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[SEAOC] Re: [SEAOC] Re: [SEAOC] Re: Quality of Engineering - Checking

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>Quality checking in engineering, continued. I remember reading a 
>few years ago about the parking structure at CalState Northridge, 
>the one that collapsed. It seems the reviewer for the Office of 
>the State Architect would not sign off on the design because he 
>felt it would not survive an earthquake. The contractor shopped 
>around and got one, or was it two, engineers to certify the 
>design. The structure was built, and it did indeed collapse.

This is not correct.  State of California projects, whether 
designed by the design branch of DSA, or by outside consultants, 
are not given structural plan checks by the structural safety 
branch of DSA.  In fact, State projects can be built without any 
independent plan check at all!  Major mistakes can and have 
occurred.  A notable example is the Undergraduate Library on the 
Berkeley campus, designed in the '70s by a well known firm that 
bears the name of a prominent professor on the campus.  A decade 
after it was built, the structure was evaluated as part of a 
project to evaluate the seismic performance of all U.C. buildings.  
The evaluation of the structure revealed major design deficiencies 
that required costly seismic strengthening work.  Most folks who 
are familiar with the case believe an independent plan check would 
have found these serious errors in judgment.

For the CSU Northridge structure, the CSU project manager did 
contract for an independent plan check by Esgil, a firm that 
performs plan checks for many jurisdictions.  Esgil had serious 
concerns, and didn't sign off.  What happened after that depends on 
who one hears the story from.  For one version, readers may contact 
Dick Esgate at Esgil (in San Diego).  For another, readers can 
contact Chuck Thiel, structural consultant retained by CSU in the 
aftermath of Northridge (he's in the EERI roster).

Frank Lew, S.E.


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