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[SEAOC] Re: [SEAOC] Structural Observation, Special Inspection issues

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We all seem to be passing the blame between the engineer and inspector, 
when, in fact, most residential construction was designed without 
engineering. Often the architect becomes the professional of record - 
again often doing their own calculations to support their "low" fee's. 
In my estimation, this is tantamount to a proctolgist practicing brain 
surgery.
Our professional community has no business passing blame when we allow 
codes to be written that permit non-professionals from designing and 
building structure - as occurs in the conventional framing section of 
the code. To make matters worse, the code lacks discussions and details 
for the connection of shear elements at diaphragm levels (interior 
braced panels). All the work that we do as a community is negated when 
ICBO provides inadequate instruction for the construction of a LOW RISK 
type of structure - yet we all get laid on the carpet when this low risk 
structure costs the insurance companies millions.
Another burr in my butt is the concept that Structural Observation is 
the cure-all for poor construction. The state licensing board for 
contractors does not test the applicants ability to understand and 
interpret code. There are no questions on the exam that test the 
applicants ability to know how structural elements are to be connected 
for resistance to gravity and lateral load. 
How many of you have seen the bastardization of a plated roof truss 
because the contractor ordered the wrong type of truss and rather than 
eat the cost, decides to modify the truss by scabing on members - and 
nailing them against the plated connection? I have! How many contractors 
install shear panels over rigid insulation (Powerwall) - Plenty out here 
in the desert!!! How may contractors install shear panels and then place 
electrical, mechanical and plumbing equipment in large cut outs - 
destroying the panel? Most do!
How many know that a shear wall must connect the roof and floor 
diaphragms to a the wall and a foundation or other resistance to uplift 
- Not many.
The sorry fact is that most contractors think of shear walls as those 
areas above and below openings that have plywood on them. Most of them 
have no conception of why blocking is placed above a double top plate. 
The think the purpose is to be used as a stucco molding or for nailing 
Gypsum ceilings.
Most contactors think that you can make a wall rigid by using a wood 
post and putting a Simpson Holdddown on each side of the post - causing 
a flagpole rigid design. I'm not fooling - a condo that I inspected had 
the open front garages constructed this way - with living units above. 
The plans called for another type of connections.
My rule of thumb is that if the contractor can cut corners to get the 
job done and get paid, he will do it. I am sorry to seem so pesimistic 
on this trade, but after looking at a thousand or so dammaged buildings 
it becomes apparent that the real problem is not the engineering 
community design standards - it is the fact that the state allows anyone 
who can pick up a hammer and pass a test where the questions and answers 
are available in any review course, to be licensed.
We need to stop ICBO from giving technical information to non-technical 
people. Then we need to correct the mistakes within the code before it 
gets published - or expect the engineering community to review and 
recognize these errors before they occur. And finally, we may need to 
standardize construction notes and detailing within the community to 
assure uniformity in the field. This does not preclude choice, but is 
meant to minimize damage.
One final word. The code has historically turned it's back on 
residential wood framed construction since it was considered low risk. 
We can be fairly sure that a wood framed structure built even to the 
current conventional framing codes will not collapse. The problem is in 
the cost of repair and the devestation that damage has to the homeowner. 
We live in a time where the high cost of materials and living can be 
just as devestating as total destruction.
Now I will get off my high and mighty - this is a very emotional issue 
to me - especially when I have to justify this to a contractor who has 
been doing things the same way for 20 years without a complaint!!!!!

Dennis Wish PE

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