Consider the ASCE code of ethics, and frame your response in that context–professional engineering ethics, not just your personal ethical framework (although that is important and relevant, too).
These cases are from a “case of the month” series that was posted by the Murdough Center for Engineering Ethics at Texas Tech.
Just place yourself into the shoes of the main character of your chosen case, and answer the question “what should I do?” Your answers should be clear and well-organized, indicate alternative approaches that you have discarded, indicate which tenets of engineering ethics you consider, and provide a final decision.
Since these cases were posted on the web in a survey format, I’m sure you could find them with a quick search, and see which answers were most popular. Please don’t. I’m interested in seeing your own thinking on this assignment. There is definitely NOT one right answer to these; there are a number of ethical ways to handle each one, and probably plenty of gray areas, too.
Your company is hired by a design-build team to provide geotechnical engineering services for the development of a complex of five, two-story office structures on an undeveloped, wooded site. The design-build team consists of a large contractor and a multi-disciplinary architectural-engineering (A/E) design firm. Neither the contractor nor the architect/engineer firm will retain any financial interest in the project once it is completed and purchased by one of several prospective buyers.
You are the geotechnical engineer in charge of the subsurface investigation, testing, engineering analysis, and site preparation and foundation design recommendations. Because of the moderately compressible nature of the subsoils at the site, your recommendation is to support the structures on piles to avoid long-term settlements that would not cause collapse of the structures, but would lead to cracking of floor slabs, some differential movement of the second stories and potential distress (cracking) to the brick masonry and glass exteriors of the buildings.
When advised of your recommendations by telephone, the contractor on the design-build team reviews the local building code and questions why they can’t support the buildings on shallow spread footings designed on the basis of the allowable soil bearing pressures indicated in that code.
When you tell the contractor that excessive settlements will occur over time, the contractor questions if settlements will be excessive during the first year after completion of construction, which is also the warranty period for the project. Your analyses indicate that the settlements in the first year will not be excessive, rather the problems due to settlement will not manifest themselves until several years have elapsed.
The contractor requests that you write your report recommending shallow footing foundations designed in accordance with the local building code requirements, since he maintains that the design-build team obligation only extends to the first year following completion of construction. There is a clear implication that you may not get paid for your services if you do not comply with the contractor’s request.