CivilStructural.com.my 25 Aug 2013
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Working experience of civil and structural consulting engineer (Intermediate)

This report is to explain and highlight the knowledge and experience gained in civil engineering. I have been working for four main consulting firms. The first three consulting firm as an employee. In final and current consulting firm, I am engaged on project basis where I will get paid when I secure and complete a project. The consulting firms I worked in are listed below.

Date                                 Consulting  Firm
May 1994 to April 1996      Reka Engineering Consultant
May 1996 to October 1996 Maharunding
November 1996 to September 2006 DW Perunding
October 2006 to July 2009  AZ Engineering

When I graduated from university, I joined Reka Engineering Consultant as a civil and structural engineer in May 1994. I worked for duration of about two years, and then moved to another firm. During the course of employment with this firm, I spent most of my time in design. My boss was Ir Tung Kwok Choon delegated to me many design tasks ranging from small scale projects to larger scale projects such as the Bandar Baru Nilai Project. I was very fortunate because during that time, our economy was booming; a lot of projects were being implemented. My company was benefited from the boom. As a result, I was busy all the time; and even had to work over time up to 10pm or 11pm even in weekends.

Later I joined Maharunding for couple of months before I moved to DW Perunding where I worked for about 10 years. Under Maharunding, I had learnt to be more independent. The economy was still booming and as a result, I am also very busy handling projects under Maharunding. I had the chance of being involved in an oversea project in Seychelles; where I face difficulties dealing with standard of design and detailing different from that I am normally used too. For example, in Seychelles, it is mandatory to prepare a bar schedule system while in our country it is not necessary for consultants to prepare a bar schedule. To overcome my lack of experience in preparing bar schedules, I made use of CAD8110 software which has functions to assist users in preparing bar schedules and regular reference to related books. My company was also involved in a number of extension works for house renovation, factory works, telecommunications tower, hospital equipment installation and Billboard installation.

In November 1996, I moved to DW Perunding where I worked for many years. Here, I had a better guidance from four professional engineers. Ir David Wong Tai Wooi, Ir Chin Wee That, Ir Tan Hoon Boon and Ir Tong Kim Pooh. I gained valuable experience under their guidance and gradually became more independent in handling projects. I can complete my tasks delegated to me by my superiors. In DW Perunding, I was involved in several major projects. Some of the major projects I was involved in include development of Bandar Baru Nilai, Bandar satellite Panchor, Bandar Senawang Land, Summerset Resort Rompin Pahang.

These major development projects cover more than 100 acres each; and all to be implemented in stages. The developments involve a lot of different types of buildings. For instance; terrace house, bungalow, shop house, shop office , town house, apartment, low cost flat, factory, sewerage treatment plant, complex, school and billboard. The tallest building that I designed was about 25 stories – a building located in Kayu Ara, Petaling Jaya.

After DW Perunding, I opted to work with AZ Engineering, this time not working full time but working on project basis. I moved to another type of working environment. I am not getting any regular salary. I worked on projects I secured and brought into the company and get paid upon payment collection. Due to current economic melt down, I am keen on “one off” basis project. What I mean is the small scale projects such as bungalows, factories, properties extension. These are small projects that takes less time to complete and quicker fees collection. Because of the owner has enough money to finance such projects. Implementation of many large scale projects have slowed down. Involving in such projects may put me into financial problems.

Throughout my time in the consulting world, I have had the chance of learning through a lot of design projects as mention above. I gained basic design knowledge on framing of structure, how to locate loading, how to select loading, how to select types of foundation, how to troubleshoot problem when performing structure design, how to carry out detailing from design data, how to supervise at site. Initially; most of the works were carried out under the guidance of Ir Tung Kwok Choon. He was a helpful professional engineer and had provided me a very good guidance in all aspects related to engineering field. I manage to acquire most knowledge when I was in DW Perunding.

For the work of structural framing, first step is usually to “plant” columns at corners of building although this is not necessarily so in all cases. Preferably, columns will be placed every 3m interval. I would normally try not to place columns in open areas such as hall. But when the open area is huge, then some columns need to place within the area. I have to highlight to architect when there is a need to do so. If no columns are allowed in open area, another problem will arise: i.e. the clear height of building may be affected. The long span of beams would result in beams with greater depth and this may affect the outlook of building. This is the one of the main factors in building design. I am aware that the framing of structural elements will not be based on my decision alone because there are some elements related to other parties such as Architect and M&E engineers that needs to be considered. I cannot simply place a column in front of entrance door. The Architect will reject such design. I cannot design a commercial building without any fire fighting water tank. The M&E engineer will highlight the need of the tanks. Local authorities will play another important role in the requirements of a building.

Another interesting part is when designing the renovation work on existing structure. I have to more careful on the framing system. I cannot “plant” columns in the manner which would be done in the case of a new design. In the new design, I have less constrains; but in a renovation work, NO. I have design the renovation works to suit the existing structural system. I also cannot simply demolish any existing structures such as a column. This happened when I was in Maharunding; my company did a number of building extension works. Therefore I managed to have some experience on how to remodel an existing structure to accommodate a new structure system. My basic guide is to build another new structure system without ‘attaching’ it to the existing structure. So it will not burden the existing structure system. A lot of time, I did not have any information about existing structure. I had to visit the site to visually check and identify the existing structural system. Where possible I would not demolish any existing structure for the new structure, because it will affect the integrity of building.

Loading selection is based on usage of building. I have to refer to BS6399 Design loading for buildings for loading. Common loading for residential building is 1.5KN/m2. In cases where the loading is not found in BS6399, I have to judge on the actual load applied to that building. This normally applies to special structure, mainly in factory works and hospital equipment installation. When working in project like hospital equipment installation, I have to work closely with the contractor on the material to be used. There was a case in an installation of an equipment weighing 10 tons and about 2mx2m size on the first floor building. First I had to design a platform for the crane to lift the equipment to first floor level. A temporary platform was needed to be place in the front of the building and on the road. A steel structure was selected. Along the path to the installation location, the design loading was 2.5kN/m2 and the equipment load was more than design loading. Average loading was 25 kN/m2. I opted for a method involving using steel plate to be placed at the first floor slab; and supporting the structure below with columns and beams. This structure was to transfer additional load from first floor to ground with heavy burden to slab structure. This structure is to be placed along the moving path of equipment.

A quick type of foundation selection is based on earthworks design. First I have to highlight zone of cut and fill. From the cut zone, I can immediately make selection of preliminary foundation to pad foundation. As a quick start, a value of 100kN/m2 soil bearing is selected in preliminary design. The fill zone will judge as piling foundation. Somehow, the selection of foundation must be further verified by soil investigation data when soil test had been carried out. A simple and very popular soil investigation test is the Mackintosh Prop test. In order to get the best ground condition is the 300 blow per foot depth. I learnt from Ir Tung that he recommended that the best was to have minimum one unit of test on each building. Somehow, when designing a bungalow, the number of tests must be increased because of the larger built up area.

When it comes to structural design, I started by learning from BS8110 structural use of concrete and BS5950 structural use of steelwork in building. I had gone through the hard way of analysis that is to design manually. Ir Tung insisted that I had to manually analyse and design buildings initially. I remembered that my first single storey terrace design took me two weeks to complete. Detailing took another few more days. In total, completion of design and drawings took about three weeks. In the manual design, I gained experience on using design charts to speed up manual works. I found out that Microsoft office EXCEL is a great tool to help out my computation. I developed many small programs in EXCEL to automate certain computations. There were a lot of requirement to comply with. I took a number of years to slowly gain more understanding of BS8110 and BS5950. In order to speed up my works, I am starting to computerize BS8110 and BS5950 in small modules within EXCEL. So I can reuse them in my daily works. I started gaining experience and knowledge in programming and built some mini programs for beam and slab design. With such tools, I can improve my working efficiency.

During the period, I worked as engineer in REKA Engineering Consultant, I have a great chance of learning one of our local engineering software ESTEEM. With this first introduction to ESTEEM software, I gained awareness of how wonderful computer tools can be of help to engineers in improving productivity and efficiency. When I was in Maharunding, I also came across a software called CAD8110. It was similar to ESTEEM. At that time, this software is more powerful than ESTEEM. Later I also have chance of learning STAAD III software, which is a structural analysis and design software. This software is good for analysis and steel works design. But it is not good for designing concrete structures.

Roofing works is also an important component in structural design. Now, most of the roofing works are undertaken by roofing specialist. The roofing manufacture will do the design, manufacture and construction of roofing. Therefore, one of the tasks required of me is to check and verify the roofing design and to carry out site inspection on construction of roofing works. I noted that most of the roofing specialists that I met like to carry out the roof design without due consideration to my structural framing system. i.e. they like to do the design as simply supported at both ends. But some of my design has some beams in between both ends of building. As a result, the behavior of structure was changed by roofing specialist. This was not I wanted. Therefore, my task is to ensure that the roof design takes into account my structural framing system. Bear in mind that the roofing specialist will come into picture after the structural works had been constructed or under construction. So, I cannot change my design to suit roofing. Roofing specialists have to suit their roofing system to my design.

Besides, structural work, I also gained some experiences on civil works. I had chance to learn earthworks design, drainage design and sewer design. These are important fields in civil engineering. When I was in DW Perunding, the civil works will be handled by another department. And I was solely on the monitoring of projects in the civil section.

The working of earthworks is interesting because of we will not get any repeated sites. Every site has different topography. In the design, it is important to visualize the overall topography in 3D, knowing the locations of the high ground and the low ground. I start by assigning finished levels taking into consideration the existing ground levels; especially at all boundaries. To do so, is to minimize the final earthworks volume. The best output to be in +-10% in cut or fill. If too much, then there will be problem of importing or exporting earth from or to site. I had encountered one problem in earthworks design where design criteria were set by client. The client of developer of Senawang Land Sdn Bhd which develop the Bandar Senawang. They specified their criteria: defining the split unit to maximum of 600mm, difference between building platform cannot more than 450mm, drop of building platform to back lane cannot more than 1200mm. Road platform must lower than building platform.The criteria set by them were made me spent more time in design platform. And I cannot achieved +-10% of surplus of cut or fill. Such requirements makes it more difficult in design of earthwork platforms. In the end, it will make the construction costs higher.

Another problem that I had encountered was building platform level at coasted area. I had information from Jabatan Pengaliran and Saliran of Pahang stated that the flood level of 3m and client of Sommerset Resort Sdn Bhd wanted to save cost of importing earth and problem of getting earth from surrounding area. I had proposed the platform level of 2.5m with 0.5m lower but with rose up the buildings level by 1m and introducing legs (column) to building. Whenever is flood, buildings are not flooded. After the earthworks ready, I can proceed to drainage or sewerage design. I can’t start any design without earthworks. Therefore, it is important to finalize the earthworks design. Another interesting field is the site matters.

Site matters may be complicated too , because site matters requires dealing with people from difference fields and foreign workers such as Indonesian and Vietnamese and some Malaysian, besides professional engineers, architects and business men. A lot of design may not be workable at the site. I learnt solutions by hard way solving and troubleshooting problems. When I encountered problems that I can’t resolve, I will request assistance from my superiors like Ir Tung, Ir David, Ir Chin, Ir Tan and Ir Tong and even friends. Site matters involved site inspections, site meetings, site discussions etc. For new projects obtained by company, I will carry out initial site inspection first. I need to know where is it? How is the condition of the site? It is hilly? Flat? Any existing structures or services nearby such as buildings, any existing civil works like drain, sewer and water pipe around. When constructing a new building between two existing buildings. The foundation of building has to offset into building land. The offset may cost more for structural system. I have to propose offset foundation with cantilever ground beams design. From such information obtain from sites; I can make better decision of design on engineering works. So I do not have to do double work after the design is finished. Contractor or client come to me and say they cannot construct due to certain reasons. Site collaboration is important in initial design decision. If a certain site is inaccessible by me due to the site being too far away from my office or I am too busy during that period, I have to request client to provide me some photos of the site. Photos can give me lots of information. However, I always try my best to go to the site.

When a project starts, a lot of unexpected things may happen. The project may not work according to my design. Contractors or client may not totally follow my design. Or project is started without my involvement.

Some clients, they want to start work without involving the design engineer for various reasons. As an engineer, I have to be alert on this possibility. When I have issue a set of drawings to them. I have to keep in mind that I need someone to inform me about the status of project. One of the ways is to drop by the site to check. I have to call client to ask the status of project. When the job starts, I have to locate my time to this project. I need to carry out random site inspections. Bear in mind that in many of the projects; clients do not allocate consulting site personnel to handle the projects. They may use their own personnel to handle the construction. I need to estimate when concreting work will start, when formworks will be stripped. Responsible contractors or clients will inform me about the concreting time and request for inspection. Sometimes, I still meet some irresponsible contractor or client who does the concreting works without involving the engineer.

A simple way to tackle this is to check their works at site. Just to check how they construct the works. Is it good and in accordance with construction practice? Any attempts to cut corners on construction works? Such as using smaller bar size, bad formworks used, formworks not properly propped. Site personnel may not know how to read construction drawings. Some leave it to general workers to construct without any guidance of experienced and knowledgeable site personnel. If such things happens, I have to more alert on this site. I need to drop by more frequent to check their works. I carry a camera along to take any photos as evidence of bad works. If such incidences occur, I have to immediately report and issue instructions to the contractor or send a letter to inform the client.

Sometimes, I faced problems with contractors who try to persuade client to follow their designs instead of the engineer’s design. The client may agree with contractor. Client may accept proposals by the contractor without any proper documents to judge or prove contractor design is correct. In such situation, as an engineer I have to educate client about the importance of engaging engineers for a project. Tell client why need engineer? Show client examples of engineering failure. Let client know about the consequence of failure. Client needs to spend more money and time to rectify. I can’t say contractor is wrong. Contractor may have some valid points. But contractor sometimes do not go through proper engineering analyses when proposing his design.

When a project started, first of all contractor will commence on foundation. For the pad foundation, one of the important item need to check is during raining season. The excavate pit for pads are always ponded or silted. I need to make sure that before any concreting works, contractor has to de-silt or pump out any water in pad. Otherwise, the pouring concrete will mix up with silt or water and lower down the concrete strength.

The other item to check is the column positions to pad. Some inexperience contractor will place column to intersection of setting out grid line not in centre of pad. These are important because my pad is not designed for eccentricity of pad. So it is my duty to highlight to contractor to make sure contractor follows my design. This also happens to piling foundation and redesign of pile caps or ground beams to gather such runoff of pile points.

For the piling works; as I know that piling contractor cannot do a perfect piling setting out. It will have some runoff of pile points. One of my duties is to check the piling setting out plan, and make any change to pile caps or foundation to overcome to runoff problems. As a quick guide, the maximum tolerance is 75mm offset. More than this value will need to modify pile cap or foundation structure. I have to highlight number of piles allowed in a pile point. Basically I allow up to 3 pile length in a point. Minimum length of pile after deduction of pile cap depth is 3m. Whenever I encounter this, I will request for a PDA test to further justify the pile capacity. If driving of pile more than 3 pile lengths, I need to down grade the pile capacity by increasing pile points with PDA test result. There was a case of Panchor, Seremban project that, piling contractor encountered problem in driving pile into ground. After I investigated on it by made some excavation to 3m depth, I found out that the soft ground had some mixing up of hard material. As a result, I had to change my design to raft foundation to overcome the problem. Another problem faced was also pile cannot be driven into ground for Desa Kolej, Putra Nilai. By the introduction of pile shoe, the pile can penetrated into the compacted fill ground. One problem seems to happen is the broken pile. In order to reduce time on the installation of new position of pile, I always issue another set of drawings that indicate the replacement piles positions. Piling contractor has to refer to these drawings in the event of broken pile. I proposed this method to expedite the construction works. Minimum pile group that I used is two numbers. Single pile group design is not advisable due to practicality.

After the foundation is completed, contractor will backfill up all the ground to the respective levels for ground floor works. These refill earth will not proper compacted, especially along the apron slab and top ground slab next to split level. This will lead to ground slab crack. I will ensure that contractor will carry out proper compaction of such location before proceeding to ground slab. Another option to overcome such problem by introducing suspended slab at such location. Somehow, it will increase cost of structure.

One of the structural defects deems to happen is the honeycomb structures. Once the formworks are removed, Irresponsible contractor will immediately pasted off with normal concrete. I can’t fully control on it but when I have site visit I can spot such pasted location. If I found such location, I will highlight to contractor and seek for how they did it. Ask them to show the material they used. If they can’t shown anything, they must be just patching up by ordinary cements. Then I will instruct them to hack off and redo. I define major honeycomb as rebar exposed and minor as losing concrete at surface of structural elements. Major honeycomb to be hacked off and reconstruct and the minor honeycomb to be grouted back with suitable epoxy.

If the formworks were not properly restrained, after the concreting; the RC structure deems to be bulging. I define the serious bulging elements as more than 25mm, it has to be hacked off and reinstate.

A problem that may find at site is the temporary load such as unload a number of barriers of bricks on floor slab. My floor slab design doesnot allow for such load. When this happened, contractor has to evenly distribute at floor slab and not concentrated at slab. The bricks have to use it as soon as possible to avoid overload to slab.

A lot of time, construction of civil works such as drain will come after construction of building works. Therefore, I have to highlight to building contractor to construct the foundation along the side of drains has to as deep as the invert level of drains. This is to avoid the instability of foundation. I need to enlighten the building contractor on this. Else there will be a lot of argument this matter. It is norm to happen that a design will not fit to actual construction. Therefore, it is my duty to check and explain my design to clients or contractors about my design.

Throughout many of working experiences, I manage to obtain substantial knowledge on engineering design and manage small to large scale projects. The philosophy of engineering design has become clearer and manageable to me. It can be concluded that I can technically implement and accomplished a wide variety of engineering projects.
Written by scchee
Disclaimer: the above article is based on writer personal working experience on civil and structural field. It will not represent any ultimate solution of any mention subjects. Writer will not responsible for any causes arise.

Reading level: Intermediate.
(Updated 09/7/09)
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