Engineering Standards and Quality
The construction industry in Pakistan is now growing faster than ever, largely due to the participation of private housing developments. It just takes the Sunday newspaper to realize the status of real-estate development in the country against any other business sector simply by measuring the centimetres of allocation to each sector by the advertisers. Taking a look at the local dispatch/consumption of cement, one can clearly see a continuous rise since 2001 to date, with the exception of two years. 9.93 million tonnes of cement consumed in FY 2001-2002 have reached to 33 million tonnes in FY 2015-2016. Dewan Cement’s CEO has been quoted saying that 70% of the cement is consumed by real-estate and builders while only 30% goes for infrastructure developments. This rise in construction activity has attracted me to look at the construction standards and quality in the country and for this I turned to the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) to understand what PEC has contributed, as the apex body in the field, to ensure and raise construction standards and quality.
PEC is mandated to set and maintain the standards of professional (engineering) competence as well as regulate the quality and practice of the engineering profession. Leaving the education part aside, for engineering practice, PEC has issued some by-laws belonging to three categories:
- Companies Registration (consultant and contractor),
- Building Design Codes including supplementary seismic and energy provisions, and
- Engineering practice exam and professional development.
In addition to these, a set of standard bidding documents has also been issued to mainly address the matters pertaining to the selection process and procedures of procuring engineering services under various forms of contract. There are certain areas where PEC by-laws are either confusing or totally missing.
Irrespective of what has been covered or totally missing in existing PEC regulatory documents, there is a need for the construction industry regulations committee (CRIC) to come forward with an active set of by-laws to put in place clear standards for engineers (standards for companies being separate) involved in engineering design, supervision and execution of engineering works. One such set can be called Minimum Standards for Persons and Design of Engineering Works. The design team of an engineering work/system shall be led by a person having passed the EPE exam, duly registered as a ‘Professional Engineer’, authorized to design and take responsibility of an engineering system in the respective domains of civil, structural, mechanical, electrical and other specialities for which PEC conducts EPE. Such a team leader can be called the ‘Qualified Person’ (QP, as called in Singapore). To put in place competitive and higher standards of engineering design, requirements of a Qualified Person’s experience may vary in terms of years and complexity of the projects that he or she has been involved in. The committee with due consideration of the existing capabilities of professional engineers in the country and the standards it wants to achieve, can develop a framework for the requirements of a Qualified Person and his or her team, for and based on project profile codes and project value (project profile code is a list of project types already developed by PEC). The same set can cover building codes to be used for the design and other statutory requirements to be placed so as to achieve higher quality in engineering design. Organizing and regulating the individuals involved in the design of engineering systems will help to raise the overall national competency in the design of engineering system and will enable our local consultant companies to compete globally. Further, such a dedicated regulatory framework will assist us in continuously raising our competency level against other countries and will help other countries in understanding our competency levels in the design of engineering systems in terms of the scale and complexity, thus creating more collaborative and competitive opportunities for our engineers.
Likewise, for supervision of engineering works, the committee shall come up with Minimum Standards for persons and supervision of engineering works. I was amazed to see a rule of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) requiring 10 years’ experience from a resident engineer for supervision of a three-storey building, whereas with the same years of experience in Singapore, one is allowed to supervise as resident engineer, a project over $100 million with six buildings, each having 15 storeys or more, also including the supervision of a substation and multistorey car-park. We need to have some minimum but rational standards that can be the basis of our engineering supervision. This set, like the one mentioned above, based on the project value, area and complexity, may determine and set the minimum number of engineers or diploma holders required for supervision. Furthermore, it shall also place the years of experience required for each supervision team member. The team leader can be called Qualified Person (supervisor) for whom a committee considering various attributes can determine the minimum requirements and can also provide a mechanism for his or her autonomy and coordination with other project stakeholders.
In addition to the design and supervision teams, the execution team or contractor is the one key stakeholder. Competencies of the contractor team are paramount for the overall project cost and quality. So in addition to putting the framework of competencies for the contractor’s personnel and the quality of work, it is important to regulate the non-engineering staff engaged in engineering work. This may not fall under the purview of the PEC, however, PEC may consider coordinating actively with other relevant departments and assisting them to set the competency framework for various trades involved in engineering works. Regulating and improving the competencies of the non-engineers supervisors or labourers involved in an engineering work can help improve the quality of our workforce and such well-trained and highly competent workforce can improve the overall quality of work at home and be an asset ready for export to other countries.
In view of the above, I request the PEC Committees on Construction Industry Regulations, and on Acts and By-Laws, to review the existing by-laws and make them simpler and clearer for general understanding of the engineering community, and to consider having separate by-laws, as proposed above, to raise competency levels of the engineering community. Setting and enforcing such minimum standards on quality and number of engineers for an engineering project will certainly increase employment opportunities as well.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any organization with which he might be associated.