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Stardom at a price for engineers Tuesday, August 14, 2001
BY SOURAV MUKHERJEE, TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: Post-quake, structural engineers of the city have been catapulted to overnight stardom. Structural engineers, who used to receive a minuscule half per cent of the project cost, compared with 3% paid to architects, are now looking at an upwardly mobile career graph complete with fringe benefits like the much-sought-after 'status'.
However, the sudden changeover from the backroom to the centre-stage has its downside, too. The recently-formulated General Development Control Regulations (GDCR) make mentions galore about structural engineers and put their job open to scrutiny with a healthy dose of accountability thrown in.
The development control regulations drawn up by the state government with respect to structural safety put down the qualification and experience required in a structural designer to certify structural safety of a building, in black and white.
It says: "A degree civil engineering recognised by All India Board of Technical Education. In addition, the applicant should have at least five years' experience in structural design, two years of which must be in a responsible capacity in the form of structural designer."
One with a Master's degree in structural engineering from a recognised institute and at least two years' experience in structural design work, or a doctorate in structural design from a recognised institute and at least one-year experience in structural design work will, after registering with the AUDA or the AMC, be allowed to prepare and submit structural details of all types of buildings and other structures.
Already a total of 120 civil and construction engineers have registered with the AMC. Of these 75 are structural designers.
Once the formalities are completed, the structural engineer will prepare a report on the structural design of the building. He will draw up a safe structural design keeping the soil-bearing capacity of the plot in mind and specify the right mix of construction material to ensure the strength of columns, beams and slabs.
He will also certify structural safety and overall soundness of the structure and advise on implementation of the project. In short, the structural engineer will be responsible for the safety of the building and its occupants.
"Structural engineering is an extension of civil engineering," explains P N Patel, who obtained his master's degree in civil engineering, specialising in structural designing, way back in 1977. After working with the PWD and teaching at LD College of Engineering in Ahmedabad and LE College, Morbi, Patel retired in 1981. Ever since he has been running his own consultancy firm.
"Our work is like building a skeleton for the human body. Ensuring a strong foundation and stability of the framework of concrete slabs, beams and columns that hold together a multi-storeyed structure is our responsibility. The correct mixture of the building material and the steel reinforcement required for a building have to be calculated by structural engineers," explains Patel.
"We have to ensure, through a complex mode of calculations, that the building's load is evenly distributed in harmony with its architectural design. The only change now will be that subjects hitherto not a structural engineer's priority _ horizontal forces of earthquake, wind force and the possibility of floods _will have to be taken into account while making the calculations," says Patel.
Another significant addition made by the GDCR to the structural engineers' responsibility is inspection of the work at important stages of construction and certify that the work being executed is satisfactory. This aspect could take the technocrats to the site of construction which, till date, was not amongst their responsibilities.
The star status and heightened financial gains apart, the additional responsibilities conferred by the GDCR have not gone down well with the structural engineers of the city.
Says Hitendra Soni of SMPS Consultants: "Admittedly, the regulations are comprehensive and liberal in handing out accountability to technocrats like us. But the requirements laid out by the regulations are overlapping in many cases and thus impossible to adhere to in totality."
Points out Soni, "The regulations have also forced us to procure expensive computers and software packages needed for the extensive calculations necessary for drawing up a structural design. This will increase the cost of structural designing and slow down the work, as structural engineers would adopt the path of caution in the wake of GDCR's unnecessary checks and balances."
"A structural engineer's work is limited to the drawing board where he advises the architects, builder-developers and owners on how to construct a structurally sound building. That post-quake we are more in demand is apparent, but holding us accountable for how a project is implemented is going a little too far," remarks Umang Patel, a structural engineer working with Cactic Consultants.
For many though, the tables have turned at long last – from following the diktats of architects to a commanding position in construction business.
Says Sanjiv Kapasi, a structural engineer heading the operations of Grid Consultants, Navrangpura: "Though one can't say that the demand for structural engineers have sky-rocketed after the quake, there is a perceptible change. Now, one feels like a visiting specialist medical practitioner."
Soon after the quake, Kapasi, had rendered voluntary structural engineering services and inspected nearly 150 high and low-rise buildings in the city.
Source - TIMES NEWS NETWORK & AGENCIES