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Value added

Letters

Damian Arnold's story 'Raise fees or face crisis, IStructE warns consultants' (NCE last week), and the accompanying viewpoint and editor's comment rang bells.

I am chairman of an Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) task group that is producing a booklet entitled Engaging structural engineers - a guide for clients.

The document is not centred on fees alone, which is clear from the introduction: 'This guide seeks to explain the value that structural engineers bring to a project by describing who structural engineers are, how they operate, and how they should be chosen.' What follows are short sections on value, choosing a structural engineer, delivering the service, dening the fee, and a number of appendices covering the brief, a checklist for choosing a structural engineer, a plan of work for the client and the structural engineer, and structural content.

The section on fees includes the results of a survey of rms that employ our members, setting out the historical hourly 'competent costs' (all the costs of running a business) for various grades of staff.

The document also includes information on the ranges of net prot margins from consultancies that are listed on the London Stock Exchange.

The document also outlines how clients can derive best value from their structural engineers, which is well described in the quote from Achieving excellence in construction by the Office of Government Commerce: 'The key thrust of achieving excellence is the delivery of best value for money. This is not the lowest cost, but the best balance of quality and whole life cost to meet the user requirements.' Antony Oliver correctly refers to protecting the public and this is one of the reasons that the IStructE is producing this document. Yes, the IStructE is a learned body, but it also has an important and inuential Engineering Practice Committee and it is the practice of engineering that is at risk if the downward spiral of fees, compared with the upward spiral of costs, continues unabated.

Publication of the document later this year on the IStructE website will, hopefully, open a debate over unsustainable low fees.

All of this reminds me of the wayside pulpit outside my church many years ago 'If you don't stand for something you could fall for anything.' Bob McKittrick FIStructE, FICE, 15 The Dell, Chestereld S40 4DL

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