Brooks Smith is the Lead Engineering Developer for ClearCalcs, a cloud-based engineering design platform seeking to standardise the way in which engineers perform their calculations. His expertise is specifically in structural engineering, in which he is both a Chartered Professional Engineer in Australia and a licensed Professional Engineer in the United States (Texas). Earlier in his career, he also worked as a forensic structural engineer investigating buildings including the Empire State Building, as a specialty research and development consultant in cold-formed steel product design, and as a research fellow investigating unrealised system reliability benefits in repetitive steel structures.
Standards Australia (SA): Why did you choose to get involved in the NEXTgen program?
Brooks Smith (BS): Developing calculators for structural building design has led me to become intimately familiar with the numerous Australian standards and United States standards cited in each country’s respective construction codes. Given that material behaviour is generally unaffected by political borders, it's fascinating to me seeing where the differences and similarities lie between the two country's standards.
The NEXTgen program gives me the opportunity to better understand standards development. I believe I can use the knowledge gained from NEXTgen and my experience in software development to provide a unique perspective on structural building standards. Upon completing the NEXTgen program I would like to help further improve Australian standards as a committee or working group member, or at least to help boost the voice of the software development community in standards development.
SA: What was your biggest takeaway from your first NEXTgen workshop at Standards Australia?
BS: I'd say that I had two big takeaways from the workshop: first, I didn't previously appreciate how much the guidelines for writing standards have developed. I'm pleased to see how much the standards are getting, well, standardised. Second, while standards development can appear as a looming bureaucracy, the development of Australian standards is more approachable than I had believed. I look forward to learning more about the process and entrenching myself in it!
SA: How would you sum up the standards work that you are currently involved in?
BS: While I'm not a member of any committee (yet!), I am actively seeking out structural committee meetings at which I can attend as an observer, and nominating organisations that could potentially sponsor me to join a committee.
In addition to actively participating in the NEXTgen program for the next several months, I'm authoring letters to some of the structural building committees. In the letters, I’m outlining clauses that our software development experience shows could use further clarification and clauses that statistical data on our platform shows that engineers may not be utilising as the committees intend.
SA: What does the future of standardisation look like?
BS: I believe the future will mean changes in both how standards are developed and how they're delivered. In development, as the world moves toward collaborative and cloud-based work environments, standards will become more responsive to the ways in which the standards are used. Committees will be able to reference data on which clauses are used and how they're used, allowing them to focus efforts upon high-demand clauses, identify missing edge cases, and tailor standards to what exactly the market needs.
In standards delivery, moving beyond paper books will allow standards to no longer be bound by tables and graphics that fit on an A4 page. Some committees could start developing or certifying calculators or mobile apps that are compliant with their standards. The possibilities for Australian Standards will only grow as new technology opens doors that didn't previously exist.