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Question of Ethics?
2

Question of Ethics?

Question of Ethics?

(OP)
Hi,

I work in an engineering firm as a structural designer. We were asked to design an extension to an RC existing building belonging to a broadcasting corporation. The building's function was to serve as a storage facility for servers.

When we met the client: consisting of a top management representative and a technician, they strictly advised that the building should be protected from heat, sunlight, humidity, dust, and other climatic conditions which might jeopardize the servers and magnetic films.

Now, our company is doing this as a CR initiative; the funds are provided by another sister company. Our management had initially proposed to go forward with a steel design, with sheeting, and zinc roofing, in addition to glass cladding.

In my opinion (as well as my direct supervisor's) the structure will best serve it's purpose if it is designed with a RC roof without openings and with adequate protection. This proposition was vehemently opposed by our top management since they insist on going forward with their steel structure proposal.

My question is: is it ethically acceptable to design the building as a steel structure, knowing that it might not serve its intended purpose very well, even if the structure is designed safely? And wouldn't it be less cost effective to provide adequate protection from heat in the case of a steel structure than RC?


Appreciate your responses...

RE: Question of Ethics?

Don't know if this is a ethical question - I disagree with you and your supervisor a steel solution is the best solution.

Opinions are opinions, Right wrong or indifferent you can design a steel roof to meet the requirements of the client and unless your boss has a large number of shares of the local steel fabricator than I can see no problems.

http://www.nceng.com.au/
"Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning."

RE: Question of Ethics?

I don't know what your other option would be. Do the senior managment folks have engineering backgrounds and expertise? If so, it's not unethical to follow their direction. Sure, you can make a case for yours and your supervisors opinion but I don't think it's unethical to relinquish your opinion to someone who has more engineering experience than you do.

I don't really see this as unethical either.

PE, SE
Eastern United States

"If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then that builder shall be put to death!"
~Code of Hammurabi

RE: Question of Ethics?

I don't see this as an ethical issue either, except that you are perhaps going with a less expensive design to satisfy your internal issues rather than being responsive to the client's needs.

As RE noted, a steel framed building can work just fine for a variety of conditions, including thermal control. The structure has little to do with that. Yes, concrete has more mass and is fundamentally a better insulator; however, other forms of construction can be made just as serviceable.

RE: Question of Ethics?

Why do you view this as an ethics question? Your objection hings on "very well," and if there are no specific requirements spelled out for the "heat, sunlight, humidity, dust, and other climatic conditions which might jeopardize the servers and magnetic films" then where's the beef? Given that the customer hasn't explicitly spelled out the detailed requirements, how do you know that your approach is "better" and by how much? Presumably, the steel structure is way cheaper, but is the loss in protection commensurate with the lower cost?

TTFN
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies

RE: Question of Ethics?

lets look at the requirements v's the solutions

Normal design requirements of a sever room:

1. Water proof: steel is a little easier to maintain a seal to the building.

2. Dust and pest control: both steel and concrete installed correctly will preform well, however as concrete tends to shrink over time and as such cracks can form and without due maintenance pests could enter.

3. humidity: Has to do with the a/c not the structure. however a fully sealed building is required.

4. thermal: concrete is a little better, but is it the a/c that controls.

5. cabling: raise floor from a sealed concrete is standard these days compared to ceiling run.

6. Fire control: steel is easier to replace after a fire.

7. security: concrete has inbuilt security, however steel will need ply under the sheeting or similar to ensure security

8. expansion and flexibility: steel is best as it is likely that as the company grows so will the server room. Steel roofs can also be removed if replacement of a server is required. In my last sever roof the roof was built with lifting pins for just this reason.

9. cost: steel is litter lighter hence savings for structure will result.

10. environmental (earthquake, winds ect): both steel and concrete will prefer well if designed correctly, with steel having a slight advantage if in a earthquake zone.

11. cost: steel is normally an upfront minimum cost solution. over time this can change however it all depends on the growth of the company and server room expected life time.

Given the above I would go with a raised steel floor on a sealed concrete slab and footings with masonry or tilt walls and a steel roof. I would design the walls such that opening can be cut in the future without the requirement for strengthening.

http://www.nceng.com.au/
"Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning."

RE: Question of Ethics?

I don't see this as an ethical issue, either. However, for a critical data storage operation, there are issues to be considered that may not be covered in codes. For example, "other climatic conditions" brings to mind a recent project where such a building, originally built in accordance with all applicable codes, had to be modified due to concerns by the owner that hail accumulation could lead to blockage of roof drainage, causing leakage and/or structural failure. This was a building with steel roofing, and the concern would have been less with a concrete roof, provided of course that the membrane was intact.

RE: Question of Ethics?

(OP)
@rowingengineer,

Thanks for the analysis. Your conclusions were pretty accurate. We raised a RC roof and fixed a steel truss on top.

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