Thursday, July 23, 2009

Will the real engineer please stand up!

As I mentioned in a prevoius post, various regulations are being proposed and enacted in relation to the building design sector.

One of these recent regulations that has come into effect is the National Building Professional Accreditation Regulation(NBPAR), which is available for download (direct pdf link).

Basically, the regulation proposes to 'accredit' professionals (architects, engineers, surveyors etc) who works in the design sector. The accreditation being that, certain selected professionals get special privileges, such as being allowed to undertake the design of larger projects, or special treatment during normal government approval process.

Normally, if a client wants to design his house or any building, he hires an architect or engineer. There are registered architects and engineers who are allowed to sign the relevant municipal documents, which is based on having a certain level of academic qualification. This regulation is fine and good. Having completed the design, the client (or on his behalf the designer) submits the drawings to the municipality, which then checks (for municipal, planning and structural compliance) and gives a building permit. This process usually takes about two months.

The currently active NBPAR regulation creates a category of engineers called 'Professional Engineers'. These PEs have magic stamps bearing their names. When these PEs stamp their drawings, the municipality do not check the drawings for structural compliance, and the approval is given after municipal and planning checks. Hence the process is very much expedited. The idea being that, these PEs are experienced enough that no further structural check is required by the authorities.

Which is fine and dandy, until one looks at the criteria for being eligible to become a PE. In Category A1 - Accredit Professional Engineer, the experience requirement given on page 23 states that:
The experience required for registration of an applicant shall be either one of the following requirements.
a) a minimum of 3 years of structural engineering design experience relevant to building work across an appropriate range of buildings out of which a minimum of 2 years of working experience as a structural checker in a relevant government authority OR

b) a minimum of 4 years of structural engineering design experience relevant to building work across an appropriate range of buildings out of which a minimum of 3 years of working experience under a certified professional engineer registered in this Regulation, subject to the Registrar’s approval OR

c) a minimum of 7 years of structural engineering design experience relevant to building work across an appropriate range of buildings subject to the Registrar’s approval.

Note: Under the Experience requirement for the registration of professional engineers, clause (c) is only applicable for the year 2009.
Item (a) is a clause put in to give PE status to existing civil/structural engineers who are working at municipality or construction ministry.

Item (b) is not applicapable as this enforcement of this regulation has just started this year. There is NO one who has 6 months (let alone 3 years) working under a PE.

Item (c) applies to most new engineers, but states 7 years, which is an overly long duration AND it applies to year 2009 only. This means any engineer whose experience reaches 7 years in 2010 or thereafter is not eligible! He has to go back to either (a) or (b).

And no, (b) just does not work in the real world. What it says is that one has to work under a PE for 3 years atleast. I know in developed countries charter-ship and the like are given after working under chartered engineers. But here in Maldives, there are very few opportunities, and the industry is very young. Fresh engineers will not get opportunities to work for existing PEs, and the PEs wont be able to hire that many new engineers as well. Most of the new engineers will have to freelance (as they currently do). Hence (b) cannot produce more PEs.

Hence, anyone who currently qualifies for PE (be it via a, b or c) gets the PE status and very few if any new PEs will be produced. And the PE are given special privilages during checks by authority, and hence they are able to grab more clients. The new graduates won't get the chance, as they don't have these privileges.

It is sad that these regulations are actually benefitting the ones who already have a competitive advantage due to experience and reputation. Some notable engineers have raised issue with using the world 'professional'. They say, it has a specific meaning in the world industry and what we are doing is diluting that name. This I agree. But we have a much bigger problem with the regulation, which unfortunately these prominent engineers are oblivious to, since they themselves qualify for PE. Currently about five or six engineers have taken the magic stamp.

More and more engineers are taking the magic stamp, and it will be even more difficult to revert this regulation. Some PEs now agree that the regulation is biased in their favour, though not enough to work to revert or atleast ammend the regulation.

I personally do qualify for PE status, but so far I have not taken the magic stamp. However, lot of people are asking me "Are you a PE?", and gives funny looks when I say I have not applied. I try to explain the reason why. Obviously, the clients prefer PEs as they can get drawings approved quicker. But if this continues for too long, I might have no choice but do as the saying says:
If you can't beat them, join them!


axee said...

Very true.... The Ministry that should be working in the interest of the public seems to have lost the bearing here very much..

The law has been clearly made to protect business of the veteran engineers as they will be getting less and less work as more engineers come to all comes down to economics....they are creating demand for engineers by limiting the people who can actually practice the work

The criteria for PE is not only unrealistic it will discourage students from taking engineering as no one will want to spend there money on a degree that is useless...


meekaaku said...

Yes, and this one has come into effect without much debate or public comment. It was more or less rushed through.

I wonder how many such legislation/regulations is under effect without the public really knowing whats going on.

imdhaah said...

Recently I had a discussion with friend of mine who is a civil engineer (not a PE) about getting a PE to stamp drawings for which he had designed. After a making, so many phone calls our conclusion was that these super engineers were reluctant to stamp designs by other engineers.

The basis of establishing the PE was to make the whole process easier for the public as it took 2 to 3 months to get approved drawings from Municipality, however now it takes 4 to 5 months if an individual doesn’t pay some extra cash to the PE to get his Super stamp.

Yes it comes down to demand and supply, doesn’t it all because its all about unlimited wants/needs and limited resources.

“I wonder how many such legislation/regulations is under effect without the public really knowing whats going on.”

I have always said that ignorance is not an excuse, but our institutions never did try to bring us into the light about the rights of the individual.

Anonymous said...

i wonder if you guys know, that the PE regulation actually contravenes existing law. yes, they are implimenting a "regulation" that has no "parent qanoon". as such this regulation would fall under "aammu qawaidhu thakaa behey qanoon". according to this qanoon, the NBPAR should have gone to majlis to be adopted, MHTE never sent it.

fathimath said...

sorry, the above comment was by me!

Anonymous said...

I am glad you have taken the clients point of view to make your point.
I feel they are really the ones that suffer at all ends of the game with ad hocism of all these regulations and codes.
planning permission should be given based on the intention to comply to the regulations and minimum documents that prove this intention.

whereas in Maldives the client goes to "so called" architect and an engineer, pays them full fees, and submits for approval only to be rejected on a technicality.

an apprentice engineer rejects the experienced professional.

I the goverment taking on the liability of the design?

Any how client spends more time and money gets approval in compliance wuth a building regulation that allows subplots as small as 90 sqft, no ventilation or daylight, no escape in case of fire, etc.etc.

i do not believe there are any building "professionals" in this country yet.

until their is a legal charter that recognizes and take responsibility for the built enviroment and the welbeing of the people.

Its up to the practitioners to push the politics.

I think architects and engineers have been apathetic towards the client, because of the high demand.
They have been happy to take the money and deliver shit even when they knew it was shit.

fathimath said...

to the anon above

"i do not believe there are any building professionals in this country yet"

thats why there are professional institutes, its their job,

I know 3 architects in this country who ARE endosed as professionals by internationally recognised professional institutes.

meekaaku said...

I am aware that the PE one does not have a parent qanoon. That didnt stop it from coming into effect. But the Building Act was being drafted at the time (based on the singapore one). And it is full of large fines and jail terms!! There is no way that could be ammended yet alone adopted. And whatever building act that comes out will give the necessary parenthood. With or without the parenthood, the issues are the same.