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Role of Consultants in Construction Works

Do Engineering Consultants have to Supervise Construction Works?

Consultants who are involved in the design should supervise their construction works... read more..

There are several practices depending on regions and Local Authorities & Local Councils involved, which leaves must to be desired.

Engineer acting as "Design & Stamp Consultant"

Almost all private developers, big and small alike would just get their Consultants such as Architects and Engineers to prepare the building plans, structure plans and infrastructure plans, and submit for approval by the Local Authority or Councils. Once approval is obtained, the private developers would just proceed on their own, until it is time to apply for Occupation Permits or Completion Certificates. Then they would go back to the Consultants to sign all the relevant forms & documents and submit to the Local Councils for inspections. In some cases the Consultants would be called in to be just "present" during site inspections but in majority of cases, the developers themselves would jointly inspect with the Local Council's site inspectors. Then, if the Site Inspectors (usually non professionals themselves) are satisfied with the "visual works", then the developer will get their Occupation Permits or OP without much problems. Nothing about what's being constructed, buried or unseen.. like how many rebars were in those beams or did the contractors drive the piles to set or was the number of piles reduced? 

Is this a proper practice, just Design, Draw, Approve & Forget? looks like a Turnkey approach to me. Is the Local Council acting professionally, legally and administratively correctly? The implications are serious for the Design & Stamp Consultants, the Developer, and the Local Council or Local Authority Involved. If there is a failure in 5 yrs or 20 years time, who will be at fault? Maybe the case of the Highland Towers bring some light. Could this be due to abuse of power, ignorance of the laws, or just bending of the rules and requlations. The Board of Engineer's Acts plus the Ministry of Housing Bylaws: "The Uniform Building Bylaws" are adequate, but it is the failure or ignorance of the governing agencies and also the lack of the will power to peoples involved to implement the laws. Until ofcoast a catastrophic failure of a suspension bridge, a highland tower, collapse of a wall, earth slopes failure..forces the relevant government agencies to act, but only for the case and not the industry. In simple words - the people who implement standards should have the will of really executing it, otherwise, the laws are just archives.

In-House Consultant

In this case, the Developer will have his "In-House" Architects and Engineers who design themselves all in-house for their own projects, and then get one of the staff who happens to be a Professional Architect or Professional Engineer to sign and stamp and submit for approvals and thereafter perform as an In-house consultant. Ofcoast he (as a staff, or as a sharehoder/director) would willingly do so, then apply for Occupation Permits himself for his own company or his own project.

Is this proper? it does sound like bias practice especially if he is selling the properties to the public. Should the Local Authorities accept this? Is this professionally correct and legal? The Laws say that any "Professional Engineer" can submit design, calculations, reports, but does not specify that only a professional engineer in private consulting practice can act as consultants. What does this mean for the end user and protection of public interests? Is the Board of Engineers wrong not to have specified so?

Engineer as Consultant for Design Works but supervision by Developer.

In this case the Design works are carried out by the Consultants but when it comes to site supervision, the Developer takes over using others or their In-house staff, and the Consultants are not involved, except when specifically requested by the developer. This is similar to the Consultants acting as a "Design and Stamp Consultant". Sure the Developer will consult the Consultants on any problems he encountered on site but the consultants are not involved on site on a day to day activities.

Can the consultants provide consultation if he does not supervise the Works? Can the Local Authorities accept works supervised by the Developer themselves, with "periodic or adhoc" supervision by consultants? Should a Consultant accept this kind of work and sign on all certification forms and apply for occupation permits? Is it legal for the Local Authorities to accept this "ad-hoc" "part-time" supervision?

What if failure occurs, who would be responsible?

In some cases the Consultants will be paid for design fees only according to the Board of Engineers for design works, about 70% while the 30% for Construction Stage is not paid. If failure occurs, surely the developer will bear MORE responsibilities because what is unseen as in being constructed and buried would carry more weight for "errors". A developer or a contractor would definitely want to save money and make as much profit as possible, so for him, cutting corners in materials and workmanship are the norm, and he would not understand why he cannot just remove one steel bar, or change the concrete grade from Grade 30 to Grade 25. A developer or employer on the other hand would think saving 30% fees is money earned, but forgot that by doing the supervision himself, he is exposed to many years of responsibilities and liabilities.

More Questions?

  1. Can another person or party acts as the Supervision Consultant?
  2. Can a Non Licensed or a Non Professional supervise the Works?
  3. Can supervision be adhoc or part-time?
  4. Whose responsibility if failure occurs where the Consultants only designs?
  5. Can a Developer supervise his own works for Public Purposes?
  6. Can a Professional Engineer acts as a Consultant and an Employee at the same time for a Developer?
  7. Can a Local Autority, not registered as a Practicing Consultant design and supervise its own works for Public? Is this abuse of power or shear ignorance of laws and requlations and responsibilities lack of accountability to the Public?
  8. If Consultants are paid only partial the full-fee, would this mean that he is only partial responsible for any problems and failures?
  9. Can AnyONE be an SO or Superintendent Officer in the Contract? Can an Employer be an SO?

Some answers can best be explained by the Board of Engineers Malaysia which is the Highest Governing Body for the Engineering Profession.

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Authur- Philip Goh (B.Sc, MIEM, P.Eng. MICE, C.Eng) MEC Engineers, Civil & Structural Engineer HP: 016-8672189, Email: Widget: email cloaker