The worst part about being an engineer, is that a lot of your calls are because something has gone wrong. People are already upset due to the fact they are having to hire you and the very best outcome if that you can make everything as good as it was before. This was especially true when I worked for BellSouth. Then, by the time anyone reached me as the engineer, they were already really pissed.
In my new job, we get a lot of clients for new construction, and they just want things done as cheap as possible. That’s understandable; it’s a major part of my job to make a building stand for as little as money as possible. No, safety is never knowingly sacrificed. That’s also a part of my job. However, we engineers are taught that if we are just over-designing everything then we aren’t doing our due diligence to look out for our clients, and that is the same thing as stealing from them.
We’ve been working on a especially difficult job here in Richmond. This is one of those dream/nightmare jobs (depends on if it’s an even or odd day of the year) that has just about every twist and turn a structural engineer can imagine. It is a very old building (over 100 years). Further, it is made of wood and masonry, but will have steel, concrete, and reinforced masonry added to it as part of the re-use. It has been extremely time-consuming and difficult work to plan with our client to make this building meet the current building codes with the absolute minimum amount of work to be added. There were times when I would feel completely ridiculous showing the results of my labor to my boss, knowing how much we were asking the client to add to the structure of this building.
Now, with all that background in mind, let me tell you about the phone call my boss received yesterday. The client had hired two different engineers to take a look, both in the physical and analysis senses, at the building in question. Not only did they both agree with what we had recommended was required, they had also concluded that what we had come determined we had done it with about the minimum amount of work that could be done. Now, it was very possible the client might have found someone who would have said that none of this was needed and we were wasting time and money. There are people who believe that because buildings stood under existing laws and codes, that it is a waste to try and meet modern laws. Of course, that is, by definition, not practicing our profession under the law. Fortunately, these two groups or individuals (I don’t know who they are) and our company made a consensus that this is needed and it feels great to know that what I was doing was good work. My boss was ecstatic, as was I.