In my thirty years of experience as an engineer and as a consultant, I have dealt with large national and international projects, such as the disposal of industrial iron and steel waste, the remediation of contaminated sites, and the disposal of wastewater from ships.
For these major works it is normal, and often required by law, to contact a competent practitioner.
For small projects, however, the situation is very different.
Small customers are convinced that they do not need a project and can go directly to a supplier without consulting a design engineer.
I am going to give you some examples.
In 1995, I designed and built the hydraulic system of a private house. In 2005, the customer called me because the plant had problems. The pressure was lower. The water flow decreased. The boiler worked badly. Sometimes it did not go into operation, sometimes it worked intermittently. During the survey, I found that he had made changes to the plant. The customer justified himself surprisedly, saying that he had called the same plumber. I had to explain to him that the plumber did the job following my designs, my drawings, and my calculations.
In 2000, a customer called me for a survey. He was rebuilding a cantilever roof and replacing a shed with the help of a smith, who had built a beautiful porch for him in a different place years before. I found an incomprehensible three-dimensional tangle, with no structural or aesthetic sense. They had improvised on the field, both the customer and the smith. The customer, by guess-work. The smith, satisfying him and taking advantage of the situation. The customer was surprised because he had called the same smith of the veranda. I explained to him that on that occasion the smith had followed my designs, my drawings and my calculations. And I left them to their three-dimensional tangle.
In 2005, a customer asked me an opinion about the gate of his garage. During the survey, I explained him that his garage had some structural problems, which had to be solved before intervening on the gate. In particular, the access opening needed a new flat arch. After these works, he had to install a new gate of different structure and dimensions. I asked the smith to reinforce the old gate, and deferred the replacement after that the consolidation work had been done. Meanwhile, the customer turned to surveyors, who pretended to be engineers, and to handymen, asking for various opinions. My solution annoyed these improvised suppliers, who wanted to take advantage of the superficiality and of the ignorance of the customer.
Especially in small projects and with customers with less economic resources, the intervention of a practitioner is paramount. To comply with time and costs. To assess risks and opportunities. To coordinate the work without overlapping. To select the right suppliers and the most suitable materials. To assure easy maintenance and durability. It is the most appropriate opportunity to implement economic sustainability, ensuring efficient and prudent use of the few available resources, in addition to the environmental and social sustainability.
A project is needed and this project needs to be managed effectively. And projects need to be paid. This is to answer an acquaintance, who asked me with her big surprise: “Why? Do we have to pay for projects?”. Yes, and for professional consultancy too.
In conclusion, even for small projects and for small everyday needs, it is better to consult in advance engineers with experience in a particular sector. They can help you with the disposal of solid, liquid and gaseous waste. They can assist you with a technical inspection before purchasing a new house. They can help you with moisture, condensation, aeration, and lighting issues. They can suggest a technology, a material, or a supplier. They can provide you with energy-saving solutions.
Do not call them only after that the “do it yourself” has produced results different than expected, or a real disaster.
To choose an up to date and well trained, judicious, and reliable professional, read the curriculum, also on the Internet. Perform cross-checks, for example, by calling or sending e-mails to compare the data on the resume. If required, make sure that they are enrolled in a professional order. For example, you can refer to this article: “Difference between professional order and category association”. (Available only in Italian).
A woman engineer (in Italy) is called engineer, and not mistress, or miss, or doctor.
Design engineers are, without any discrimination, both men and women.
Paola Morgese, PMP
Civil Hydraulic Engineer
M.S. Sanitary and Environmental Engineering
Paola Morgese’s photo: With the workers at a contaminated Site of National Interest
Translation of the Italian blog post: Paola Morgese, “Perché consultare un ingegnere progettista”