CROSS Safety Report
Quick and cheap design calculations
This report is over 2 years old
A reporter raises concerns about poor design calculation being provided through a website at a very low price.
They feel that this could set a dangerous precedent where calculations are done on the cheap and as an afterthought rather than being an integral part of the design process.
Key Learning Outcomes
For construction professionals and clients:
There is always a risk that safety will be compromised when the lowest cost is the main criteria for selecting products, processes or people
Structural calculations and assessments should be carried out by a suitably qualified engineer for all structural works
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The Full Report below has been submitted to CROSS and describes the reporter’s experience. The text has been edited for clarity and to ensure anonymity and confidentiality by removing any identifiable details. If you would like to know more about our secure reporting process or submit a report yourself, please visit the reporting to CROSS-UK page.
A building control officer says that they recently received a set of calculations which had been prepared through a website that specialises in providing calculations at a very low price. They do this by having a number of generic designs which are then adapted to the purpose. The project was a small commercial premise that had put in a mezzanine without approval or correct design and calculations were submitted after the fact without justification.
The concern is that the calculations were done without the engineer ever visiting site or even clarifying site conditions to the point where they are assuming the existence of a supporting beam, the size of the existing beams, and the existing loading conditions among other things. The calculations themselves were only checks to the beams but were presented as structural calculations for the mezzanine floor.
The concern is that the calculations were done without the engineer ever visiting site or even clarifying site conditions
They were only produced after concerns were raised by the local authority, and in fact the structure was erected with no on-site calculations having been produced. The ‘cheap’ calculations were of no value. The reporter feels that this could set a dangerous precedent where calculations are done on the cheap and as an afterthought rather than being an integral part of the design process.
Expert Panel Comments
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Reports like this occur far too often. The fundamental issue is that some people think design is just producing a set of calculations by some means when actually such calculations are totally meaningless without proper attention to actual conditions and detailing.
It is irresponsible and even worse when it is done by a qualified engineer. This report shows the value of effective building control. In 1999 CROSS warned of the risks in using computer aided calculations and there have been reports of concerns about the subject since CROSS scheme started in 2005. Anyone can present a building control submission and some small-scale builders find this arrangement attractive.
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