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Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else
15

Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

2
(OP)
Hello all,

I would like to bring your attention a move by the Florida Structural Engineer's Association to make a separate Structural Engineer license (SE) from the current Professional Engineer (PE) license that a civil engineer now must have to design structures.  Here is a link to the Structure magazine where you can read more on page 21.  http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/a4d69279#/a4d69279/20

I disagree with this move by the FSEA because it is part of a pattern to push more regulation onto businesses in the name of "safety."  Currently, a PE has an 8 hour exam, on top of another 8 hour fundamentals of engineering exam, on top of 4 years of experience.  A PE is required to only practice in areas where he is competent, just because you have a PE license doesn't mean you design structures if your knowledge is in waste water.  An SE license is a 16 hour exam, and most SEs will take that on top of their PE license.  Where does it end?

I think the truth is that structural engineers pushing for this are looking at their bottom line.  To me, this nation wide push for a 16 hour exam, in the nation where the Golden Gate Bridge, Empire State Building, and Hoover Dam were designed without such an onerous requirement, is guildism.  Not only that, but it sets a bad precedent.  Pretty soon, we'll see a push for a separate geotechnical license, after all, foundations are important too and people can die if they fail; a separate license for mechanical engineers designing hospital HVAC, after all, people can get really sick when the HVAC is malfunctioning and they can die.


While we're at it, let's just dismember civil engineering as profession and have a separate license for all our niches.  As long as we can have the word "death", "catastrophe", or any fear words, I'm sure we'll have a license for it.

Finally, for all the talk of STEM education in our society, how do we promote civil engineering to young people by saying "well, you see, you take an 8 hour exam, then wait 4 years, then another 8 hour exam...but that's not enough see, you need to then take another 16 hour exam...oh, and you have to fill out lots of paperwork and documentation too."

If you want to end the madness, find a Florida legislator and let them know your thoughts.  http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/#Senators

I doubt the FSEA or the "experts" are going to change their minds; they've made them up a long time ago and are pushing this on all 4 cylinders because it'll mean more money for a few at the expense of the many.  Make sure you mention that businesses and governments will incur greater costs overpaying overqualified engineers and that will kill jobs.  

Don't believe me, just look at the "great" state of Illinois, one of the most business unfriendly states, where, (suprise, suprise), you cannot even design a 3 story building, 20 foot bridge, any structure without an SE license.  Manufacturers in Illinois felt too warm and fuzzy about the safety of their structures, so they've been moving them across the border to Indiana, Kentucky, Wisconsin...any place but the land of Lincoln.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

3
Well, I cannot say that I agree with you here, but maybe I am prejudiced, too, as I walked that road 35 years ago.

The $$$ argument does not fly here as the door swings both ways. You stand to lose money if you are currently doing work that would require a structural license under the new guidelines. I would assume that that is your personal motivation for starting this string. No offense intended... Just an observation.

As for what was designed in the past and who did it, well, licensed structural engineer or not, Roebling was one of the greatest "structural" engineers of his time, and still is in my mind, licensed as such or not. That does not preclude changing the licensing rules when the rules become more complicated, or when a specialty area, such as structural engineering, develops.

Personally, I am just waiting for someone to get the idea to have ALL structural engineers mandatorily re-tested every 10 years or so. We already have PDH requirements to maintain your licensure in many states.

If you have been doing structural engineering, and are well versed in all of its facets, you should have no problem passing the test.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

I don't have a dog in this hunt, but the big question was already raised in the OP; "A PE is required to only practice in areas where he is competent" is the requirement, but as I've seen abundantly here, not many engineers really understand what that means, and the fact that "you don't know what you don't know" is pretty commonplace. There was recently a posting from a junior (??) in college who thought that gutting and replacing some structural elements in a house was trivial enough that he could do it himself, and it took MULTIPLE postings from experienced SEs before he was convinced to pass the work onto someone more experienced.

As has been pointed out in numerous threads, the PE exams are a minimum threshold of competency, and with buildings collapsing fairly often these days, there are lots of licensed engineers who aren't competent, even on simple things.

It just seems to me that an extended test is one way to get engineers to recognize how much they know, or don't know. A refresher test wouldn't seem that outrageous to me (I'm not a PE, so yeah...), but doctors, like my wife, are required to renew their board certifications every 5 years, which does entail A truckload of studying, particularly since the questions on the exam seem to be particularly obscure. Given that SEs are likewise responsible for the protection of people, a single, 16-hr exam seems almost too lax.

TTFN
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RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

IRstuff- Well said. I have seen some very scary retaining wall designs that were sealed by civil engineers. I have no problem with the 16 hour test (bias opinion since I took it many years ago)- and I wish more states would require continuing education. I am in favor of more states converting to SE requirements. I don't understand the resistance to this. I have been told that the ASCE even agrees with the provisions (at least in Arizona).

Please note that in most states where this has already been done, PEs can still design buildings up to 3 stories. The SE is only required for essential facilities and taller structures- even in California.

Gendna2- by the way, Arizona already does have a separate geotechnical registration, but we have a title act instead of a practice act here- so it is basically meaningless.



See http://www.seaoa.org/Resources/Documents/Structura... for the Structural Engineers of Arizona position

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

As someone who is taking the second day of the SE exam Saturday I fully support a separate license. The volume of knowledge when compared to other disciplines is ridiculous. I'd say that studying for the SE exam was key to identifying areas where my structural engineering knowledge was deficient and helping me to learn more about the profession I'm trying to enter.

To me, after studying for this exam and after seeing what people get away with in their "designs", if I was the owner of a new high rise structure I would be very worried if an SE had not designed it.

The exam is tough and really provides a good basis for judging if someone knows how to design a building or not. But, as Mike said, if you're proficient in designing buildings then the 16-hour test shouldn't be that bad, if you're not proficient then you shouldn't be designing structures anyway per the ethics requirements for engineers anyway.

About the only thing I see being wrong is the cost of the exam. At $1000 for both days it can be pretty rough if you miss it the first time around (which statistically most people will do).

Maine EIT, Civil/Structural.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

I come down with support for this measure. To me it is a simple issue of fairness. In my primary jurisdiction (Georgia) the state mandates that structural engineers have to take the new SE test even though they only recognize PE's. I had no option to softball it with the Civil-Structural PE, but somehow the licenses are the same indistinguishable. If you want the licenses to be the same then pony up a grand for 2 days of testing and make sure you have to work some real problems by hand rather than multiple guess. It might be construed as a form of protectionism, or it could be a recognition of the extreme complexity of the modern codes as it relates to buildings and bridges. Either way I am kinda sick of people looking in from the outside and declaring there is no reason for structural's to be any different. While it seems like protectionism to some, to me the protestations seem like a pissed off girl who didn't get invited to the dance. [\soapbox]
The principle of determining your own competence has never sat well with me. How do you tell you don't know what you don't know, or worse yet how do you tell you don't know what you think you know.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

I am drawing close to retirement with a basic PE license so am not pursuing the SE. I would recommend it highly for the young engineer wanting to get ahead in their career. The one downside I see to a full mandatory requirement is short-term. Many of us have effectively limited our professional areas of expertise to a few areas. In my case, structural and cold-formed steel. To suggest I have enough knowledge to pass an SE test without a huge amount of study in all the other areas of structural types would be silly on my part. I do know where I have sufficient expertise and the areas I don't. I haven't done a concrete design in almost 40 years and know enough not to act like I could do it today.
Sometimes it is just the basics. I recall an article in the Colorado Licensing newsletter a few years ago which to paraphrase said, "Hey, guys, you do need to design for lateral forces.", after a rash apparently of strip shopping center designs where the only design loads used were vertical.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

I can see no reason why structural engineering is any more of a public safety issue than any number of other fields. for instance, as a civil engineer, I can design a dam spillway to safely pass the probable maximum flood without overtopping which could easily cause millions of dollars in damage and lives lost. A geologist (not even an engineer) could monitor the safety of a rock slope in a mine that could bury trucks running a thousand feet below. and a team of civils, mechanicals and electricals could design a water filtration plant which protects the health of the entire city. all require specialized experience, none require a 16 hour test.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

There are a whole he££ of a lot more buildings than dams or mines.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

cvg, how many codes do you need to be familiar with to design any of those? One? Two? Four?

Taking the SE I had to be intimately familiar with 11 codes and specifications along with the complex design issues related to the four major building materials (steel, wood, concrete, masonry) along with geotechincal engineering and the challenges of wind and seismic design. In actual practice my boss probably has to be familiar with about 20+ codes and specifications to design buildings both existing and new, and we don't even do high-rise buildings or high seismic.

It's also not just the consequences of failure, it's the difficulty in determining that the structure is safe combined with the consequences of failure (both monetarily and for life safety).

As Mike said, there are a whole lot more buildings than dams or mines. If a lot of mines or dams were deficient would we hear about it in the news? Sure, but it wouldn't be a major disaster. If a lot of buildings were deficient then it often doesn't show up until you get a code level event, and then you get a major disaster like the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Lack of research and data for that quake, I know but you hopefully get the point.

Maine EIT, Civil/Structural.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

you seem to miss the point. to be expected since you do not have any experience designing a dam or working in a mine

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

Maybe we should have a Steel PE, Concrete PE, Wood PE, Masonry PE seals, as an eight or sixteen hour test could not even offer a true test of just one of these materials.

Garth Dreger PE - AZ Phoenix area
As EOR's we should take the responsibility to design our structures to support the components we allow in our design per that industry standards.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

So the discussion has turned to the reason(s) that the catastrophic risk associated with structural is typically higher than other engineering disciplines? In discussing this ad nauseum with fellow non-structural engineers we've come up with the following:

- many of the loadings are not reliably quantifiable. Seismic, wind, vehicular impact, wave/hydrodynamic, blast, live load, etc are all vaguely modeled mathematically with large variability in actual magnitude and application
- almost no structures are tested or are even practically able to be tested
- most structures aren't continuously monitored, and continuous monitoring is not practical/feasible in most cases
- if a structure fails it will often cause or catalyze the failure of a non-structural engineering work
- when disasters within other disciplines happen they are sometimes contained or protected by structures
- the service life of a structure is often indefinite due to lack of oversight or lack of planned/expected obsolescence
- lesser quality control in the construction of structures, and low reliability in the material characteristics (wood, concrete)
- the higher likelihood of naive modification of the product during its lifetime

Food for thought anyway. I do support separate licensing for structural, but I also readily admit that its a case of addressing the symptom and not the problem. To actually address the problem we need to work on our (USA's) engineering education system, and have a much more robust mechanism on the regulatory end for identifying and disciplining engineers that practice outside of their competency.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

Quote (namenottaken)

To actually address the problem we need to work on our (USA's) engineering education system, and have a much more robust mechanism on the regulatory end for identifying and disciplining engineers that practice outside of their competency.

Well said and 100% accurate.

Quote (cvg)

you seem to miss the point. to be expected since you do not have any experience designing a dam or working in a mine

Fair enough, but I'm not sure I did miss the point, please clarify if I misunderstood.

You said "I can see no reason why structural engineering is any more of a public safety issue than any number of other fields." My response was that, given the volume of codes required to be familiar with for structural design when compared to other disciplines, structural engineering requires more knowledge (practical and code understanding) than others. While codes (and especially complicated codes) do not alone provide a safe design they do provide a baseline with which to judge our designs and also provide a standard of care with which we can judge other engineers should something go awry. Thus, you could argue that by designing it to meet the applicable codes is the minimum amount of safety required.

Thus, I feel that it is more difficult to provide a design that meets a minimum of safety for a building than many other engineering design disciplines. This, combined with a nearly constant high consequence for failure in building design and a significant quantity of structures being designed improperly leads me to believe that such a license is the most practical solution to such a problem.

Maine EIT, Civil/Structural.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

Maine EIT,

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/photos/mount-polley-...

Example of engineering failure of a dam, at a mine, happened this summer in my backyard. Consequence of failure? look at the environmental devestation. This disaster will drain into the fraser river along which 3 million people live, and is host to one of the greatest salmon runs on the planet.

I don't envy the guys who put their ink on this kind of thing (i practice structural).

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

good one North
just lucky it wasn't a bit closer to a city, could have been much, much worse. dam repairs will easily be in the millions. lost mining revenue in the millions and civil penalties, clean up and legal fees also in the millions. this is probably a 100 million dollar screw up. g

http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Stephen+Hume+Poli...

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

Maybe I wasn't clear, I never claimed that dam or mine failures didn't have significant consequences. Quite the opposite, I believe they often have much worse consequences than a structural building failure. My point was that there are a lot more buildings than dams and if you're regularly designing large building structures the volume of knowledge required to practice that discipline is much greater. Thus, a more specialized license like the SE, which is the whole point of this thread.

In short, I'm not saying that the consequences of failure are equal or greater. I'm saying that a larger volume of knowledge is required to design most buildings correctly, and there's many more buildings than dams or mines. You are right that more buildings does not necessarily equal more lives affected if failure occurs but it does mean we have more people designing and stamping buildings and thus there's a greater chance for people to be getting away with doing it wrong.

Plus, I imagine the figure of $100 million dollars is low but if we're throwing examples out look at the CTV building in the 2010 Christchurch earthquake: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CTV_Building The structural engineer was practicing outside of his qualifications and nobody caught it. 115 people died and a 6 story building collapsed. If you assume $1 million per lost life (low) then this was a $115 million disaster in life lost alone, regardless of the cost of rescue, cleanup, and the building's value.

Maine EIT, Civil/Structural.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

cvg, I think the primary difference between risk with dams and buildings is that dams typically have a lot more oversight. I've worked on several structures that were critical to dam safety and FERC is pretty stringent as is the Corps. With a building no compenent person outside your company may ever look at the design.

Nobody has yet mentioned the free market (not that we have one) and how that may impact SE practice acts. One way of looking at it is business and government teaming up to keep competitors out of the field. Yes, the SE is rigorous and may keep some incompentent people out of the practice, but the test is actually quite shallow compared to the actual breadth of knowledge that's needed in an SE practice. So, does an SE practice act actually make people safer in a measurable objective way? Can you prove it with numbers or only with an "it makes sense that it would." It's an actual question, not a rhetorical one.

Yes, I've passed the SE exam.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

Maine EIT,

You have repeatedly said that structurals require greater knowledge than other civils. This is not only incorrect, but very insulting.

-a structural

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

North: I repeatedly said that it requires more knowledge of codes and specifications. But I did say that it requires more "practical [knowledge] and code [knowledge]" earlier and I will stand by this.

While I'm not trying to belittle other disciplines nor say that structural engineers are smarter, I am saying that structural engineering is harder in that it requires you to be more focused in the discipline otherwise you likely can't ethically say you're practicing in your field of competence. Yes, I'm sure many people will be insulted by this but it's my belief and I've attempted to back it up. By all means make a counter-argument as I will easily admit that there's no possible way I could be entirely right nor entirely confident in such a statement.

If anyone should be insulted it's me. I've made a dedicated effort to provide quantifiable proof to back up my statements. Your and cvg's arguments refuting this, with the exception of your post above citing the dam failure, have provided no evidence other than "no, you're wrong!"

As a reasonable quantifiable value I've looked at the NCEES exam requirements for some of the civil PE exams listed on the NCEES website and counted the number of code references I could find:

ARCHITECTURAL ENGINEERING: About the same as structural for obvious reasons, however I would hope we can agree that the depth of knowledge expected is lower.
CIVIL-CONSTRUCTION: 9 codes listed.
CIVIL-GEOTECHNICAL: 2 codes listed.
CIVIL-STRUCTURAL: 9 codes listed.
CIVIL-TRANSPORTATION: 11 codes listed. (But 6 of them AASHTO and I think we can agree this is a much more focused discipline than structural)
CIVIL-WATER RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENTAL: No codes listed but quite a wide body of knowledge, I imagine not much depth in many of these though.
INDUSTRIAL: No codes listed but a number of codes and standards referenced in the text.
MINING AND MINERAL PROCESSING: No codes listed but about 3 standards referenced in the text.
NUCLEAR: No codes listed. (But I imagine there is many, but I would also think we can agree it's a more focused discipline)

NCEES 16-HOUR STRUCTURAL: 11 codes listed.

If that's not enough then lets look at the pass rates for the PE exams (first time taker and repeat pass rates):

Agricultural (October 2013) 69 50
Architectural 72 17
Chemical 74 25
Civil 70 39
Control Systems (October 2013) 76 53
Electrical and Computer: Computer Engineering 71 0
Electrical and Computer: Electrical and Electronics 73 36
Electrical and Computer: Power 68 43
Environmental 51 28
Fire Protection (October 2013) 69 37
Industrial 69 15
Mechanical 72 40
Metallurgical and Materials (October 2013) 62 0
Mining and Mineral Processing (October 2013) 71 37
Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering 81 67
Nuclear (October 2013) 54 44
Petroleum (October 2013) 75 53
Software 64 50

Lowest were Nuclear, Environmental around 51-54%.

16 Hour SE pass rates (and these are way up from the last year):
SE Vertical Component 45% 26%
SE Lateral Component 43% 37%

On top of this NCEES and many states felt that 8 hours was not a long enough exam and that's why we had the structural 1 and structural 2 exams which are now the 16 hour structural exam. Some states require local exams on top of the structural exam. Plus the afternoon of both days are essay questions. They felt that multiple choice wasn't sufficient to determine competency.

On top of THAT I took vertical twice before I passed it and can say from experience that you could tell who was either PE civil/structural or SE as we had the most texts. I myself used two suitcases to bring all my books in with other structural exam takers doing similar. PE civil/structural had slightly less as they don't need seismic codes for the exam.

So, if you can come up with another way to quantify body of knowledge required or difficulty of practicing or number of codes required to be familiar with then please share it. Otherwise I stand by my statement that structural engineering of multi-story buildings is one of the broadest and hardest disciplines to become competent in.

And that's why I support a structural license.

Maine EIT, Civil/Structural.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

And I'm not talking about designing a structure or structural component. Any competent engineer can design simple structures or learn a structural code and so on. That's not what I mean nor what a structural engineering license should be for. Illinois is completely wrong and this Florida proposed SE license and the California SE license get it right are only required for specific structures. This is what I mean, to be competent in designing an entire building with multiple stories and of various materials requires the body of knowledge I'm referring to.

Also, I'm not saying that this is right. Believe me, I agree theonlynamenottaken (above) and think that the size and complexity of the building design codes are ridiculous when combined with the absurdly short code cycle. The need for a SE license is entirely fabricated by the engineering community. I would fully support a push to simplify design requirements such that a SE license is not required. But, as that's probably not going to happen any time soon the SE license makes sense.

Maine EIT, Civil/Structural.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else


Quote (TehMightyEngineer)

On top of THAT I took vertical twice before I passed it

Be glad I am not governor of your state: 1 strike and you're out. No retakes! pipe

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

Wow...on a test where the combined passing rates for both halves is less than 20% that's just ridiculous.

Maine EIT, Civil/Structural.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

I was only joking. Congratulations on passing!

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

I support the florida measure due to the unique demands of that part of the country ( hurricanes). Civil engineering is a broad discipline , and in theory one could have an expert in wastewater treatment stamping a structural design for a building in a severe hurricane zone without such a measure. The same reasoning was applied to California regarding their earthquake potential . When a bank or insurance company wants to under-right the risk associated with a large structure in an area that has significant risk from hurricanes or earthquakes, they have the right to know it was designed by a structural engineer and not a wastewater expert. To avoid starving the CE's that currently are stamping drawings outside of their expertise, one could compromise by allowing any CE to stamp a structural drawing for smaller, lower risk structures.

"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad "

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

Swiver: Oh, I thought you meant that your actual state had such a rule. Whoops, missed that joke. Also, haven't passed yet, waiting on results in December.

Maine EIT, Civil/Structural.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

davefitz
"The same reasoning was applied to California regarding their earthquake potential . When a bank or insurance company wants to under-right the risk associated with a large structure in an area that has significant risk from hurricanes or earthquakes, they have the right to know it was designed by a structural engineer and not a wastewater expert."

Nope!!!

"CIVIL ENGINEERS may design any building of any type EXCEPT public schools and hospitals."

As stated in the attachment.

Garth Dreger PE - AZ Phoenix area
As EOR's we should take the responsibility to design our structures to support the components we allow in our design per that industry standards.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

perhaps better codes and regulations requiring risk assessment, higher factors of safety, engineered O&M plans, licensing and mandatory inspections, and emergency action plans would be more effective than a longer exam.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

I could have sworn there was a height limit in CA where the SE had design authority, or was this changed recently?

Maine EIT, Civil/Structural.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

TehMightyEngineer

The height limit in California was changed a long time ago.

Garth Dreger PE - AZ Phoenix area
As EOR's we should take the responsibility to design our structures to support the components we allow in our design per that industry standards.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

cvg, perhaps, though that may only seek to raise costs and provide even further incentives to cut corners and not build or design the building properly. I do agree entirely that avoiding the need for an SE exam is a much better approach but with the huge push the building industry has made to refine structural design codes to their limit, resulting in their stupid level of complexity, I doubt they'll backtrack now.

Perhaps a balanced compromise is best, improve the codes to reduce complexity with minimal sacrifices of efficiency, keep the SE exam but limit the design authority to only critical buildings like hospitals and such (as apparently CA does), provide more teeth to states to pursue engineers practicing outside of their experience, and provide some system to improve on the continuing education system to verify continued competency without too much impact on the bureaucratic hoops needed to jump through to maintain a license.

Maine EIT, Civil/Structural.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

woodman: thanks for correcting me, I do seem to recall reading that a while back. Being about the farthest from CA one can get and still be in the US it's not something I run into often.

Maine EIT, Civil/Structural.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

I like your thinking cvg.

Quote (cvg)

perhaps better codes and regulations requiring risk assessment, higher factors of safety, engineered O&M plans, licensing and mandatory inspections, and emergency action plans would be more effective than a longer exam

If this call for separate licensing of structural engineers is actually driven by a history of structural failures that would be the most apt way to address the problems and not the symptom.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

3
I'm really surprised that the consensus seems to be in favor of special SE licensing with a 16 hour exam. I live and work in Florida, and have been designing building for longer than I'd like to admit. I think it's a dumb idea.

What's to be gained? Increased safety? Right! I feel safer just because somebody knows how to pass a test, with all the study guides, refresher courses, etc. available to them. And of course, the contents of the test are a comprehensive compilation of everything you need to know at a minimum in order to competently design more "complex" buildings. After all, why should I be able to design a four story building when it's so much more complicated than a three story building.

What else could be gained? More "prestige" for the profession? More respect? Do you think they'll actually finally pay us what we're worth?

I don't get it. I've earned my right to practice my profession over many years of learning something new almost every single day. A 16 hour exam pales into insignificance in comparison, and proves nothing.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

@spats
It seems that most here agree that the actual issue is the engineers that knowingly or unknowingly practice outside of their competency. I regularly encounter structures that were obviously designed by engineers practicing outside of their competency; wholly inadequate or even nonexistent lateral force resisting systems, wood flexural members called out with no specification of connections that end up end-grain nailed, steel and wood beams obviously designed using strength without checking stiffness/deflection, compression members designed that completely neglected any axial load eccentricity, etc, etc. While the test doesn't give an engineer,

Quote (spats)

everything you need to know at a minimum in order to competently design more "complex" buildings
it does cull out the folks that exhibit that level of deficiency in structural knowledge. So, to that extent, I would feel safer knowing an SE designed something. There is the chance that a non-SE such as yourself with years of experience could be the designing engineer if an SE wasn't required, but in requiring an SE you know that the aforementioned level of inadequacies won't be occurring.

As I said in an earlier post above, a more robust mechanism for identifying those engineers or those designs on the regulatory end would be more fruitful. I've had 300 page calculations packages for buildings in Florida come back to me with very minute and specific redlines from building departments that proved that someone with some knowledge went through every single line of calcs. But in some parts of the country I've seen building plans stamped with a NCBDC (residential building designer) stamp instantly get permitted because all they know to do is to look for a "stamp".

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

You bring up plenty of good points spats so I'll provide a counter-argument as I'm quite curious was your responses will be. Doubly because unlike most (all?) of the other posters here, myself included, you actually have a fair amount at stake here it seems.

Increased safety is one thing but I would also include money. Irregardless of safety, insurance companies and owners want all buildings being built to the same standard. How many times have you heard about a hurricane coming through and ripping roofs off of buildings? How many of those buildings were under designed? There's a great article by O'Rourke on snow related roof collapses that was in the January 2013 Structure magazine (found it in our library by accident the other day). He was checking whether the number of roof collapses in 2010-2011 were due to higher snow loads than the code-level loads. His conclusion was that the snow loads were at code levels. 61% of the buildings with failures were old designs, with lower design loads. The rest failed for other reasons, which he attributes to "hidden" structural defects. Of those defects, initial design defects is his #1 hypothesis.

And, yes, safety as well. I'm sure you've more than once run into something poorly designed in an existing building. I know I have and it sounds like I have only a small portion of the experience you have.

As for prestige, respect, pay, etc.; I suspect it will do little but I can hope and it certainly can't hurt.

Obviously there is little difference between a 3 story building and a 4 story building. You have to make the cutoff somewhere. If you have an SE requirement what limit would you say is where structural design changes difficulty? Would you rather it be 6 story buildings? Or perhaps 3 stories to 5 stories the SE has to do some sort of partial review and then 6 stories requires the SE to do the design? I'm being semi-sarcastic here but my point is some reasonable cutoff has to happen. A limit after 3 stories seems reasonable to me given how most buildings are 2 stories or less.

You mention the exam a few times. You say the SE exam doesn't provide a good metric to judge competency and also imply you have nothing to learn from the exam. If that is the case then such an exam should be relatively easy for an experienced, practicing structural engineer, right? If that's not the case then doesn't it stand to reason that you can learn something from the exam? The only other way I can see this is that experience does not equal test taking ability. Obviously this is true to some degree but I would put forward that I estimate I've learned about as much studying for this exam as I did in the past few years of experience working in the engineering field. I would 100% say that taking this exam made me a better engineer and would put forward that there is something to be learned here regardless of experience.

That said, I will agree on a number of points. Exams do not prove competency, only prove minimal aptitude. Experience is more valuable than simple "exam-level" knowledge (but both are important). And the SE exam covers many aspects that may not be relevant. Seismic design for example, I've only once done anything for SDC C. That said, I'm sure it wont be the last and I feel I now have a minimal enough level of competency in seismic design from taking the exam so that learning it was entirely worth it.

Finally, last I checked the Florida SE license was going to include a grandfathering clause such that PE's who practiced in the field of structural engineering and could demonstrate past projects would be grandfathered in as SE's.

Maine EIT, Civil/Structural.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

TehMightyEngineer

You make some interesrting points.

But the problem, as I see it, is that the state boards are not doing their job.

We be better off fighting to get the state boards to do their jobs. IMHO

Garth Dreger PE - AZ Phoenix area
As EOR's we should take the responsibility to design our structures to support the components we allow in our design per that industry standards.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

I agree woodman but have no idea how to do this other than some sort of design audit or something similar by the state boards and/or attorney general's office. I would rather have another license than that. By all means propose a better system and I'll happily agree with it.

Maine EIT, Civil/Structural.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

TehMightyEngineer

If the state boards will not enforce the current license what good will a new license do? If the deadheads need the new license they will just take a class to pass it. Then we have the same situation we have now.

Garth Dreger PE - AZ Phoenix area
As EOR's we should take the responsibility to design our structures to support the components we allow in our design per that industry standards.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

theonlynamenottaken... Why would/should structural engineers be singled out for competency? All disciplines are involved in aspects of design related to life safety. Doesn't my PE, years of experience and continuing education give me the proper credentials? PE is no longer good enough?

This is really starting to sound elitist to me. You're not going to keep somebody from operating outside of their expertise by having them pass an exam. I would never try to design a high-rise building, but I'll bet I can pass the SE exam. You also cite people doing stupid stuff such as "nonexistent lateral force resisting systems". Unfortunately, you can't fix stupid, and you can't stop them from practicing outside of the expertise if they see good money that's "beyond their pay grade". It happens in all professions. That's why we have regulatory boards, disciplinary hearings, fines, criminal charges and license revocation.

tehmightyengineer... I don't think I ever said that I couldn't learn something from taking the exam. I also didn't say that it's not a good metric to judge competency. I have no direct knowledge of the types of questions or problems involved. I do, however, strongly suspect that they would ask me questions about things that have nothing to do with what I do for a living... a living that they're threatening by not allowing me to design certain types of structures because I didn't get yet another license.

I'm glad to hear that I might be able to get grandfathered in, because I am a grandfather.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

Woodman: Finding and disciplining someone without a license would be much easier than finding someone practicing outside of their competency. In addition, I would suspect/hope that as people got used to such a license requirement more people would know that an SE was required for some buildings and thus would know if something was up when they received drawings without an SE stamp.

But, as you point out, this is not an ideal fix and I agree. I would definitely rather have PE boards with more teeth than a SE license.

As for passing the exam by just taking a class or two; I can safely say that you are not going to pass the SE exam without at least some idea of how structural design is done. It's just not possible. I would bet good money that nobody could ever "fudge" their way through the 16-hour SE exam.

Spats: Good points. I agree, experience does matter, and for that you get grandfathered in (hopefully). Anyone new entering the field (like me) should be seriously considering the SE, even in non-SE states (like me) as we're the ones who will be required to have the license without any vast amount of experience to prove our competency. It's the same reason why we have reciprocity for individuals who have many years engineering experience but have not taken a modern PE exam. Experience does count for something still. I would also say that regardless you're quite right, but exams are the best way I know of to prove competency and we all know that people can be experienced without competency.

I agree that we can't stop people operating outside of their competency, but this seems the best fix in my mind. You make a very valid point that you can't fix stupid but you can at least make it easier to spot. Someone operating without an SE license is easier for a state board to catch and prove than competency. Plus, I think most of these hypothetical engineers aren't malicious, merely ignorant (or lazy). Ideally, an SE requirement would at least get them to notice what they don't know and hopefully provide their own revised measure of competency.

As for your replies to me I apologize; I misunderstood.

I would say that the exam is 70% very typical structural design elements that every structural engineer should know or be familiar with, and 20-30% stuff that engineers typically don't deal with (like seismic for non-seismic areas, wood or masonry for people who don't use them much, pre/post-stressed concrete, or bridge design). However, none of it is useless and I feel it is all stuff that structural engineers should want to be familiar with. Overall I felt that the exam was mostly representative of typical day-to-day design work but it's not perfect. Also, they give you little to no time to finish questions so a good portion of the difficulty does come from the time limits. This does help prove competency but is a somewhat dirty trick and cost me a passing score first time I took the vertical day.

Maine EIT, Civil/Structural.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

TehMightyEngineer

"As for passing the exam by just taking a class or two; I can safely say that you are not going to pass the SE exam without at least some idea of how structural design is done. It's just not possible. I would bet good money that nobody could ever "fudge" their way through the 16-hour SE exam."

When you miss the point you sure miss it.
I am talking about the light weights who got their BS in engineering (the same ones who are now operating outside of their expertise) and now all they have to do is pass a test to continue.
I am sorry but anyone who gets a BS in engineering should be able to study up to pass just one test. And passing the test will not mean they won't operate outside of their expertise.

Garth Dreger PE - AZ Phoenix area
As EOR's we should take the responsibility to design our structures to support the components we allow in our design per that industry standards.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

Woodman: I got your point that it is only one exam meaning that it's only one more step, however it is a huge step. As I said before I can all but guarantee one cannot be less than minimally competent in structural engineering yet pass the SE exam. Sure, someone could study for a year or two and get enough knowledge to pass the SE exam, but at that point they should be at least minimally competent anyway.

Have you actually taken the SE exam? It's not something you can just "pass".

Quote (woodman88)

And passing the test will not mean they won't operate outside of their expertise.

Of course, but at least now they should have an idea of what their limits are or at least know what they must study to gain expertise. Sure, someone who maliciously is practicing outside of their experience will not be stopped by this but it should make it harder for them to get away with it.

Maine EIT, Civil/Structural.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

Quote (TehMightyEngineer)

Have you actually taken the SE exam?

Nope. I got my California Civil with a eight hour national test (that I passed doing mostly structural and hydraulics/water treatment) and a two hour Seismic plus a two hour Surveying tests.

Garth Dreger PE - AZ Phoenix area
As EOR's we should take the responsibility to design our structures to support the components we allow in our design per that industry standards.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

You actually reminded me of something I forgot to ask. What are your thoughts on the CA specific seismic and surveying exams?

Maine EIT, Civil/Structural.

RE: Against a Separate Structural Engineering License in Florida or Anywhere Else

Not much. You just study and pass them. But understand that it has been a long time since I took them.
I do not think they have improved engineering in California.

Garth Dreger PE - AZ Phoenix area
As EOR's we should take the responsibility to design our structures to support the components we allow in our design per that industry standards.

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