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2016-02-15   Consulting Specifying Engineer

Engineers generally don't get very involved in politics, but that needs to change. Engineering is changing from a profession that enjoys legal protection to a profession that enjoys legal protection and also needs to comply with the law in a manner that is well beyond traditional compliance with codes and standards.


By: ARCOM

Have you ever thought about how federal legislation affects your job?

Engineers generally don't get very involved in politics, but that needs to change. Engineering is changing from a profession that enjoys legal protection to a profession that enjoys legal protection and also needs to comply with the law in a manner that is well beyond traditional compliance with codes and standards.

Federal, state, and local legislation have recently expanded from the traditional scope of general public safety into the following areas:

  • Building product efficiency - 10 CFR Part 431 covers efficiency requirements for motors, lighting, furnaces, and boilers
  • Building energy efficiency - 10 CFR Part 435 mandates energy efficiency for federal buildings, or the EPA's Roof Products Specification Version 3.0 that will go into effect July 1, 2017
  • Privacy - 45 CFR Part 160, also known as HIPPA, mandates that certain levels of privacy must be maintained, which can be done using engineered systems
  • Transportation - everything from bridges to vehicle fueling, both petroleum and alternative energy

An interesting result of this is that the practice of engineering is shifting from being protected by the law, and allowing the engineer to enjoy that protection while exercising their professional judgement, to a model where the engineer, while legally (and at times somewhat tenuously) protected, is also subject to compliance with the law in a manner that goes beyond meeting building codes and standards.

Compliance with some of these requirements is easily met by building and maintaining relationships with equipment vendors. For example, most transformer manufacturers made sure that their clients knew about the new energy efficiency standards for transformers that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2016, and the same is true for motor manufacturers who must meet revised energy efficiency requirements as of June 1, 2016. But these motor requirements also apply to many types of motors that are part of manufactured equipment, so the engineer specifying the equipment needs to be familiar with or at least aware of the revised energy efficiency requirements during design, which could be well before legislation goes into effect.

The increased requirements set forth by legislation are also very good reasons to get involved in the political process and to become a voice that influences legislation. The medical and legal professions are highly involved in commenting upon and helping pass legislation that positively affects their professions. There is no reason that engineers shouldn't be doing the same.

Obviously, engineers can't write, read, or be involved in all the legislation, but following and potentially influencing what is going on at the federal, state, and local levels with respect to the engineering industry needs to become an industry-wide priority. Not only does legislation have professional implications when it comes to protecting the engineering industry, and ultimately our way of making a living, but it also impacts the engineers' projects on a daily basis. Whether it is including energy efficient motors in construction documents or advising a client on certain energy efficiency programs that may make them eligible for tax rebates, the ultimate result is that engineers provide a very important intellectual service to the client.

Manufacturers and their trade organizations, such as the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), have a good handle on these issues, as do the national and local branches of professional societies, such as the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), that have staff focused on representing the interests of the engineering profession. Both help by alerting engineers when rules are up for comment. NSPE works with legislators on the federal and local levels, such as Bruce Westerman, PE, Representative of the 4th District of Arkansas, and Bart Korman, PE, State Representative of Missouri. But ultimately, it comes down to you — should the engineering profession follow the rules set by legislators, or should engineers get involved and help make the rules?


This article is contributed by ARCOM. ARCOM is a CFE Media content partner.

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