Ethics in Civil Engineering – A Glance at Current Construction
We have come across some interesting residential and commercial Civil Engineering projects recently.
Most of our projects are the typical demolish a nice large house to create a client’s dream mansion. Other projects will take an existing commercial site that has many lots and consolidate those multiple lots into a larger commercial complex.
As a Civil Engineering company we have also seen some clients try to get around some of the city and state requirements to build these projects. I have had many long conversations with our architects, clients, and developers on why some of these requirements and codes exist. We cannot take the code requirements lightly as they exist mostly for protecting the general public, in most cases being mainly the property owner. A recent client asked us to design a pump system to drain a lower elevation lot out to the higher street. The builder wanted a simplex pump system to drain the lot. But what happens when the pump fails? There is no backup. Depending on the site a simplex pump system can work safely for drainage. Some may question this logic as it barely rains here in Southern California. I explain that may be true, but when it rains, most likely flooding conditions occur. And after the last few rains most who live here know exactly what I am talking about.
Civil Engineers must design for a 25 or 50 year storm which is supposed to happen every 25 or 50 years. Recently the Los Angeles area has been hit with some major storms that were worse than this. The evidence being debris basins filling beyond capacity in certain regions more than they were designed for in the worst case scenario. So why do I bring this up? A pump will generally fail during these floods because of improper maintenance. When you bring in a large storm along with mechanical devices that aren’t being properly maintained you will want some type of backup. The idea being that the second pump in the system should kick on to make the chances of flooding a property less likely. We could not ethically continue to work on this project because the builder was only looking at the now and not the future. We lost a lot of future work with just this one builder because of this choice.
Times are tough and there are plenty of hungry Civil Engineers right now who will take on work just so they can keep the lights on. We at B+W Engineering and Design will not design a project that is unethical to design, especially when the general public may be at danger. This goes against everything that engineers are supposed to stand for. I have had some more recent conversations with some recent projects and I can thankfully say that our clients do understand this. Yes we have some projects where we have to design to current requirements that in most engineers’ opinions are not the best way to do things. With rapidly changing city requirements we must design to what the Cities want while maintaining safety as our first priority.
Pump systems are becoming more common along with infiltration systems to satisfy the new and ever changing LID (Low Impact Development) requirements which are designed to help alleviate stormwater from entering the storm drain systems. These requirements will only become more strict as time goes along, and I hope to see our clients understand that we must continue building with future sustainability along with safety in mind. Civil Engineering is at the forefront of forcing better environmental change right now in the construction industry and I am happy to say our current list of clients do have the publics’ best interests in mind.