By Patrick Kawuki
A development involving the construction of a residential house, commercial building, school, hospital, hotel, office blocks, recreation centers, requires the developer to integrate professional services of architects, structural engineers/civil engineer, electrical and mechanical engineers, and quantity surveyors to create a well-designed, sustainable, cost effective, durable low maintenance building. To an extent, this is a by regulations and laws of Uganda and almost all countries.
Architects develop the general concept of the building or structure depending on the geographical location and topology of the area. Architects convert the dreams the of the client from conceptual to an actual reality of design. In most times, they are engaged by the clients to oversee the construction of the building up to commissioning and handover to the client.
Structural/civil engineers design structures to withstand stresses and pressures, such as earthquake, wind, self-weight and human use. They ensure buildings and other structures are able to withstand the applied loads without bending, twisting, collapsing or vibrating and remain strong and secure throughout their use.Structural engineers have to choose appropriate economic materials, such as bricks, concrete, wood and metal, to meet design specifications. When construction has begun, they are often involved in inspecting the work and advising contractors on behalf of the client.
Electrical engineers are responsible for the design of the following; lighting system, planning the electrical power supply and distribution, Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) systems, electronic door access controls, voice and data (communication) networks and smoke/fire detection. Others include public address systems, cable and television, lightening designs, emergency lighting, intruder alarms and any other control system a developer may require to be implemented as part of the project. Electrical engineers follow general design guidelines stipulated by international committees comprising selected professionals who convene to develop the standards. For any installation to be considered safe, the engineering design must meet the required specific standard as stipulated by the standards bodies. There are a number of standards but most predominantly, American standards (IEEE), British Standards (BS), European standards (IEC) and German standards (VDE) are used world over. In East Africa, we normally follow the British standards or European standards since our system and equipment used are manufactured using these standards.
Mechanical engineers are responsible for designing water supplies and drainage systems, ventilation and air conditioning, heating and fire protection systems. Mechanical engineers just like other professionals, must follow the adopted standards in order to perfect in their designs.
Because electrical and mechanical services are ancillary in comparison to architectural and structural work, in the building industry, they are referred to as building services and the engineers known as Building service engineers.
In Uganda, the municipalities’ engineers responsible for approving construction plans, ordinarily require architectural and structural drawings. This has caused a bias on the need of electrical and mechanical designs in the development of the building plan. Depending on the complexity of the project and the funding agency, architects will engage Building service engineers for detailed construction designs, estimates and suitable selection of materials.
In most private developments especially those for individual developers, service engineers are disregarded owing to lack of information of such services or for budget reasons since the professional services offered by these engineers are not required for plan approval.
Most developers directly engage electricians and plumbers to carry the burden of design and implementation of the designs based on local experience attained in the field of construction. To be ideal, the designer has to meet the requirements of the profession by being a fully registered engineer. In Uganda, engineers must meet the requirements of the Uganda Institution of Professional Engineers and therefore must be registered with this body, for them to practice as professional engineers, just like the architects must be registered with the Uganda Association of Architects.
The developer, by using the services of the registered electrical engineer, will substantially benefit from the following;
1) Consolidated design comprising all electrical considerations required depending on the complexity of the project. No need of surface cabling after the building has been occupied.
2) With the availability of the designs, the developer has an opportunity to contribute and conceptualize the final work of building services, and useful for future references.
3) Proper estimation of materials, and cost since the design drawings include conduit layouts developed on the actual dimensions of building plan.
4) A lighting design and selection which compliments the architectural selection to bring out the comfort and aesthetics expected by the developer.
5) Cost saving as a result of detail information on the design. Most developers consider electrical materials at the time of engaging the electrical contractor without necessarily developing a conduit plan. This exposes the developer to manipulation from the contractor.
6) Guarantee that the job will be successfully carried out based on the regulations governing electrical installations and that all commissioning tests before occupancy will be carried out.
7) Benefit from the engineer’s experience and knowledge from various projects of significant complexities.
With all these supplements to the development, it can be concluded that any developer needs to engage competent building service engineers for the project.
The writer is practicing electrical engineer