Ethics And Professional Code Of Conduct In Engineering Practices

Importance of Ethics and Professional Code of Conduct in Engineering Practices

Engineers are required to have values and principles that guide the decisions they make in their engineering practices. This values and principles are the only hope that the profession has in ensuring sanity and professionalism in the profession. There are men and women who have committed themselves to this values and principles and have made the profession to be better in many ways.  Failure to observe these principles can lead to the destruction and loss of many lives which could have been saved were the principles and values followed to the latter. There are several ways through which engineers can engage in unethical behaviors in their line of duties which is dangerous to them and the lives of many other innocent and unsuspecting people. First, there is the deliberate and intentional use of substandard materials during construction has been argued as one of the most dangerous acts by the constructors. Over the years there have been cases of such ignorance and the consequences have been dire for many people.  Many engineers engage in this act because of corruption issues related to saving money initially proposed for construction of a standard building. Some of the reasons why they engage in the corruption and deliberate mismanagement of funds might somewhat sound reasonable to someone but there are codes of ethics and standards that must be adhered to by all. Instead of buying standard materials, some constructors buy substandard materials, something that leads to a poorly built building (Kultgen, 2010). When the materials for construction are not bought in the right proportion, then the construction will have anomalies that will in future result to accidents and also the loss of innocent unsuspecting lives. In addition, failure to follow the required guidelines can also lead to the construction of substandard buildings. This report focuses on the two case studies that form the basis of ethics and code of conduct by the engineers.

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The case involved Heritage-listed building that collapsed in Fremantle after renovation activities were initiated. For many people who knew the building or have heard of it, the incident was not something to smile about. However, no casualties were reported from the incident and that was a good thing indeed. There were loud crashes heard before the building collapsed. The members of the public called emergency services to the scene to come look at what was happening perhaps with the hope of saving something in that horrible scene. The entire building had shifted while the internal levels collapsed. In fact, it was reported that the collapse of the building caused structural damage of the neighboring building (Sunday Times, 2018). During the collapse time, there were some renovation works going on in the basement of the building.

Case Study 1: Collapse of Heritage-Listed Building in Fremantle

It is apparent that there was a problem with the renovation activities that led to the collapse of the building. This is arguably true because the building was stable before the renovation activities kicked off. There are different causes of the collapse of the building related to the renovation activities. In this regard, the renovation engineers need to have prior knowledge of the condition of the building before they commence the renovation work (Sunday Times, 2018). In addition, apart from knowing the condition of the building, the engineers need to have the right tools and material for the renovation work. For instance, if the renovation work entails some drilling activities, the engineers have to understand that heavy machines that cause trauma should not be used on the already built building to avoid cracks and collapse of the building. In most construction activities, drilling has been the cause of the trauma that has led to collapse of some buildings. Drilling causes trauma which can make the cracks in the building to widen and eventually leading to a major damage that can cause a building or a construction to come down crushing.

When conducting renovation and any other construction works, it is indispensable for the engineers to have lighting equipment to avoid working in darkness. Any work done in darkness is susceptive to damage as the workers will not be able to see what is happening (Building, 2018). For instance, in the course of demolishing some walls during the renovation, there is a possibility of tampering with the columns and pillars of the building, something that can cause cracks and collapse of the entire building. Such a fact cannot be ruled out in the case of Heritage building. On the other hand, once the contract bid has been worn and schematic design selected, the contractor has to be vetted to authenticate his professionalism in the construction work. The past experience and successful constructions have to be used as samples of the work they have done. Equally, it is advisable to also consider checking the failed construction work by the constructor so that an evaluation can be done to come up with an informed decision on whether to allow the constructor to continue with the work. This fact can be another reason that caused the building to collapse. If no such vetting was carried out, there is a possibility that the renovator did not have adequate experience in renovating houses.

Case Study 2: Collapse of Building on Liverpool Road in Enfield

The case involves a building that collapsed on Liverpool Road in Enfield in England. 40 people were evacuated from that building. Initial reports alleged that a car may have crashed into the building and that there was some smell of a gas coming from the building. There was some construction that was going on in an adjoining construction site (Levy, 2016). However, the police report later indicated that there were no signs of a car crash and that there appeared to have been some earth slippage from the side of the construction site. The decision was arrived at to demolish the whole building because it was not stable and leaving the building standing would have been another disaster in the making waiting to happen. Occupants of the building said that the building had been shaking for some time and that the upstairs cracking just before the wall collapsed. The occupants lost all their property which in their time was their livelihood.

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This case is somehow complex because it involves two issues that are connected to the collapse of the building. The first issue relates to the story told by the occupants of the same building that the building had started shaking sometimes back before it collapsed. The other issue involves the nearby construction site that could have caused the building to collapse (Levy, 2016). The two cases are related in one way or the other, from the look of things, the shaking that the occupants of the building heard and felt might have been caused by something else or the construction that was ongoing nearby. There are many factors that can contribute to the collapse of the building as a result of the activities going on in the construction site. For instance, the construction site could have been involved in digging and excavating the site which required the use of the heavy machinery and equipment that are capable of causing a lot of shaking. The machines involved in such activities are heavy duty machines that can cause trauma of the area and the surrounding. If the distance between the building that collapsed and the place of excavation was short then, there is a likelihood that the excavation contributed largely to the collapse.

On the other hand, the excavation can lead loosening of the soil that holds the building causing it to collapse because the supports have become weaker. When the constructors involved are not skilled enough, they tend to do simple things that cause large destruction (Al-Turki, Ayar, Yilbas and Sahin, 2014). Also, when the constructing team wants to do something quickly they may overlook the impact of their speed and the machines they are using on the buildings and constructions that are closer. For instance, there were allegations that there was some earth slippage on the side of construction. The constructors could have done the excessive digging, making the building foundation to be loose. That will be a deliberate action by the constructors or that would have been interpreted as incompetence on their side or both. In addition, pilling of excavated materials adjacent to the building could have exerted excessive weight on the building making it collapse since it did not have the support from the ground that was required due to the weakening of the ground. Whether the cause of the collapse was caused or originated from the construction site or from the building itself, it is apparent that someone was responsible for the misfortune. The issue of a code of conduct and ethics definitely applies to this case because there might have been some people who did not do their job as required or maybe someone applied unethical behavior that led to the collapse of the building. For both alleged causes, none have been connected with a natural disaster like an earthquake that can be argued to have caused the collapse of the building. Even in situations where natural disasters are reported, engineers are advised to use innovations that can help buildings to withstand them. In fact, places that are prone to be hit by natural disasters are often constructed in a certain way to ensure that in the event a natural disaster occurs there will be no causalities or further damage to the people and the building.

Comparison of the Two Case Studies

In the case that involved the Heritage building, the building collapsed at the time when renovation work was ongoing in the basement of that same building. The argument in this case is that there must be some connection between the renovation work and the collapse of the building. One of the analysis of the case is that the renovators did not follow the required guideline when executing the renovation. Their negligence and incompetence may have been the cause of the drastic and horrible collapse of the building. In the case of the second case study, the building collapsed because of the activities ongoing at the construction site next to the building. The analysis in this case is that the constructors could not have followed the required guidelines that would have made the existing buildings remain stable even as the new construction went on. They ignored the principles that were necessary to follow while using heavy equipment in a place that is close to other buildings. Their incompetence and negligence led to the shaking of the building and eventually the collapse that led to the occupants losing all their property and escaping with their lives.

Constructors have the responsibility of following the laid down procedures and exercise code of conduct as professional constructors. There is not excuse or reason that is far worthy than the safety of the people. There are rules to be followed during excavations and when using heavy equipment. Also, there are rules to be followed when carrying out renovations to a building that must be followed.  It is unethical for the constructors to execute the mandates when they know that they have not followed the laid down procedures (Chow, 2009). For instance, it is required that the constructors have to conduct a risk assessment for any project in progress. The risk assessment helps in identifying any kind of risk that may exist in the project and provide some remedies in case there is a risk identified. The findings of the risk assessment must be evaluated again and the right decision made. However, many risk assessments tend to be well developed but fail to be implemented accordingly. People often look at the short term consequences and forget that when the rules are made they are to protect those who understand them and also those who do not understand them at all. However, the question that comes to mind is what causes the assessments to be ignored or fail to be implemented.

One of the reasons for failure to implement the risk assessment reports is because of ignorance by the constructors. In situations when the constructor anticipate that the project might be canceled depending on the risks identified, some of them just go ahead and ignore the report so that they can continue with the project. Regardless of the value of the project, the lives of the people should matter and more so the commitment to the code of conduct and the ethics of the profession. However, the consequences of such decisions lead to disasters like the collapse of the structures as witnessed in the above two cases (Clements-Croome, 2004). Conversely, some risk assessors lack the competence in assessing the risks involved in a project construction. When this happens, there is a high probability of construction of the substandard structure.

Some of the owners of the structures also contribute to disasters witnessed during construction. For instance, when a project budget seems to be on the higher side, some owners of the project may find it difficult to carry on with the project especially when they do not have enough resources to fund the project (Clements-Croome, 2004). Therefore, in conjunction with the constructors, they decide to continue with the project using the substandard material to cut the cost of construction. Nevertheless, although the owners may not be well versed with the consequences of such decisions, the constructors fail to advise them on the consequences of such actions. In such a situation, the constructors could be argued to have conducted themselves in an unethical manner by allowing going on with the construction even when they clearly understand the risks involved in the project.

In the second case study, there were reports that the building had been shaking before it collapsed. This is a clear indication that the building had not been built as required. Structures raised appropriately are firm and would not experience such incidences of shaking and cracks. This can be argued to be the same case as the first case study that collapsed as there were some renovations going on in the basement. It means that the building had not been built with the required standards and that is why it collapsed (Kister and Hawkins, 2006). A well-built structure should be in a position to withstand any kind of renovations that may be carried out. Besides, it is highly recommended that when carrying out renovations, the initial constructor of the building be used to do the renovations because they clearly understand the status of the building right from the initial stages of raising the building. Nevertheless, the second case study is a bit complex because there are two accounts of what might have gone wrong. The first one involves allegations that the building had cracks that resulted from the shaking it experienced before it collapsed. The second account involves the activities of the new construction site that might have led to the collapse of the building. Whatever the source of the problem, the most outstanding reason revolves around unethical behavior by the constructions or bad code of conducts by the professionals.

There could be various causes of the collapse of the buildings in the two case studies. The presumption is that the work done on the buildings could be as a result of a bad code of conduct by the contractors. During constructions, substandard structures are as a result of failure by the contractor to effectively supervise the crews (Santamouris, 2006). In fact, some contractors have been accused of not even visiting the construction site as the work goes on. This poses a great danger because the crews can decide to skip some critical steps in the construction. Other can decide to steal construction material, something that can lead to the use of inadequate materials which is dangerous to the stability of the building. When the contractor fails to be committed to supervising the work, sometimes there is a delay in executing the project. This is a good sign that the construction did not meet the requirements and that there is a possibility that the building is of substandard quality and might experience some cracks or collapse afterward.

In this regard, the owners of the projects are required to observe a careful analysis of the contract terms made which are related to scheduling, operations, and expectations of the quality. Failure to do so, there is a high probability that the terms were just fantasies. In fact, it is recommended that after the completion of the construction, it is critical to have registered inspectors conduct the inspection of the structure (Kultgen, 2010). In case it is found out that the construction was substandard, the contract terms should include what is supposed to be done and the person involved should take the responsibility. This way, the contractors will be more attentive when executing their duties. Studies have documented that deficiency of such measures make contractors attempt to work beyond their capacity and take shortcuts that lead to disasters like the ones recorded in the two case studies. There must be a way to bring such cases to the light and those who are found culpable punished for failing to follow the right procedure during the process.

Some project owners tend to have unrealistic expectations that lead to changes to be made to the original plan. More often than not, these changes are made too quickly without determining the risks involved in such actions. When risks are later identified and the attempt to recover the anticipated changes is done, the probability of adverse risks increases (Al-Turki et al, 2014). In fact, such decisions are a sign of ineffective planning which translates to a lack of adequate attention to logistics and addressing potential changes right in good time. Effective planning ensures that constraints of the project are well understood before the projects kick off.

There have been cases of contractors subcontracting the project to other contractors. Such activities are dangerous because the chain involved in the construction can have disparities in regards to following the required procedure and adhering to the terms of contact. The main contractor may decide to subcontract a project so that they can save some money out of the deal. However, the subcontracted entity may decide to use the substandard material for the construction so that they can make a huge income from the project. Such deeds amount to a bad code of conduct to both the contractors (Clements-Croome, 2004). In case there are such deals reached out, the owner of the project is supposed to be informed and the terms to be included in the contract. Nevertheless, some contractors do this without the knowledge of the owner of the project.

Although it is the responsibility of the constructor to ensure that the construction is of the required standards, it is also the responsibility of the owner of a project to ensure that they conduct adequate research and interview of the contractor. Poor preconstruction practices by the owner of a project have been found to be a major cause of project failures (Chow, 2009). The owner of the project is supposed to ensure that the contractor is certified and that they have the required knowledge and expertise in the project assigned. Some contractors proclaim to have the relevant expertise even when they are not. All they care about is the money they get from the contract. This is considered as unethical by the engineering practitioners and should be dealt with.

On the side of contractors, it is always advisable to conduct preconstruction planning in order to have a smooth project. The contractor should ensure that the budget is established depending on the kind of project proposed. The budgeting should be done by including budget experts in the decision-making process. Project risk assessment experts need to be incorporated into the preconstruction preparations.  Risk assessment details any potential risk associated with the project and ways of overcoming them and people mandated to execute the risk mitigation strategies (Kister and Hawkins, 2006). The contractors then need to select construction staff depending on the expertise and experience. During the selection process, it is indispensable to lay down the qualifications needed and the objectives of the project. This way, they will be in a position to select the required staff who will be able to execute the tasks required professionally. Some contractors would consider selecting internal staff that they have past working with. Others would consider selecting new staff externally because they feel that they will bring in new skills and expertise to blend in with the existing staff.


There are several ways through which engineers can engage in unethical behaviors in their line of duties. Instead of buying standard materials, some constructors buy substandard materials, something that leads to a poorly built building. The first case study involved Heritage building that collapsed as a result of renovation activities that were going on next to the building. It is evident that there was a problem with the renovation activities that led to the collapse of the building. In analyzing the contribution of the renovation activities in the basement, the renovation engineers need to have prior knowledge of the condition of the building before they commence the renovation work. In the second case study, the building collapsed because of two issues highlighted: the shaking of the building before it collapsed and the effects of construction work that went on in a nearby construction site. There are many factors that can contribute to the collapse of the building as a result of the activities going on in the construction site. The excavation can lead loosening of the soil that holds the building causing it to collapse.

In the two case studies, it is evident that the disasters are related to the bad code of conduct by the contractors. If proper preconstruction measures are taken seriously, some of these problems can be avoided. In fact, the owners of the buildings have also the responsibility of seeing that the contractors meet the qualification for the construction of the building. They should verify their expertise by conducting adequate research on their past constructions. All in all, it is indispensable for the contractors to ensure that they adhere to the code of conduct of professionalism as engineers.


Al-Turki, U., Ayar, T., Yilbas, B. and Sahin, A. (2014). Integrated Maintenance Planning in Manufacturing Systems. 1st ed. Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Building, T. (2018). New code of estimating practice. 1st ed. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Chow, T. (2009). Development trends in building services engineering. 1st ed. Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong Press.

Clements-Croome, D. (2004). Intelligent buildings. 1st ed. London: Thomas Telford.

Kister, T. and Hawkins, B. (2006). Maintenance Planning and Scheduling: Streamline Your Organization for a Lean Environment. 1st ed. Amsterdam: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Kultgen, J. (1988). Ethics and Professionalism. 1st ed. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Levy, M. (2016) Residents evacuated as building collapses on Liverpool Road in Enfield. Retrieved from:

Santamouris, M. (2006). Environmental Design of Urban Buildings: An Integrated Approach. 1st ed. London: Routledge.

Sunday Times. (2018) Heritage-listed building collapses in Fremantle after renovations. Retrieved from: