Author: Caldwell, James
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The forces of nature which work against the structures designed and erected by structural engineers are, by the influence of scientific research and experience, becoming so well known that the factor of safety for contingencies, is, I am told, steadily diminishing. This notwithstanding you sleep easy in your bed with the complete confidence that nothing will cause disaster to the work you have designed and constructed. I come before you to-night to discuss the design of a structure of ink and parchment against which forces of nature are practically innocuous, but for which nevertheless no factor of safety is sufficient to withstand the destroying influence of mental ingenuity and legal interpretation. The structure to which I refer, is the engineering or building contract upon which the professional and commercial prosperity of engineer, employer, and contractor alike, are so often found to be dependent. E.J. Rimmer
The PRESIDENT (LIEUT. COL. J. MITCHELL MONCRIEFF) said they had listened to a most interesting address, full of good things. It had not been intended that any discussion should take place; they had come to sit at the feet of Gamaliel, and had done so; but perhaps Mr. Rimmer would not mind if some present said a word or two from their own personal experience. Many of them had had a lot of experierwe in connection with contract work. He agreed with practically everything that Mr. Rimmer had said. There were great difficulties facing the engineer in connection with carrying out contract work. He (the President) had frequently let sub-contracts and then handed them over to the general contractor with a proper remuneration (sometimes ten per cent.), fixed on them. The finest contract he had ever had was written on a sheet of notepaper such as Mr. Rimmer had spoken of. This contract had been entered into thirty years ago between himself and the present Chairman of the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors, and had been for a small matter that he wanted done quickly. In that case he had been an old friend of the contractor’s father, and the contractor himself had been “Charles” to him. He had said, “Charles, I want you to do certain work. I have no conditions of contract except the one I have written out, that the work, materials and everything shall be done to the entire satisfaction of J. M. M. Will you sign it ?” The contractor had replied “ Certainly,” and the contract had gone through without any trouble whatever.
SIR,-Mr. Cocking's paper,"Some Notes on Modern Steel Frame Construction," is very timely now that structural work is developing rapidly, and soundness of design and practice is more than ever essential. One or two points of outstanding interest are raised by Mr. Cocking, and I venture to offer the following comments on the closing portion of the paper which deals with cases of bad structural design which are becoming standard practice.