This word ‘Qualification’ is key to the fabric of our world economy and civil structures. Everything we do in our day is a qualification process.
It’s human nature to advance and filter what’s best for us. Natural selection of species is a qualification process in itself albeit an extremely complicated one… the features and assets that are required to adapt and survive in the world are qualified into each species genome!
Let’s look to google to define for us the word ‘qualification’
- A special skill or type of experience or knowledge that makes someone suitable to do a particular job or activity.
- A pass of an examination or an official completion of a course, especially one conferring status as a recognised practitioner of a profession or activity.
- Something that is necessary in order for you to do, have, or be a part of something.
- A condition that must be fulfilled before a right can be acquired; an official requirement.”The five-year residency qualification for presidential candidates’
This word ‘Qualification’ is key to the fabric of our world economy and civil structures. Everything we do in our day is a qualification process. It’s human nature to advance and filter what’s best for us. Natural selection of species is a qualification process in itself albeit an extremely complicated one… the features and assets that are required to adapt and survive in the world are qualified into each species genome!!
Let’s walk through a couple scenarios to gather an understanding of what my stance is on the word “qualification” at present and how it can be applied:
Qualification Example 1: Purchase of New Car
- Qualification Level 1: You develop a savings plan with an intent to buy a new car. Your savings budget is set based on the type of car you would like, the performance characteristics, the ability of that car to maintain value, cost of maintenance, family situation i.e. how many kids to cater for, colours available, fuel efficiency, and the like. Each of these elements mentioned here are key qualifications and you have set to define for your savings and ultimate purchase.
- Qualification Level 2: You set your budget for $100k
- Qualification Level 3: You engage car salesmen, articles, posts and reviews online, etc. to determine the best value for money selection which meets your budget limitations.
- Qualification Level 4: You test drive!! Bring me the keys : )
- Qualification Level 5: You repeat Level 3 for a few months
- Qualification Level 5: Repeat Steps 4 & 5 again and again.
- Decision made!! (Hopefully with the qualifications aligned to your requirements)
When it comes to purchasing a car with an aim to save and find the best fit (both for personal, pride, economic and various other reasons) you take your time to qualify the right car.
Now let’s look at another example. You may be wondering where I’m going with this. Hold on for another couple minutes : )
Qualification Example 2: Require Open Heart Quadruple By-Pass Surgery
- Qualification Level 1: You have been diagnosed as high risk or had a recent situation whereby you require an urgent surgery to be performed.
- Qualification Level 2: You discuss with your insurance provider what cover you have and which professionals you can approach for the procedure, i.e. public vs. private sector (varies here depending on what country you are in.)
- Qualification Level 3: The nature of the health industry (at least in the Western World) is such that 99% of the doctors and surgeon’s have experience and qualifications to perform open heart surgery.
- No test driving happening here….. the nature of the health care industry will demand qualification. Thus you are very likely to be in good hands!!
Now. Let’s follow on with an example from experiences had in the building industry for comparison.
Qualification Example 3: Design & Construction Project – Psychiatric Health Voluntary Stay Facility
- Background: A Design and construct brief was prepared by a Consulting Engineering team (we will not name companies in these articles). The brief was issued across all disciplines inclusive of electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, fire, etc. out to the market to obtain quotes from Builders looking to take on the design and construct project.
- Engaged Builder: Builder was engaged with exactly “NO” large scale health accommodation level project experience.
- Engaged Sub-Contractors (Mechanical): Along for the ride a mechanical contractor was engaged by the builder with exactly “NO” experience with large scale health accommodation level project experience.
- Mechanical Engineer: The original mechanical engineer on the project had a number of years experience and was quite capable to delivery a design concept however was not willing to provide design and certification against his design to WA Health Guidelines. Thus he was not …you guessed it: “QUALIFIED” to sign off on the design he offered.
- Thus where we were thrown into the mix to find means to resolve certification elements. Needless to say this is a messy, painful and risky process. We are QUALIFIED to see this project through. In hindsight we may have done a better job at QUALIFYING the client in this project. That’s another matter for discussion however.
- Questions: Throughout the project I’m asking myself “How in the world do residential house builders get involved in a project of this scale? You have to learn to walk before you can run. A commercial project of this scale requires an entirely different level of project management and coordination.”
- Reflection: In thinking above we could point the finger at the builder, contractor however it’s not necessarily their fault entirely they were unqualified and engaged for the works. The client team appointed without QUALIFYING the builder / contractor team. They are entirely responsible in that they were awarded the project to a contractor without sufficient experience to back it up.
- Analogy: A direct analogy to above Qualification Example 2:
- An open heart surgery is required.
- A GP with no heat surgery experience is given the opportunity to do the procedure.
- For some crazy reason both the GP and the patient agree to give it a go!! lol
- Note we don’t want to state in above that a build is comparable to the life and health of an individual but would like to highlight that a building in all it’s respects caters to the well being of more than one individual.
- Further examples of lack of qualification on above project:
- Mechanical contractor has never compiled an Operations & Maintenance Manual
- Commissioning process and expectations needed explanation
- Discharge / intake cowls to suit overall building ventilation requirements were not coordinated and installed between the builder / contractor for the day of the Health Board walk through.
No one in a right state of mind would let a General Practitioner with no surgery experience perform open heart surgergy!! This is an extreme example however unfortunately this is what is happening in the building and construction industry we are involved in. I wish I was making this up. Scary to think.
Now imagine the de-valuation process or lack of industry repercussions that are currently taking place.
Lack of Qualification repercussions:
Now let’s look at the same examples from above and offer more perspective. You may ask…that’s fine however you can’t compare open heart surgery, purchasing a car, and building construction to the same problem. That is not the intent in this article. The intent is to explain why smart, practical, qualified decisions lead to better outcomes.
Repercussions & Outcomes to Car Purchase (Example 1):
- Purchase may be over the $100k budget thus leading to lack of future credit and financial hurdles
- Purchase may have been the lowest price on the lot (i.e. I decided to buy the $10k Pinto ahead of the $75k Cadillac) however the Pinto lasted me 3 months.
Repercussions & Outcomes to Surgeon selection for open heart surgery (Example 2):
- A qualified doctor performed the surgery and life goes on. No issues
- An unqualified doctor performs the surgery…things appear normal post surgery however after a few months major issues start creeping up and life threatening symptoms are evident. Either life / death is the outcome or further expensive surgeries are required to resolve.
Repercussions & Outcomes to Unqualified Builder, Contractor, Engineering team (Example 3):
- NONE. (Honestly for this project there are no repercussions. Other larger scale projects surely can have major consequences however for this example which is reflective of the majority there are no risks for the contractor outside of extra time and effort to tidy up paperwork)
- Future maintenance considerations may be highlighted here however the nature of the installation is such that a comparison of how the building currently is built and systems installed against a base case of “what could have been”. simply will not afford any time or effort.
You may see above as an isolated example however NOT TRUE. We see these occurrences time and time again. As I write this post I have an e-mail in my Outlook for a project in Port Hedland we were requested to provide a quote for 3 years ago. They ended up passing on our quote and allowing a mechanical contractor to provide a Design & Construct to meet the client’s budget. Condensation issues are now a major concern to the building and costs to resolve are going to be exorbitant.
Thus is the nature of the building industry. Many professionals are involved in the process of building construction from architect, surveyor, BCA consultant, project manager, engineering consultants, builder, contractors, etc. Trying to hold a team accountable after appointment is nearly impossible (as everyone is just too busy working through their scope). There are typically too many players in the project and too many scope items to be resolved once everyone is given their Purchase Order to proceed. Qualifying the team from DAY 1 is the best hedge, insurance policy for a client and developer to minimise the risk to DE-valuing a property development from the start.
We stress that when a project feasibility takes place the client / developer is MORE responsible for qualifying his team than anyone. A project’s outcomes are already written in stone upon engagenement of your professional team. The only variable to the outcomes are the timing of delivery.
The client / developer is also ULTIMATELY responsible for qualifying their own ideas & projects in the first place. If a careful due diligence & feasibility was carried out in a suitable manner with integrity, honesty and perspective then the viability of a project actually going ahead successfully with qualified risk can be proven from DAY ‘O’.
“Those who constantly qualify everything and have no opinions of their own are ultimately just as incapable of tolerance.”
So let’s ask the question now… why hire qualified engineers for your development projects?
- Ensure compliance requirements are met with respect to NCC.
- As an insurance policy to the tender market whereby builder’s tell you what you want to hear, i.e. “Here is your budget that you’d like. Ignore how we delivery it to you.”
- Fundamentals of engineering and the nature of process are established in the core of who we are and how we are trained. You are engaging professionals who think in the best interest of the public and the client’s requirements, i.e. willing to tell you good news and things you don’t want to hear.
- Peace of Mind you are getting best value for money and your KPIs are well aligned with your budget.
“QUALIFICATIONS, TRUST AND EDUCATION”
What we seek with our key and valued client base in the industry is:
- Qualification: Ensure our clients are qualifying us in an equal manner to our competitors. We would like to be engaged on merit along as opposed to low fee.
- Trust: We would appreciate our clients acknowledge and respect our qualifications and as such have trust in the process and outcomes that we will deliver them
- Education: We would appreciate our clients acknowledge that we hold high value in the ability to educate them and empower them to make advanced decisions on their key projects
The opposite to above key elements we seek are of course “lack of qualification, lack of trust, and lack of education.” This 3 part series will delve into Trust & Education further in the coming weeks. These elements currently tend to drive the market currently (be it booming or bust ironically).
At Froster Engineering (www.frosterengineering.com.au) we practice what we preach as our engineers are Degree Qualified and either hold PE / Chartered Status or are seeking. We want our clients to know that we are passionate to maintain and prove our merit and qualifications on their key development projects. We respect our qualifications as much as we respect the large amount of time, value and effort the projects our client’s are looking to create require.
You may ask why I’m so passionate re: this topic. Everything we do and are striving for the market to achieve with respect to sustainable, smart, practical design is impacted by above.
See below take home in wrapping this post up. Note we rent an office tenancy nearby where this photo took place. We advised the owner of the paint shop who recently installed this new evaporative cooling unit that the location of the condensing units within 1m of the unit will greatly diminish performance, i.e. dumping 50 Deg C air from the side blow condenser fan to one of 3 open intakes on the evap unit. Thus nearly 33% of the airflow will see a much higher temperature on entry. The installer may have been qualified and had a proven record for evaporative unit installations, however you can clearly see a qualified engineer was not involved in the process. We offered our $0.02 to the owner no charge and are still awaiting an opportunity to take a new photo of this site, i.e. with the blanking panel on the same side facing the unit. Two weeks in and we see the same arrangement has not changed. Try expounding this small example across a larger scale project and try to list all the either unknown issues or simply matters that are brushed under the rug as “too late, already installed.”
To avoid your job going PEAR shaped PLEASE do yourself a favour and QUALIFY QUALIFY QUALIFY!!
Have a look at this cool video and you can get a better understanding of why this is important. President Barak Obama was strong enough to disqualify himself from a US Presidential run in 2004. We all know waiting was not an issue and in fact he ended up winning 2 terms as President. He was not getting ahead of himself and QUALIFIED HIMSELF BRILLIANTLY! : )