ’s. Unless there is some silly undemocratic reason for design and documentation to be produced by someone with the local license, the primary requirement is to get a proposal documented and assessed, then get the documentation reviewed and independently certified.

Therefore generally recommend manufacturers bypass the councils review and check,  and instead find two consultants: one to carry out the design and documentation and the other to conduct an independent review. Additional consultants can then be employed as necessary to meet local regulatory requirements. By adopting this approach, approval by council can be faster, as they can often accept appropriate certification on good faith, without further review.

More importantly council review is dependent on the competence and experience of the people they employ to conduct engineering review. In South Australia many of the local councils send calculations out to be reviewed by private consultants (CP.Eng), and they have regular on going contracts with such consultants. The problem with that approach is that the reviewer may lack adequate competence in the area being reviewed. For example do not want cold-formed structure reviewed by someone who has expertise in concrete only, and likewise do not want concrete reviewed by someone with expertise in cold-formed steel only. Nor do you want structures reviewed by consultants whose primary expertise is stormwater drainage. It is this kind of nonsense which results in the perceived inconsistency in approvals between different councils. Basically approval is regularly granted by a dominant majority which lack adequate competence, until eventually seek approval from the minority which have the necessary competence, and as a consequence further information is requested. By employing two independent consultants with required expertise, a manufacturer can reduce the probability of deficiencies in the original assessment, and reduce the occurrence of future unexpected delays when seeking council approval.

Type of Projects

Our typical projects range from the routine, to the unusual which no one else wants anything to do with. When we encounter something unfamiliar to us, then we conduct literature research to first identify how unfamiliar it is to the rest of modern society. We have over a 1000 books, journals and articles to reference in-house, some of these are older out of print publications which gives us insight into older construction which is important to renovations and additions to existing buildings.

Our primary interest is with common structural forms, especially those structures for which the fabrication and construction is within the scope of the D.I.Y enthusiast or which are suitable for repetitive manufacturing.

  1. Sheds (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
  2. Canopies (carports, pergolas & verandahs)
  3. Decks
  4. Holiday shacks
  5. Modular Buildings and Offsite Fabrication
  6. Balustrades
  7. Industrial platforms, stairways and guardrails.
  8. Industrial racking
  9. Miscellaneous structures

Though we often get unusual projects, which others have not been interested in pursuing. We have been involved with:

  1. Rammed Earth Construction
  2. Straw Bale Construction
  3. Structurally Insulated Panels (SIP’s)
  4. Extruded Plaster Wall Panels
  5. Polystyrene Wall Panels
  6. Sail shades
  7. Sports nets
  8. Solar arrays
  9. Scaffolding
  10. Construction platforms for jetty repair

We have provided student projects at the University of South Australia involving the testing of connections in cold-formed steel, testing of structurally insulated panels (SIP’s) and testing of extruded plaster wall panels.

Still our preference is simplification, repetition and automation. Investigate a structural form, push it to its limits and then produce design aids and automation tools to speed up the structural assessment and its adaption for specific purposes. Performance based codes of practice provide the opportunity to create a range of prescriptive solutions and associated design aids and automation tools: producing such is the path we will be pursuing as we move into the future.

Issues with Manufactured Structural Products and D.I.Y

Several issues have become apparent over the years:

  1. Most small manufacturers of structural building products tend to have little knowledge and interest in their product. More to the point they do not put effort into the design and development of a product, they only consider documentation requirements for building approval. Building approval however is concerned with the installation, the specific application of a building system, it is not concerned with the design of the building system. The building system however is the product the manufacturers are selling. Therefore more effort needs to go into product design and presentation of technical information to possible end-users of such product.
  2. Manufacturers who do put effort into design and development of their product are hindered, by a lack of similar effort on the part of the regulators. Nail plated timber roof truss manufacturers automated the design of roof trusses so that they can design in a few minutes, the regulators using general purpose tools however would require a few hours. Design aids and automation tools therefore need to be available to the manufacturers and to the design reviewers and regulating authorities.
  3. Design reviewers and regulating authorities cannot hold copies of every manufacturers catalogues, design aids and automation tools. This favours generic designs, or internet access to supplier specific resources on an as needs basis. Alternatively where possible, design tools using generic opensource file formats which permit interchange of data with general purpose tools. {eg. roof truss software exports a MicroStran data file,or even more general xml format}
  4. D.I.Y enthusiasts and owner-builders are hampered due to a lack of prescriptive solutions and automated tools for assessment of common structural forms. Engineering effort is proportional to complexity not to size, consequently the cost of engineering for a D.I.Y project can be seen as expensive. The D.I.Y typically expects to save on labour costs, by only buying materials. Unfortunately the whole idea can fall apart, because the cost of engineering for something that seems to have been built a 1000 times already, costs far too much. The problem is that whilst it may have been built many times already, it has been designed far fewer times, and not yet designed by your local consulting engineer. There is therefore need for some low cost generic prescriptive solutions for common structural forms.
  5. Both engineering consultancies and manufacturers, have a shortage of shared knowledge and examples for reference. Therefore there needs to be some benchmark calculations and design solutions, which illustrate the extent of assessment required, acceptable presentation, and provide the ball park for comparison with more specific designs. {eg. standard design for 3m span and 6m span, envelopes the design for a custom span of 5m. Not only does it provide a check as to whether calculations are in error, but helps decide whether custom calculations are  of any value pursuing in the first place.}
  6. Computers don’t necessarily save time on the job. Lookup tables and design curves are often faster and more insightful than point value calculations using a computer.
  7. Documentation requirements are a problem. Whilst the text book presentation of engineering calculations, showing a free body diagram, an algebraic formula, numbers substituted into the formula, and then the result of the formula, is useful for learning purposes and documenting a new design process for future reference, it is a waste for routine calculations. Printing to a digital report, such as a PDF file, doesn’t make the exercise any less wasteful. A true independent review should not involve reference to the designers calculations, it should only review the inputs and the specifications output: therefore calculations should not need to be submitted. Design is a process, and design review and assessment are processes. These processes need to be automated for the routine and common structural forms. Documentation should be limited to certified specifications, which  can be rapidly assessed and validated using automated tools.
  8. Computer automated calculation tools should have either an audit mode, or report styles ranging from simple summary to detailed.

This website and associated web store have been created with the intention of resolving the above issues, as far as it concerns the structural design of common structural forms and manufactured structural products made from cold-formed steel (AS4600), hot-rolled steel (AS4100), timber (AS1720), and occasionally: Aluminium (AS1664), Concrete (AS3600).

The primary pre-specified building products considered are:

  1. Sheds (domestic, industrial and rural)
  2. Canopies, carports and verandahs
  3. Balustrades, guard railing
  4. Decks

Others which have been considered in the past are:

  1. Retaining walls
  2. Water storage tanks
  3. Sports nets
  4. SIP’s

For general information and enquiries regarding the use of pre-engineered building systems, enquire at the following linkedin group: Pre-Engineered Manufactured Building Systems Group .  {Due to changes at Linkedin, all groups are now private and have to log in to view}

Technical Computing

With respect to developing automation tools we have experience in DBASE IV, Paradox DOS, MS Access, Pascal/Delphi, C, VBA, VBscript, VB.net, JavaScript, JScript, AutoLISP.  We can automate using COM automation, for software such as Excel, Word, Access, DesignCAD,  MultiFrame and IntelliCAD/ProgeCAD. We can automate Acad LT via generation of script files (.scr), additionally extract data from DXF and otherwise modify drawings. Similarly we can auto-generate input data files for our own in-house 2D frame analysis software or other analysis software such as MicroStran. We make extensive use of Excel spreadsheets and some can be found on ExcelCalc’s and here in the web store.  Most of our structural design spreadsheets are dependent on  technical library add-in released as: schTechLib.xla. Our structural design engine, currently operates behind the scenes of spreadsheets designing carports and verandahs for a South Australian manufacturer. Roy is busy rewriting the carport software, making greater use of  classes and significantly reducing the amount of code required. After which we will merge shed design so that have one add-in for canopy and shed design.

Restrictions on Projects Accepted

Whilst we could tackle any structure in any material, there is a cost becoming conversant with the structural form. the material and the associated standards and codes of practice. Also depending on the size of the structure we would need additional personnel.  It is therefore preferable that we place some restrictions on the custom projects we accept. Constraints are:

  1. Buildings to basically be a prism with a section enveloped by a 24m wide x 12m high rectangle, with respect to any individual span.  The overall width can exceed 24m, but it has to be multiple spans each less than 24m.
  2. Buildings which are not prismatic to be contained in a rectangular cuboid 18m long x 18m wide x 12m high.
  3. Structures which are not buildings to be contained in a cube 12m long x 12m wide x 12m high.

Further, it should be possible to break the job down into packages valued at no more than $5000 (exc. GST), with no further progress on the project until the previously completed package is paid for. Jobs should also require less than a months worth of effort, or if requiring more effort, then it should be possible to pursue the job intermittently over longer periods.

Information Asymmetry

Organisations pushing the barrows of the occupational elite, tend to push the idea of information asymmetry to get legislation created to grab work not protect the public welfare.

Just because you do not possess the same knowledge as your medical doctor, does not mean there is a situation of information asymmetry. We all potentially have the intellectual capacity to understand and acquire more human knowledge. The reason we do not possess certain knowledge is due to interests, personal relevance,  priorities and importance, and availability of time and resources. The educated elite have a responsibility as scholars to go forth and share knowledge.  This does not mean that they give the knowledge away for zero fee, they do have to eat after all. However, they should take the time to answer clients questions and assist with developing the understanding the client seeks.

It is arrogant and disrespectful to answer a question with: “If you want to know that, then go study for 4 years”. For the vast majority of occupational degrees the duration does not lead to depth of knowledge, it leads to breadth of knowledge. Any thread of knowledge which stretches for 4 years, will likely, be found, to be capable of being programmed, in significantly less time, by removing the irrelevant breadth of knowledge from the study schedule. Learning is also more dependent on individual effort and attitude than on teachers, so if as an individual you do not put any effort into understanding, then you won’t learn anything. Thus learning at school and university has very little to do with the capability of the teachers. {The presence of teachers in learning institutions is mainly a consequence of history: where books were hand written. One person can read one book to many, whilst a single book can only be read by many people one at a time. The practical printing press was introduced by Gutenberg around 1440. In many situations so called teachers are little more than overseers ensuring that work is done, and can be little more than overseers, as there is little assistance they can provide to learning. So if having difficulty with learning should first look at yourself before looking for deficiencies in teachers. To further clarify, a good teacher doesn’t need to know anything about a subject to assist someone to learn that subject.}

It has been said that:

Two thirds of the answer lies in putting the question clearly.

Therefore learning can be considered as being dependent on the ability to formulate appropriate questions and seek suitable answers. The suitability of the answer being determined by asking further questions of the answer. When you as an individual have no more questions to be answered, then you have understood a topic to the extent you desire: other people may have many more questions and seek greater clarification.

Part of the aim of this website is to break down barriers, and share knowledge. Here, engineering is considered to take place only at the frontiers of science and technology. If not at a frontier then we are concerned with an established body of knowledge which can be subdivided into:

  1. Technical Mathematics
  2. Technical Science
  3. Technical Computing
  4. Technical Planning
  5. Technical Management
  6. Technical Design

Technical because it is concerned with the tools and techniques which make up the established technologies. Established technologies are typically covered by an extensive body of literature, and solutions can therefore be found by reading and applying knowledge, rather than by building prototypes and experimenting with the unknown.

Payment Methods

For consulting services we have traditionally done the work, then invoiced later. The invoice is payable in 14 days, and can be paid using internet banking. Businesses providing regular work with a monthly accounting cycle can pay monthly.

We have no interest in doing work for businesses with 60, 90, or 120 day accounting cycles. Nor are we interested in businesses which impose their own supplier contracts and discount the suppliers fees: you don’t supply enough work to deserve discount.

The traditional approach now only applies to our regular and past clients. All new clients (from 2017 onwards) wanting consulting services will have to pay through an escrow service or one of the freelancing web services. Current freelancing services we may look at include:

  1. EngLancer
  2. Freelancer (Australia)
  3. Fiver
  4. Upwork

There are other sites, but many of them are exclusively for web development, are limited to a specific locality, or have high annual membership fees. At the moment Fiver looks like the best fit, starting low at $5 (USA I think), and then building to higher fees.

Alternatively can opt to pay first via this web site, for which purpose I will provide some low cost introductory services. We will otherwise look into processing and distributing project reports via the website. With this approach will need to create an account with the web site, when the report is complete, you will be able to pay for the report and then download it.

Contact

For further information our contact information can be found here.

It is preferable to send an email, rather than telephone. A telephone call requires two people to be available at the same time, and is an interruption to the receiving party. Whilst an email creates a record, which can be reviewed as often as necessary to refresh the fallible human memory. An email documents the occurrence of an enquiry, and a reply email, documents that there was a response to the enquiry and also documents the response itself. A telephone conversation on the other hand is typically waffle in the wind.

So! social conversation: telephone and don’t expect to get through and doesn’t matter. For business: put it in writing.

Coffee with STEAM or a Techo’

If you are in Maitland on the Yorke peninsula, then you are welcome to pop by, and we can visit one of the local cafes and discuss your project needs over a coffee. If have interests in education, especially STEM/STEAM then your thoughts are also welcome and we may be able to assist with any STEAM programmes.


Revisions:

  1. [07/03/2011]: Original
  2. [29/10/2016]: Added subheadings and rewrote to suit
  3. [26/01/2017]: Some rewriting to add more background information