The days of a single 'engineer' should be over, but they're not…

Following on from the last post concerning How many more times am I going to have to explain the difference between Planning and Building Regulation drawings; this post digs a little deeper into why this situation has arisen:

• It’s the engineers that have were chartered by ICEI since at least 1877 but statutory since the 60s THE INSTITUTION OF CIVIL ENGINEERS OF IRELAND (CHARTER AMENDMENT) ACT, 1969 This therefore goes back to the inception of the state where Engineers had effectively control of local authorities.

• The Architects in Ireland have only recently received a protection of their title since the Building Control Act of 2007 They (as far as I know) have not received a legislative Charter in the same way as Engineers.

• Architects were traditionally those that designed Churches and the like; called in by the Bishops and paid for by the congregation. They were seen as expensive and called in to ‘prettify’. The engineers were seen as the people for the public; called in for the house and house extension when picking a house from a ‘Book of Plans’ was not enough. Architects were still seen as an expensive luxury. A single person that is called upon to do all the drawings required to build; from the design and planning through to the construction.

• The public now sees what architects can do thanks to the likes of Dermot Bannon on Room to Improve. In my opinion Dermot could be the architect’s saviour; love him or hate him – he’s shown exactly what the architect does. But look closely at the programme & the team:

– The architect (Dermot)
– The Quantity Surveyor (Patricia Power) – for the costings.
– The Structural Engineer. Not often seen but an essential for the foundations, steelwork design etc…

Design and construction is now not a simple process where one person draws up everything; effective construction is a team effort as shown in Room to Improve. To ensure compliance with the Building Regulations you’ll need other specialists in addition to the above too:

– A registered BER Assessor to ensure compliance with Part L of the Building Regulations on completion.

– A registered Airtightness tester; airtightness testing/standards are mandatory on new houses.

Please, if you’re a consumer don’t ask a single person to do all of the above. Respect each specialism and the work that they contribute and that building requires a team with the team working together. In my opinion Consumers only have themselves to blame by asking for such a service and then putting engineers (and architects) in a price war against each other. The best team is where architects and engineers are working together. I don’t want to do structural design and in conversations with Structural Engineers they ideally don’t want to do architectural design. It’s the two professions working side by side. Together. For a common cause.

My worry is that with the implementation of S.I.No.9 of 2014 we’re going to see the single ‘plan-drawer’ continue; there are too many engineers (and architects) working beyond their skill-set. I appreciate the Code of Conduct by the Engineers of Ireland is clear that Chartered Engineers should work within their specific discipline:

Members shall accept and perform only work for which they are qualified and competent to undertake and shall obtain whatever advice and assistance is necessary to discharge this responsibility.

But the risk is that a Chartered Electrical Engineer could be asked by a client to undertake structural steel design and be an Assigned Certifier for the entire project without any ancillary certification; I am not singling out engineers as the bad boys, I am consistently asked to draw up structural elements which I am not qualified to undertake (naturally I refuse).

The consumer has only them selves to blame; it is them that ask for a single person to undertake everything and it is them that put engineers in a price war against each other. What I am saying is that the days of this ‘single-person’ should be over. Use a team of consultants and if you cannot afford to do this maybe you should reconsider the project?

For more information on the Building Regulations and their Amendments (S.I.No.9 of 2014 and S.I. No.105 of 2014) visit the BRegs Blog

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