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CROSS Safety Report

Divided design responsibilities

Report ID: 151 Published: 1 October 2010 Region: CROSS-UK

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Overview

A reporter raises concerns after overall responsibility on a project appears to have been apportioned out to individual parties rather than having one structural consultant onboard to pull all the various aspects together.

Key Learning Outcomes

For the client and design team:

  • There should be a fundamental responsibility for someone to act as the overall designer, particularly in regard of stability and robustness, but also as overall co-ordinator for the structure

  • Be aware that most design codes have introductory clauses saying that there is a need for a single point of responsibility

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A reporter’s firm has taken on a commission to act as a consultant to a precast lintel manufacturer. One of the first projects they were asked to look at was the installation of some lintels at floor level of a development so that under floor cabling could be installed through walls, below a raised access floor. Having sized the lintels (to support 5m height of blockwork) the firm were then asked by the contractor to confirm the overall stability of the walls.

It transpired that the brickwork sub-contractor had taken on a ‘works package’ from the management contractor. The subcontractor had apparently assumed design responsibility for their portion of works such that; wind posts had been sized and located by the wind post company and lintels were to be sized by the lintel company’s advisors (the reporter’s firm). Overall responsibility appears to have been apportioned out to individual parties rather than having one structural consultant onboard to pull all the various aspects together.

Expert Panel Comments

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There is a fundamental responsibility for someone to act as the overall designer, particularly in regard of stability and robustness, but also as overall co-ordinator for the structure. Most design codes have introductory clauses saying that there is a need for a single point of responsibility. The forthcoming Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) report on Robustness, makes it very clear that in all structural projects there should be one engineer with responsibility for overall robustness and stability.

It is highly dangerous to parcel parts of the work up with consequent dangers across the interfaces and for the strength and stability of the structure as a whole. Engineers undertaking parts of the work must be careful to advise their clients that there should be one guiding hand and they should be careful to define the scope and limits of their design input.

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