Reassurance

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.