Some people, being asked, “Paper or Plastic?” is a simple question of preference. But for others it’s a matter of choosing for the sake of the environment. Think about the choosing process you go through when deciding on a doctor, or a mechanic, or which bank you go to. The decision is most likely chosen by the results of the outcome you are wanting. Of course, you must know what outcome you are wanting if this is to be accomplished. Are we looking to going to a certain mechanic because they will repair your car just enough so you can sell it? Or are you going to this mechanic because they will fix your car so that you can drive it for miles and miles without having to come back to the garage any time soon. Neither choice is bad, it all depends on the outcome you want. It’s also important to be aware that you may not use the same mechanic for both types of service, so it’s important to understand what outcome you want, before fully making such a decision.
Every three years, there are changes made in structural building codes. Through this, it is necessary to come up with alternate ways of thinking and expanding thought processes. It is also necessary to understand the purpose of the changes so there is no frustration or miscalculation. At times, owners or contractors get frustrated with what they are building because they can’t just make simple estimations like they have done in the past.
The result of changing codes comes from learning lessons gained from further testing, the increase in certain regulations, and of course at times pressures that come from a political nature. In any case, following a certain procedure to decipher answers can become more and more complex over time.
Structural engineering is a profession where being exact is not only important when being tested in the classroom, but also out in the actual world. Because of this, you may find engineers that might take a more conservative position from that of others. Because structural engineering involves multiple discussions with clients, and a review of multiple codes, to cursorily review the work of another engineer and deem it conservative is simply not realistic. Consider dealing with an attorney and then having another attorney question everything your attorney has found without having the same intimate conversations with you that your attorney has had. It would be incongruent to think that an outside attorney knows what’s best for you without really discussing it deeply. The same can be said here. Of course, in structural design there are regulations and codes that bind an engineer, but each and every design can be very individualized.
Our lives consists of the choices we make. These choices can be very difficult, and others can be pretty basic. The decisions we come to are generally based on past experience, what our prejudices might be, and sometimes due to our habits. Paper or Plastic may be more complex than what meets the eye. Likewise, so is structural engineering.
At PSE we believe we are engineering a better world.