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Engineering a sense of respect

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Architects like structural engineers. We might not be delighted that our indooroutdoor fully-glazed house extension somehow needs more steel than the Tyne Bridge, but we don't attribute that to incompetence, just lack of effort.

While a QS's defining characteristic is taken to be a miserly lack of imagination, an M&E engineer's sloppiness, a planning supervisor's pettyminded pedantry, and a project manager's utter pointlessness, our feelings towards structural engineers are warmer. Our reflex reaction to them is not one of resentment, ignorance or fear, as it is to other consultants.

And we do not believe they are drones who backed out of accountancy because they could not take the excitement, as QSs are. Nor are they jumped-up electricians and plumbers who cannot conceive of the possibility of running a telephone cable from one room to the next in the absence of 900mm ceiling voids throughout the building.

They did not enter their 'profession' only because vampirism has been getting a bad press lately, like project managers.

We like their shunning of 'humorous' ties, their lack of fear in instructing large works and their robustness in ignoring project managers' bleating about the programme.

We admire their resoluteness in refusing to cut costs, their lack of interest in finishes and their rapport with site staff. Since Le Corbusier pointed out that what engineers do is more impressive and more fun than what we do, we have looked on them with a respect which verges on envy. Unfortunately, by the time you realise this you have already failed A-level maths and invested in some serious coloured pencils, and it is all too late.

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