Structures, water, computers, languages and people (not necessarily in this order)


Consultant engineers with specialized knowledge like to use their technical skills to the upmost and there is nothing wrong with this. Being mainly interested in the backoffice tasks and structural modelling is not a mistake but one must assume that in order to build a good work it is required more than a good computer model. In fact, a wise contractor with a bit of structural sense can help a lot.

For instance, I had the chance to analyze a clean water reservoir. The contractor provided a poorly defined project and a 3-d Cypecad model (left) to justify the proposed solution. Then, I had to modify the proposal using a fast Sap2000 model (right) to check results.

After long and tedious discussions, in the end what the contractor built was this...

A "mild" segregation problem.

[ironic] A very sophisticated gadget engineered and crafted by the contractor to ensure proper cover of the reinforcement [/ironic].

So, what I have learnt this week is that no matter how sophisticated a computer model can be: public works are usually constructed by experienced teams with less-than-required formal education and they can make mistakes impossible to take into account in a simple and optimistic computer model.


  1. That's why some of us love "Safety coefficient" or expend ours thinking "dumb-proof" designs :)