A Lot Going On

by Don Friedman on October 7, 2016

One of the biggest differences between engineering as it is taught in school and as it is performed in practice concerns ambiguity. Problem sets in class are set up to illustrate a point or to provide repetition as a learned tool, and rarely have much ambiguity to them. For a lot of engineers, including me, the big surprise at the beginning of work was finding out that not only do we have to solve problems, we have to figure out what the problems are.


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What is important in that photo from a site visit? We’ve got structural wood framing, non-structural wood, light-gage steel that might be structural or might not be, wood plank over-running the joists, wood plank on ledgers on the side of the joists, lath, fill, conduit, pipe, and more. To someone unfamiliar with on-site investigation, this looks like a huge mess. It takes time to learn to separate the important structural wheat from the non-structural chaff. It takes to learn to not see what is not important to the task at hand. It takes practice to not see what you don’t need to see but to not forget that it’s there, in case is turns out to be important.

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