Posts Tagged ‘Engineer’

I Failed My Practical Thai Driving Test Again Today!

Yes, full of confidence that I would surly pass today I failed – again!

Before we go into why I failed, just look at the results I was getting on my own Thai driving license test track.

Results From Driving Tests On My Own Private Thai Driving License Test Track

Here are the results of four days of practicing the Thai driving test manoeuvres:-

Scanned Image of Thai Driving License Test Track Results 130904

Thai Driving License Test Track Results 130904

Let me summaries these results:-

Parking (Reversing into the box) 29 out of 30 attempts

Stopping (Stopping on the white and yellow lines) 37 out of 46 attempts.

How could I possibly fail on the day of the re-test?

Reasons Why I Failed The Thai Driving License Practical Test Again

Depends on what type of person you are.

As an engineer I do a logical assessment as follows below, but other people (like my wife, Kanyah) would blame me fro poor performance, the Gods or the day. (Wednesday when I took my test is a notoriously bad day for business she tells me)

Here is my logical assessment of why I failed my Thai driving test the first time.

1. There Must Be A Reason

If something works – or it doesn’t – there must be a reason say the engineers and scientists. And me.

So there is a logical reason why I can get the outstanding near 100% success rate on my test track and fail at the official Thai driving license test center at Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand.

Here are some possible reasons:-

  1. It was the wrong day
  2. The Gods were having an off day
  3. The actual track is different from my test track
  4. I don’t understnd the rules
  5. I am under psychological pressure which affects my performance
  6. I rush instead of taking my time

3. The Actual Track Is Different From My Test Track

Dismissing the first two possible reasons let’s examine the most logical, number three “The actual track is different from my test track”.

The Parking Box

I must admit that the reversing lane seemed narrower than my own test track and the parking box seemed a bit shorter.

Whereas at home I can reverse into the box and get the nearside rear wheel in the box in one movement here it took two manouvers. And to get the front offside wheel into the box is normally one manouver at home but on the official test day it took two manouvers.

I’d say that the driving official test track was smaller than my private test track. Look doesn’t have to be by much a few centimeters is all we are talking about.

Action Plan 1: Go back at the week end and measure the real driving license test track again.

Action Plan 2: Before that move the posts closer together on the test track and more practice.

Another thing I was aware of is that one of the sticks in my rear view mirror was bending away from me instead of standing upright. Therefore I couldn’t accurately judge my distance and I may have been stopping shorter than I needed to.

4. I Don’t Understand The Rules

The 7 Gear Change Rule

I was told at the beginning by Kanyah that when reversing into the box you are only allowed to change gear seven times.

That’s not a problem because as I said I can do it three and sometimes in two only.

But getting out of the box is more difficult than getting in because the rear wheels are trailing and it’s not easy to get the rear wheels out of the box and in line with the reversing lane. Three of four gear changes are needed.

On this test day I didn’t count how many gear changes I made to get in ot to get out of the box. I just made sure I didn’t hit any posts and took my time.

I failed for going over seven gear changes.

The Seven Gear Change Rule Explained.

Well now I have learned that that the maximum of seven gear changes applies to the whole manouver ie getting both in and out of the box. Seven gear changes (which means seven changes of direction) is all you are allowed to get in and out of the box.

Why didn’t she tell me that in the beginning?

A Close Look At The Seven Gear Change Rule For The Thai Driving Test

Your only have seven gear changes. You need (on average) three to get in and since getting out is ore difficult you need the other four.

But let’s just look at that more closely and count those up:-

Getting Into The Box

1 Reverse in as far as possible on full lock to get the the rear wheels in the box.

2 Forward on full opposite lock to get the front wheels in.

3 Reverse to get the car parallel to the box and the wheels parallel to the car.

Getting Out Of The Box

4 Forward on full lock to get the front wheels out.

5 Reverse as far as possible.

6 Forward again on right and left lock to get the rear wheels as far out as possible.

7 What can you do with this. only Reverse is a gear change. And if you reverse you’ll not have No. 8 to drive down the reversing lane.

So you only have 6 gear changes available to you!

It’s quite obvious. Seven is an odd number so if you change direction seven times you will be going in the wrong direction on the last change.

So the seven gear changes is a myth. You only have six. 3 In and 3 out!

And that’s difficult because you need four to get out!!!

The Stop Line

No doubt about it here. My test track is certainly different from the real track.

My own stop line is on the drive at 90 degrees to the length of the drive. The approach is parallel to the white line. (Which in turn is parallel to the drive)

The actual test track has the approach at 90 degrees to the white  line making getting the car parallel to the white line in a short distance very difficult and something I have not practiced.

It’s Like A Roman Amphitheater – Only The Lions Are Missing

Don’t think that this just a driving test. You and the tester.

Far from it. This is entertainment.

The drivers bring their family their friends,  who bring their friends to watch this amazing spectacle. This feast of masochism where out of 50 would-be drivers only two or three win the freedom of the roads.

The rest are doomed to repeat it again in five days – but unlike the Roman Amphitheater they are not slain – merely humiliated.

In fact I was wondering why the Thais didn’t throw in a few lions just to gore up the show a bit. Probably ’cause there aren’t any lions left in Thailand.

This huge audience certainly puts the performers. I tend to be thinking more about giving them a good show rather than concentrating on getting the pass. Heh! I’m a Farang after all. Gotta show these Thai’s what a Farang can do. Never mid the test results let’s put on a damn good show for them.

Joking Aside – This Is no Longer A Joke

Failing the first time is understandable. I had no idea what the test was and what the rules were.

Failing the second time could be excused.

Failing the third time after building a replica of the the driving test center’s own test track and getting near 100% success rate on it is ridiculous.

It’s now gone beyond a joke. Now it’s serious. I need that driving license and I have to pass the test.

More than that, it’s now personal. The testers and the Thais there know me now. I’m the farang who can’t pass the test. This can’t go on much longer.

If I was Thai I could just melt into the background and exit quietly. Not so a farang. When I’m on the test track I can hear them saying “Look it’s a farang”.

Kanyah Went Ape!

Lovely as Kanyah is when she’s in a good mood, she does have a terrible temper. On this occasion (of me failing the Thai driving test the third time) she went absolutely bananas to put it mildly.

“Why didn’t you do what I said” she screamed.

(Thought to myself “well if I could do it I would have done it wouldn’t I”, but being wiser kept my mouth shut.)

I tried to explain that her blaming me would not in the least help me to pass the test on the next attempt.

No. Wrong strategy.Just wait until she cools down. Like next year.

My Fourth Test Is Tomorrow!

While the heavens open and we are getting all the rain we should have had over the last month in one day I go out to practice parking because my next re-test is tomorrow!

I can manage 2 in and 4 out butt am prone to hitting sticks.

Not a good omen and the weather isn’t helping.

Not looking forward to tomorrow at all.

 

Finding Builders in Thailand To Build Our Retirement House In Pakchong

Just A Quick Update On Our Thai House-Build Project. 5 October, 2010

Now Kanyah is back at Pakchong with the Thai House Plans (construction issue) and is looking again for builders to build our retirement house. But just as it was difficult to find a builder last year when we only had the house drawings that I made (not those produced by our Thai Architect which we have now), so this time it is not so easy also.

You maybe be wondering why we did not ask Kensington to build our home. I did ask in the beginning but unfortunately the location of our land is too far out for them to build. It is a shame as it is so difficult to find good reliable builders that do a professional job.

Kensington can build homes of all sizes, shapes and styles in many locations but Thailand is a big country and they cannot build everywhere.

It is always best to ask them and let them know your location as they can build in Chiang Mai, Phuket, Pattaya, Bangkok, Hua Hin, Ko Samui and many other areas. A lot depends on the project and the location.

However even if they cannot build your home I am sure one of their excellent architects can design it.

Anyway, Kanyah phoned me yesterday (I am still in the U.K., working) and gave me the following update.

Building Permit Application in Thailand

Kanyah has visited the Or Bor Tor office, which she says is close to our plot of building land in Pakchong and they have told here what documents are required to apply for the building permit. There are some documents she does not have at the moment and these are:-

A) The Signed Construction Drawings And Calculations

Although the construction drawings are finished and Kanyah has printed off a few sets we don’t have the sets signed off by the Thai Architect and the engineer together with the calculations. I have asked the Architect when she can receive them and he replied that since I had just issued some comments on the constrution drawings he would wait until any necessary changes had been made to the drawings and then issue the signed set. That may take a week or so.

B) The Thai House Registration Papers

Every Thai person should be registered at a house in Thailand and have their name entered on the house registration papers. The Thai house registration papers record the births, deaths, marriages and names of all people who are in residence at that address.

Kanyah’s name is registered at a friend’s house in Bangkok and she has asked her friend to send a copy to her in Pakchong. that should take a few days.

Once all these documents are received Kanyah will apply at the or Bor tor office for the Thai house Building Permit.

Finding Builders To Build Our Retirement House

As of today, Kanyah has given sets of the construction drawings to two builders in Pakchong. She is looking for more builders.

Small Builders And Labour Only Construction Contracts In Thailand

It seems, she says, that the local builders in Pakchong do not have the capital to make all the purchases of the materials when they build a house. (i.e. they can’t afford to buy the materials) Instead the Client (in this case us, or more accurately Kanyah) would have to purchase all materials.

This means that the build would be via a labour only contract. This has advantages and disadvantages.

The Advantages Of A Labour Only Construction Contract In Thailand

1. Lowest Material Costs

Assuming for a moment that the Client is a Thai national, like Kanyah, then by purchasing direct the Client can avoid mark-ups on prices put on by a builder if he does the procurement. Also Kanyah is good at negotiating when shopping and always manages to get a discount of some sort. So if we go the labour only route then we can be sure that we get the lowest materials costs.

2. Quality Control

By making the purchases directly, Kanyah is able to ensure that she gets the quality of materials that she wants. Unless every item in the build is specified beforehand a builder making the purchases would often be liable to locate the cheapest materials available, not necessarily of the right quality.

The Disadvantages Of A Labour Only Construction Contract In Thailand

1. No Idea Of Final Cost

If the builder is buying the materials he will include tha total cost when he submits his tender. We will know the final cost of the project before we start building.

If the cost is outside our budget we would be able make changes to the building and/or the quality of the finishes to reduce the cost.

If we are purchasing the materials ourselves, unless we spend weeks getting quotations for everything before we start, we will not know the final build cost until the house in fully constructed.

2. No Experience Of Procurement For Construction Material

Although Kanyah does know what concrete and re-bar is she does not have a detailed knowledge of building materials and the construction process both of which are needed by anyone undertaking the procurement of all the materials themselves.

3. Time, Effort And Management Systems

If Kanyah is procuring all the materials, she will have to spend all the time and effort necessary to do so. On a live construction project with a fixed construction programme this can be a stressful job, especially for a novice.

Also, strict management systems are needed to record all the purchase transaction, chase and check deliveries and control the costs. As a minimum computers skills and ability to use spreadsheets and understand Bills of Quantity. All this extra work on top of controlling the quality of the works is just too much extra effort for Kanyah and she does not have the necessary computer skills.

4. Responsibility For the Programme (Construction Schedule)

The purchase of the materials must be made in a timely fashion if the project is not put on hold awaiting for materials to arrive. If the project is halted awaiting material deliveries, then there will be extra costs of paying the builder for standing costs. By this I mean that the labour is not working but still has to be paid.

Turn-Key Building Contract

Having written all the above pros and cons of a labour only building contract it becomes clear to me that unless I go to Thailand to oversee the build then a labour only contract is nor suitable for us.

I need to explain all the above to Kanyah and then she needs to find a builder capable of making the materials purchases. In other words we need a turn-key building contract where all e do is pay the builder in stages for the completed work.

Bills Of Quantity (BOQ)

If you don’t know what a BOQ is then let me explain.

A Bills Of Quantity (BOQ) document is a list of all the different types of materials and components used in the construction of the building. Each item in the list is called a Line Item.

There are columns where for each Line Item in the BOQ the following information is entered:-

The Quantity. This may be m3 of concrete, square metres of roof tiles, or number of windows.

The Rate. This would be the cost that the builder would charge per unit of the materials. For example, X Baht/m3 for concrete Y Baht/m2 for roof tiles and Baht per window. It would include the cost of supplying and installing the item. (but see below)

The cost of each line item is then calculated by multiplying the rate by the quantity. The sum of all the costs gives the final cost of the project.

Sometimes the cost of installing or fixing the materials is shown separately from the supply only cost of the materials.

In this case there would be additional columns for labour cost per unit, total labour cost and final labour cost for each line item.

Obtaining A Bill Of Quantities (BOQ)

I want to get a BOQ made for our Pakchong house that Kanyah can give to the builders preparing quotations for us and I am in discussion with the Kensington Company to have that done. The person making the BOQs is called a Quantity Surveyor. (QS)

If I have a BOQ with quantities measured by the QS from the construction drawings and I issue to the builder without the quantities I can use my version to check what the builder is offering when he submits his completed BOQ.

It will take a couple of weeks to get the BOQ made by Kensington’s QS in Bangkok, so that will delay the obtaining of quotations from builders for a bit. Also I have to explain all this to Kanyah.

That’s all for this update, see you in the next post where hopefully I can report on some real progress on finding builders in Thailand.

Site Testing Of The Soil For House Foundation Design

My architectural and design company, from Bangkok in Thailand, has arranged at my request to send a team to the house site in Pakchong to test the soil so that the foundation design of our planned retirment house can be finalised.

The test will be what is technically termed a “Standard Penetration Test” (SPT) and will start on 11th or 13 th September 2010 and a Report will be produced.

For more detailed information about how to determine Ground Bearing Pressure (GBP) and how to correctly size house foundations refer to the Thai House Foundation Design web page.

Disclaimer

What follows below is what I have learned about this soil testing procedure so far and no doubt as the investigation proceeds I will learn more.

Please take this article in the manner in which it was written – In good faith and with limited knowledge. I am no expert in this subject and cannot take any responsibility for any events that may occur by you taking any action as a result of reading this article.

Remember that all this is new to me – this is the first time I have had a house designed anywhere – let alone in Thailand!

Always have a properly qualified engineer to design your foundations for you!

What The Standard Penetration Test Will Achieve

In simple terms, the (SPT) test will determine the Ground Bearing Capacityof the soil, in other words how much weight the soil can support. This is measured (in Thailand) in tons per square meter. (Ton/m2). In the metric system the units are kN/m2.

From this, the size of the foundations necessary to carry the weight of the house can be calculated. Of course the weight of the house when contructed and in use has to be determined first.

How Important Is It To Have This Soil Test Carried Out?

To me it’s vital. After all that’s why I am paying for the test to be carried out. As I mentioned above I’m no expert in these matters so I am proceeding cautiously. I have been told by a civil engineer here in the UK that there are many reasons why the ground bearing pressure can vary significantly even on the same plot of land. This can be because the type of soil varies form location to location. Another big factor influencing the soil bearing pressure is whether the soil is compacted i.e. undisturbed or whether is is loose i.e. it is is soil that has been placed on the lad – often to fill a hole. In our case in PakchongI do know that the soil is agricultural land so it will have been ploughed to a certain depth.

However, this test is not always performed when designing house foundation and there are several reasons for this.

  • Sometimes it is not necessary to undertakea soil test for an individual property because the load bearing capacity of the soil may already be know for the region and held on record either with builders or piling companies or in the local Land Office. This information may have come from tests undertaken by other companies for other projects.
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  • Another reason that a Standard Penetration Test may not be required on a small house is that the load bearing pressure of the soil can be approximately determined by a knowledgeable geotechnical engineer from a knowledge of the soil classification. Tables of bearing capacities of various types of soil (such as rock, clay, gravel, sand etc) are readily available. In fact the British Building Regulations Approved Document A at table 10 gives the foundation sizes for various types of ground for houses of various weights.
    -
    So a good geotechnical/civil engineer with some local knowledge may be able to estimate a suitable safe size for foundations for a small house like the house we are planning to build in Pakchong. In case there is any suspicion of the type of ground, the foundations can be slightly oversized. This may be an unnecessary expense but the additional cost may only be a small percentage of the total house cost.

Design Procedures And Responsibility For Foundation Design In Thailand

I have been advised that it is common in Thailand not to finalise the size of the house foundations before appointing a construction company to build the house. In this case the design company makes an assessment of the foundation design based on ‘common practice’. The builder then takes responsibility for the foundation design and obtains the load bearing capacity of the soild to do so, either from local knowledge, existing data or by means of soil tests.

To me, this has several disadvantages and issues.

  1. The design company has to sign the drawings and provide the calculations for the foundation design. I don’t see how that can be done if the ground bearing capacity of the soil is not known.
    -
  2. The Or Bor Tor (The land office in Thailand where the house plans are submitted to apply for a building permit) will check the structural calculations. If these are not based on a knowledge of the actual load bearing capacity (that the Or BorTor Officer may well know because he deals with the applications daily) the calculations may not be accepted and a building permit may not be issued.
    -
  3. The local builder may not have the necessary knowledge and skills to determine the load bearing capacity and to re-design the foundations if necessary. Yes, a large company may have a qualified enginer, but I’m expecting to find a small, local builder in Pakchong who may not have the necessary expertise. By the way, I’m told that there is a Thai regulation that applies for buildings over 150 square metres and it stipulates that the builder must have a qualified and knowledgeable engineer to supervise the project to control the construction process. Well, judging by the coments on so many Thai websites, that expertise is often not applied very well!
    -
  4. I will be unable to award a construction contract with a known fixed scope, price and timescale and will be at the mercy of the builder when it comes to price and programme.
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  5. Responsibilities become blurred. the designer is effectively passing the responsibility for foundation design on the the builder. The builder may not accept this.
    -
  6. Extention to the programme. I am having the soil bearing pressure tested and the foundation design finalised in parallel with the preparation for the construction drawings. If this work is handed over to the builder there will be a delay to the construction programme while it is carried out.
    -
  7. Design costs will be more expensive. The design company has spent time designing foundations and making drawings, including steel reinforcement details. This will may have to be repeated by the builder and he will charge me for it. Double work. Double cost.
    -
  8. I may not be in Thailand at the time of the build. The works will be supervised by my wife, Kanyah, who does not have building knowledge and she would not understand the commercial implications of undertaking the soil test and the foundation (re)design. Yes, we will appoint an inspector to take care of the technical details of the build, but he will not be expected to manage the builder’s activities.

More Information On Foundation Design

You may not be interested in how to design house foundations and I can well understand that. But you ought to understand how foundations are designed so that you can decide whether to design your house the way I am and let the design company finalise the house foundation design or to do it the common Thai way and let the builder do it.

I have therefore written an article about foundation design and the effect of land bearing pressure for the complete novice.

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