Engineered Products: Concepts and Pricing

The word engineer is relatively generic, and typically infers the application of a rational scientific approach to design: and thus anyone can engineer a product. I (Conrad) hold an idealistic viewpoint that engineering only takes place at the frontiers of science and technology.

Getting local council planning approval and building approval does not involve a frontier of science nor a frontier of technology. Similarly most other government approvals do not involve frontiers. Therefore government approvals do not involve nor require engineering.

So whilst it may be convenient to request an engineer’s report, an engineer’s calculations or an engineer’s certificate, such are not typically required. If a council wants something from someone specific then they have to request something specific: so in Queensland for example if they require a certificate from an RPEQ, then they have to request such, not simplify and abbreviate to engineers report. In South Australia if council is requesting you get a certificate from a CP.Eng, then you better have some calculations already: if you don’t have the calculations already then someone else has to do them else the person with the CP.Eng will lose their independence and will not be permitted to issue the required certificate. {There are  a lot more people with a formal engineering education than there are people who have become  chartered, registered or licensed as the locality may require for approved persons.  Finding design solutions requires creativity and ingenuity, checking compliance does not, so leave the approved persons to do the checking.}

The importance of this is that most people turning up for an engineers report, think we hold such reports on a shelf, ready to dust off and hand over. Those wanting engineers certificates, think it’s just a simple matter of looking at their drawings, and rubber stamping them. But it isn’t like that.

Why isn’t it like that?

The simply answer: because no one considered doing so.

The long answer:

Accepting that engineering only takes place at the frontiers of science and technology. Then we can infer that engineering is beyond the scope of the published literature, and requires access to laboratories where controlled experiments can be carried out. The experiments establish a body of scientific knowledge. That scientific knowledge is used to design original technologies. Prototypes of the technology are built and tested. A rational scientific model of design based on mathematical models is developed, refined and calibrated against the physical testing. A generic technology is defined, a body of technical knowledge is published and the engineering is over.

We as a society can now train people to design custom variations of these generic technologies to suit a specific purpose. The fitness-for-function can typically be assessed using the established mathematical model without further building and testing of prototypes. If prototypes are required for further testing, then it is done so following established guidelines, for the purpose of collecting additional data and refining the mathematical model. We have moved from engineering to applied science and technical science: that is we are working with an established body of scientific knowledge.  That is we know where we want to go and we know how to get there, or at least have several known options on how to get there. With engineering we may know where we want to go, but all available options are unsuitable, and we are exploring  and seeking a viable solution in the great unknown. The result of engineering maybe that there is no viable solution at this point in time, but we have acquired knowledge of 1000 proposals we are certain are not viable.


In general engineering takes longer than it takes to make a product, and costs more than the product. It takes longer and costs more than the product because prototypes have to be built and tested and then calibrated against mathematical theory: so as to develop a rational scientific approach to design which is based on mathematical modelling rather than future testing. Therefore given the cost of engineering design, it makes sense that products are designed once and made multiple times. Whilst custom variations to the product maybe permitted such have to be kept within the constraints of the verified and calibrated mathematical models, unless want to go back down the path of building and testing more prototypes.

Unlike manufacturing industry where individual businesses do their own research, the businesses in the building industry do very little of their own research and rely on the research done by industry associations. Consequently the only variations, which such business can accommodate with respect to building structures, are those within the scope of the available and approved mathematical models: defined in national codes of practice (such as Australian Standards).