Engineering and Regulatory Environment

Licensing And Registration

Here in South Australia, there is no registration or licensing of design or engineering services, it is relatively democratic allowing DIY development approval applications.

However a building proposal has to be demonstrated fit-for-function to the satisfaction of a chartered professional engineer (CP.Eng) working on behalf of the regulating authority (local council or private certifier). Most of the required proof-calculations are relatively simple and are within, and always have been within, the capabilities of Australia’s engineering associates (on condition they have gained supervised experience putting their education to use, as is also a requirement for the engineers).

The need for CP.Eng on the regulating side is to ensure that there are no complicating features which may have been missed by lesser qualified persons (qualified=education+experience). The requirement is also an independent check, self-certification is not allowed.

If a system is critical then we recommended getting an additional independent review/check completed before regulatory approval. A proper independent check involves doing the proof-calculations from scratch based on the specification-of-intent, with no reference to the design-calculations.

The International Accords

The world federation of engineering organisations (WFEO) created 3 international accords defining various roles in the engineering workforce, and minimum education. Engineers Australia (IEAust) is a signatory to these accords.

The three accords are:

  1. Washington Accord (Engineers: 1989)
  2. Sydney Accord (Engineering Technologists:2001)
  3. Dublin Accord (Engineering Technicians:2002 {NB: IEAust Signed 2013})

There is little public information available about the content of these accords, so I can only go off my memory about the discussions published in engineers Australia magazine at the time. As far as I can tell no one is paying any real attention to these accords: not the the signatory organisations, not governments, and not educational institutions.

The point of the minimum 4 year B.Eng for engineers, is meant to be so that they are able to tackle problems at the frontiers of technology: where there is no prior art and no prior science. The minimum 3 year B.Eng/B.Tech/B.Sc is meant to be so that engineering technologists can design established technologies employing an established body of knowledge (BoK).

Most failures occur because the people designing variants of established technology have not made full use of the established body of knowledge. When the failure is investigated the cause seldom involves some new phenomena which requires scientists and engineers to investigate further and find solutions. Rather the source of the failure, is a failure to be adequately conversant with the BoK.

An engineer, with a Washington accord compliant degree is not qualified to design established technology, they have inadequate knowledge of the technology: they are conversant with science and mathematics. It is left to industry to pass on the knowledge to the engineers. That is a graduate under the supervision of someone with trite experience of a technology, acquires even less adequate experience, and after a few generations, industry has little knowledge of value. Engineers Australia argued against the traditional training of engineers via apprenticeship and defined engineers as degree qualified: but they neglected the growing body of knowledge with regards to the established technologies.

We should go one step further and demand that the Engineers keep away from established technologies and only degree qualified technologists be permitted to be responsible in charge of established technologies. The engineers role is to operate beyond the scope of the codes of practice and provide knowledge we do not yet have. {We seem to have too many chefs and not enough bottle washers.}

It could be argued that cannot be an engineer until become conversant with an established technology and thus aware of the limitations of prior art and science. In which case a person finishing school and going straight into a B.Eng programme is completely unacceptable. Rather they should study as technologists, graduate and work as technologists, and when their independent thought hits the frontiers and they develop new technology and associated technical science, then they can be classed as engineer. (Which would otherwise match the traditional requirement to become a fellow of a learned society (No M.Eng or phd required since that’s your routine job: producing the equivalent of a phd thesis every few years). Compared to modern rubbish where only contribution seems to be creating an employing business to become FIEAust.)

Engineering vs Evidence-of-Suitability

We prefer to use the term “structural design” rather than “structural engineering”. The term engineering is often taken to mean just doing the numbers (eg. Calcs-for-Council), whilst design involves more than that.

We take engineering as referring to design activity taking place at the frontiers of science and technology. We expect that most projects make use of established technology and science, and therefore design can be based on calculation, without need for experimentation to determine new theory, and therefore the design activity is not engineering.

Legislation may define engineering, as being little more than checking code compliance. In terms of South Australia we can provide the ill defined thing regulators call engineering: the “engineering” you were told to go get.

It is preferable to avoid the term “engineering” when it comes to checking code compliance. The requirement is not “engineering” but documented “evidence-of-suitability“. The task is to demonstrate by proof-calculations and other means that a proposed structure is fit-for-function or suitable-for-purpose.

Mere compliance with a code of practice is not adequate proof of fitness-for-function.

It is important to question the relevance of the codes, and determine the requirements which will achieve fitness-for-function. This requires us to understand the functions and purpose for which you intend on using the structure.

Often we get builders who complain about some “engineer” who got the design wrong. It isn’t that the “engineer” got the design wrong, it’s that the building designer didn’t fully describe the building, and the builder didn’t specify the resources they had access to and what they were willing to do: and as a consequence the structural design didn’t meet their needs. Both product and process need to be designed, not just the product. The structure needs to be buildable. Just dropping drawings off, and requesting calcs-for-council, will rarely result in something that is buildable.

We all need to work together as each of us only has part of the picture: we need to bring each of these parts together to create a whole.

We don’t impose and mandate. We try our best to help you to learn and understand. We don’t generate dependency. We try to enable and empower, we produce design tools. Whether these be tables, charts or software, the purpose is to allow you to experiment with various options. We can validate the final choice and take responsibility for asserting it is fit-for-function.

We are here to assist, advise and help.

On Defining Engineering

Engineering is a rational scientific approach to the planning, design and management of technology at the frontiers of science and technology. It is a high risk activity, based on incomplete knowledge with uncertain outcomes.

The rational scientific approach to the planning, design and management of established or new technology based on established scientific knowledge is not engineering. The engineering has been done. Engineers have spent some 200 years developing new technologies and a vast body of scientific knowledge to allow technology to be designed to be fit-for-function. So last year it may have been engineering design, this year and next year and for ever more, it is and will be technical design.

As a community we become unhappy when something we know and expect to be made fit-for-function is not made fit-for-function.

The technical workforce excluding those at the frontiers (eg. the engineers WFEO Washington accord (4 year B.Eng)) comprises of :

  • Technologists (WFEO Sydney accord (3 year B.Tech))
  • Associate Technologists
  • Technicians (planning, design, management) (WFEO Dublin accord)
  • Technicians (Trade)
  • Trades

For the most part we only need the associate technologists for the quality design of established technology. Australia more or less had these in the form of engineering associates, before Engineers Australia spent some 20 years down grading their skills to that of WFEO dublin accord technicians, and effectively crippling our technical workforce (we don’t have the shortages which keep being claimed.).

The technicians are important, however it is not the duration of education which determines capability it is the focus and content of the education. To sustain a technological society people conversant in the planning, design and management of the specific technology are required.

At present, as a society we rely on industry passing on knowledge of the technology to graduate engineers. If this does not happen, and mostly it is not happening, then knowledge and technical competence is lost from society. This means whilst the graduate engineers may have the ingenuity to rediscover the knowledge, we as a society suffer from defective technology whilst the rediscovery takes place.

We thus need to educate more technologists and associate technologists conversant with the established technology, and remove reliance on industry. The world needs to stop wasting resources on educating engineers: most graduates do not have the necessary skills or ingenuity to ever function at the frontiers of science and technology. Meanwhile they lack the knowledge to design the established technologies competently: whilst we are also loosing the skilled trades to make the technologies.

We need to get away from undeserved status and prestige and get on with implementing, operating, and maintaining the established technologies competently.

Therefore recommend opposing all legislation which is concerned with granting a monopoly to so called “engineers”. As this occupation, these people, do no have the required competency for the activity with which they are being tasked. They could have the required competency but it depends on industry providing the appropriate education and training.

Where as the associate technologists are expected to be educated and trained to do the required job in the first place: their education is consequently less general and more focused. For example compare procedure for designing a structure, against procedure for designing building structure, a bridge structure, versus a crane structure or a ship or aircraft structure. Compare with steel framed structure against a concrete structure. The proper design of each structure requires knowledge of the specific technology for which the structure is required, along with knowledge of materials and preferred structural forms.

Civil and mechanical engineering involve more subject matter than structural design. For example there are subjects covering, HVAC, hydraulics, transport, water supply, storm water drainage. Either at an introductory level or at a more advanced level involving abstract esoteric mathematics which is irrelevant to the actual practice. The associate technologist programme is meant to focus on one area of practice, and the competence required to do the job of planning, designing and managing a specific established group of related technologies.

Whilst graduate engineers may well be job ready, the problem is they are not ready for the jobs on offer. To clarify further, EWB: Engineers without Borders, the humanitarian aid organisation, for the most part does not do any engineering. The vast majority of their work is technician/trade level activity making use of available resources to implement familiar technologies. Whilst engineering is required to solve the problem they are tackling, they have typically not demonstrated the ingenuity to solve the real problem. They just provide “make shift” solutions. Whilst they are doing good work, they will never resolve the problem, because they have the wrong skill set: for both the little problems and the big problem.

Basically human society around the world is providing the next generation with the wrong education and training, and has been doing so now for several decades.

Technical Services

Primarily structural design and associated computer software development. With formal education in industrial, manufacturing and mechanical engineering we have potential to provide assistance in more areas than structures. Such areas include: total quality management (TQM), statistical process control, inventory management, materials requirement planning (MRP), manufacturing resource planning (MRP II), design-for-manufacture (DFM), design-for-assembly (DFA), agricultural engineering, business logistics, Business Computer Systems Development.

Or drafting services: structural, mechanical, civil.

No project too small.

Machines are structures which move. Non-machine structures are mechanisms which are locked.

Project Locations

Whilst projects may be located anywhere, places in close proximity to Maitland(SA) are given preference:

  1. Yorke Peninsula Council
  2. District Council of Copper Coast
  3. District Council of Barunga West

Maitland, Arthurton, Point Pearce, Balgowan, Sandilands, Port Victoria, Ardrossan, James Well, Dowlingville, Rogues Point, Tiddy Widdy Beach, Agery, Winulta, Clinton Centre, Price, Black Point, Moonta, Port Hughes, North Moonta, Curramulka, Warburto,Port Julia, Bluff Beach, Paskeville, Minlaton, Kadina, Port Vincent, Port Wakefield, Wallaroo, North Beach, Wallaroo Plain, Stansbury, Hardwicke Bay, Alford, Bute, Tickera, Point Souttar, Point Turton, Yorketown, Warooka, Coobowie, Edithburgh, Corny Point, Honiton, Port Broughton, Foul Bay, Mundoora, Marion Bay, Inneston{NB: Locations are roughly in order of increasing radial distance from Maitland SA.}