New Year message from the Barbados Association of Professional Engineers (BAPE)
The Barbados Association of Professional Engineers (BAPE) is concerned that there needs to be a complete reevaluation of the way in which complex national technical issues are handled in Barbados.
This will be a matter of urgent focus for the association in the new year. There is a growing awareness that in Barbados, a number of increasingly complex technical issues have been presenting themselves as matter of grave public concern. Many are in need of urgent, and usually very expensive, attention.
Some key examples of these concerns may be summarised as: • Pot holes • Public transport • Potable water distribution • Flood management • Waste management and sewerage treatment • Alternative energy • Engineering structures for national disasters • Sick building syndromes • ..among numerous other similar and urgent matters.
Not surprisingly, while Barbadians are also being bombarded with a wide range of quick fixes, alternative options, and even future technologies, as possible solutions to these growing concerns, actual progress in addressing these issues continues to be elusive. Even so, such options have been growing increasingly expensive, as seen by the growing number of failed attempts to date, to find solutions.
None of this should really be surprising to Barbadians.
We now live in an incredibly intricate and interdependent modern world where advanced technological systems are increasingly being deployed in even the most basic and routine of everyday devices.
More critically, there is now a growing hierarchy of these complex technologies, where new advanced systems are being built – on top of already complex infrastructure. One example is our recent phenomenal jump into the use of social media as a preferred means of mass communications.
While easy to use, readily available, amazingly quick, affordable, global in scope, and widely available across the society, this technology sits atop an equally complex power generation and distribution network; a highly sophisticated software structure, a network of cellular communication towers; and other complex manufacturing, shipping, distribution networks that are each critical in order for it to function effectively.
Any disruption along this complex, hierarchical, and inter-related pyramid may result in failure, and the solutions then needed to address such failures become increasingly complicated as multiple complex systems now need to be considered in addressing and reinstating normal operation.
So we have created an “engineered world” of unprecedented complexity, but we have generally continued to think that ordinary administrative maintenance, and traditional problem-solving approaches would be enough to keep these complex systems functional. This approach, on reflection, is laughable, and the resulting chaotic disruptions and system failures are really the predictable consequences of using outdated management systems to administer modern, incredibly-complex, engineered, super-systems.
Not even the most highly accomplished individual engineer on their own, is typically in a position to competently assess and diagnose solutions to such complex challenges. This is due to the multidisciplinary nature of these macro-systems, which can span multiple highly specialised technologies – often with conflicting requirements – that need to be negotiated between various different scientific disciplines.
Typically, attempts to address failures by trial and error, or by simply doing what we always did in the past, will be expensive, frustrating, and unsustainable. However we have continued to witness this approach being tried time and again when these complex failures occur.
The inter-relationship between sewerage system failures, increasing heavy vehicular traffic, pot holes, system overload, general maintenance, traffic congestion, national productivity, economic non-performance and overall national progress may not be obvious to many, but such relationships are real, they are impactful, and they require competent, professional guidance.
Any look at highly effective modern organisations that have continued to reap success in the current environment, quickly reveals a focus on the use of multi-disciplinary engineering and technical support teams, leading the way in problem solving, in maintenance, and in strategic evolution for that organisation.
Many successful businesses were started by individuals in their garage or bedroom, but none continue to reap large scale success without the leadership and guidance of the very best technological brains that are available.
At the national level, such a cutting-edge, revolutionary philosophical approach may not be as critical, however what is needed, and urgently so, is a multidisciplinary, engineering and technology – led approach to problem assessment; solution selection; to final actual implementation, and to ongoing maintenance standards and best-practice benchmarking.
The Barbados Association of Professional Engineers (BAPE) is committed to supporting such an approach.
Commencing in January 2018, BAPE will be instituting a series of Technical Town Hall Hearings, aimed at introducing exactly such an approach to national problem solving in Barbados. The hearings will take the form of Town Hall sessions, where various knowledgeable, interested parties will be invited to present their perspectives on the issue at hand. All the various sides will be invited to present their concerns and proposals for solutions, which should be technically sound, evidence-based, and research led.
A specially selected jury of experts will be empanelled by BAPE to act as a technical jury. They will seek clarifications, ask follow-up questions and verify references from the various presenters and experts as needed, and may also do their own follow-up research on the issue.
The technical jury will then be asked to retire, consider, and finally to articulate the best overall engineering solution currently available for the country based on all the evidence presented and otherwise available.
This ‘technical verdict’ will then become the BAPE’s official position on the best approach for the country. This considered position will then be strongly articulated by BAPE and also recommended to Government and other interested parties.
It is then expected that all Barbadians will buy into – and support, that technical, expert decision as the best option available.
There are multiple highly qualified and knowledgeable experts currently in Barbados who actually understand the underlying complexities of many of the various issues that perplex us as a country. In many cases, these experts look on in bemusement as completely unworkable -and expensive decisions are taken at the political level.
Even when such persons are employed professionally on these projects, in many cases their advice may be overruled, ignored or otherwise sidelined by various conflicting interests.
In much the same way that a tenant who is renting a property under a 5-year lease, may opt for various short-term fixes, rather than commit to more extensive, but much more sustainable, long- term repairs – as compared to a property owner, who is much more likely to go with the best longterm professional advice in restoring his property to health.
In keeping with our Code of Ethics, the engineering profession – under BAPE, will use this initiative to place much more emphasis on a national decision-making process that is based on solid professional considerations.
BAPE will thus be seeking to bring a whole new approach to this matter of national problem solving – and even to that of proactive national strategic planning with respect to future technological developments.
We look forward to the full support of all engineers, and of the public, as we explore this new initiative in the national interest. BAPE January 2018