Downstream problems with professionals

June 2, 2010
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Listen to the people downstream from certain professions for very long and you’ll wonder whether students are getting enough hands-on experience in college.

Take car mechanics, for example. It’s a good thing the engineers who design engine compartments are safely behind desks and not in repair shops when spark plugs are being changed. Some vehicles require so much labor to strip away other equipment in the compartment just to reach the plugs that costs run unnecessarily high, sometimes into hundreds of dollars.

If engineers had to change plugs just once, they’d make it easier, mechanics gripe.

These kinds of complaints pop up occasionally about architects, too. Ask contractors what they think of the profession and it isn’t uncommon to hear stories about ignorance of how buildings are actually put together. More knowledge of the process would cut construction costs and long-term maintenance, the contractors complain.

The points raised here are based on anecdotal evidence. Maybe you’re aware of studies showing mechanics are giddy about engineers and designers.

But the comments come up often enough to raise questions about whether professionals are trained as well as they could be. And maybe not just engineers and architects. Other professions may come to mind.

Should engineers be required to spend time in repair shops in college? Or architect students on construction sites with the hard hat crowd?

What are your thoughts?

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  • Architects
    It's unbelievable how most Architects design homes. It's like they have never lived in one. A resounding YES is my answer to the question. They should have to suffer through a move or two to see how difficult or impossible it is to get normal furniture into a home!!!
  • Real World Implementation Experience Would Help
    Although I loathe the idea of anybody being "required" to do anything, especially if further institutionalizing more academic requirements for things that are common sense or that people can learn their own there is a point here.

    I recall taking something like 20+ screws out of a desktop computer (in the early 90s) in order to upgrade the memory. I did indeed realize very quickly that the engineer who designed it never had to do this. Today, most are easily accessed with one screw or a pop-off cover.

    Consistently (in houses, computers, automobiles or any other thing) there are opportunities where things could be improved to make ease of repair or enhancement easier. I generally assume things are engineered the way they are for a reason - but wonder if those reasons are always more important than lowering the cost or frustration associated with ownership.
  • They should learn in the field
    Speaking as an architect, I agree that architects should learn from the field. While I have worked a short time in construction, it wasn't through college. Even with the construction experience, not everything I've produced was perfect and took into account all the unforeseen field conditions that are inevitable in construction. We follow industry best practices for detailing the installation and I'm happy to review our design with the construction professionals executing the installation. I know many architects who would argue that the means and methods of construction are the responsibility of the builders and not the architect's concern. I agree to a point, I'm not going to tell them which hammer to use when driving a nail, but I'll be sure we've detailed joints in the construction to provide a watertight system that will perform for the owner and achieve the design intent. What happens often is that a builder will look at the design documented by the architect and find ways to make the construction less expensive through using different systems or removing components from the assemblies they don't think are necessary. When an owner hears a builder tell them "the architect has made this much more expensive" while ignorantly removing insulation, vapor retarders or barriers, and ventilation that is required by state building codes and industry best practices they create buildings with shorter life spans that are less healthy for the occupants. A little field education for the architects is good, and little design and engineering education for the installers is good as well.
  • designer should be user
    My dad told me 50 yrs ago and truer even today - the guy who designs it should have to use. I'm in the bar/restaurant business and this applies to every piece of equipment we have: cash registers, ice machines, kitchen eq, tables, chairs - you name it.
  • Agreed!
    Having done both design and repair, I can state wholeheartedly that no one should be allowed to design a car until they have spent at least a year repairing cars. The same would hold true for houses. A year under a hard hat makes a huge difference in the way one designs buildings. I see nothing wrong with, and a great benefit to, having student engineers and architects spend some course work and time in the field on the other end of someone else's designs.
  • Engineers need more hands-on knowledge
    As an engineer myself, I agree that hands-on experience is necessary for making the best design. I myself have used the knowledge of the people operating the equipment I was responsible for improving. They are the ones that use it day after day. I have also seen engineers design things that appeared to not have much thought applied to how it would be used. I had to fix their designs so that they would be functional. Before an engineer should be allowed to design, they should be involved in the trenches of daily operation.
  • YES
    I agree with hands on training!!!!!!!!!

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