A while back I was asked to comment by the Florida Engineering Society (FES) on the possible rule change being considered by the Board that would allow landscape architects to design stormwater management (SWM) systems and obtain corresponding permits. As a registered professional engineer with seventeen years of stormwater management systems design and permitting experience in the state of Florida, including six years at the South Florida Water Management District and nine years of private consulting, I don’t believe that the rule change should be approved. I can’t say I’m even sure I can find the logic or practical reasons why this would even be considered. Perhaps us overworked civil engineers need to be alleviated of all of the extra work (you can LOL here).
In all seriousness, I have much respect for the architecture profession. I have friends and family members who are registered architects, I even took a couple of architecture classes as an undergrad student. Architects provide a much needed service to our societies and they should be appreciated and respected for what they do. Never-the-less, throughout my career I have worked in conjunction with landscape architects on various projects, and I do not believe that they have the adequate education nor experience to properly design a safe and environmentally compliant stormwater management system. With respect to signing and sealing technical engineering SWM calculations and plans (assuming responsibility and exposing liability), Civil Engineers are the only professionals which must demonstrate adequate education and experience to be able to do so. After graduating from an accredited ABET approved program with a bachelors degree, engineering graduates must first take and pass a state/national regulated exam to obtain the Engineering Intern (E.I.) designation. The next step is working for four years under the guidance of a registered professional engineer as an E.I., then another state mandated exam must be passed to obtain the Professional Engineer (P.E.) registration. Thus at a minimum, eight years of education and experience are required for the privilege to sign and seal engineering calculations and plans for a stormwater management system design.
Stormwater management systems plans and technical reports must be signed and sealed by a P.E. which has acquired intricate and extensive knowledge of hydrology and hydraulics, among other skills. By signing and sealing such plans and reports, the engineer exposes his or her license to liabilities governed by the board of professional engineers. In the course of a typical project design process, landscape architects become familiar with mainly one of the aspects or components of a proper stormwater management system design (i.e. Grading). They do not have the proper education, training and experience to design safe and environmentally compliant stormwater management systems, as this requires specific engineering skills, knowledge and abilities, such as constructing and executing complex Hydrologic/Hydraulic models, designing collection and conveyance systems including inlets, pipes, and channel flows, various types of ponds (i.e. Detention, Retention), outfall control structures, prevention of flooding, water quality standards, and many other engineering components. To summarily allow landscape architects to design stormwater management systems without the proper education and experience would be contrary to the goals and rules established by the Board, and perhaps pose debilitating impacts to the civil engineering profession, the public’s safety and economic interests.
With so many other important issues and challenges facing not only our overall economic conditions, but the decimated state of the general architecture, engineering, and construction (A/E/C) industry, I think our regulatory and legislative time could be better utilized seeking to build up existing technical disciplines as we embrace innovative technologies and sustainable development, not contemplating rule changes amongst existing professional disciplines that do not make much sense to begin with. Until next time………JC.