Any high minded treatise on the state of the civil engineering profession usually includes some comment along the lines of how the image of the construction industry is unfairly damaged by unscrupulous cowboy builders.
There is much snobbish nose wrinkling as the antics of 'the man in his van' are described. The industry and its various professions, it is claimed, would be held in much higher esteem were it not for the dodgy extensions and leaky plumbing which are his stock in trade.
But it is not just the black market bandits from whom members of the public need protection. They also increasingly (whisper it softly) need to seek redress from professionals, including ICE members.
A colleague recently needed work carried out to the flooded basement of her home. She employed one of the UK's best known contractors - mindful of the need to get the job done properly. She even ensured that the regional manager, a mechanical engineer, was on site.
After days of highly disruptive work, she was left with a home looking like a badly decorated bomb site. Worse still, she discovered a load bearing beam which had rotted in the flood now neatly disguised by some brand new pine cladding.
For a myriad of reasons, direct contact is growing between the public and civil engineers. The ICE is taking some sensible steps to try and tackle the situation before it becomes a problem (see ICE News), but most of the responsibility must lie with individual members.
It might seem obvious, but it is worth saying: clients, whatever their experience, size or status, should all receive the same level of respect and service. Advice on underpinning a subsiding home or constructing a village hall might seem a welcome respite from the stressful nature of most construction jobs or a good way to make semi-retirement more comfortable. But get it wrong and the client is likely to suffer in a very direct and personal way. And if that client happens to be a bank manager, councillor or local newspaper
editor the repercussions for colleagues living and working in the vicinity could be long and far reaching.