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Fwd: Re: building code minimums for wood frame

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Excerpts from various postings to this thread deserve additional comments:

<<Pendyala - ... As a responsible and compentent engineer he/she should have
the courage of conviction for their designs and not at all be intimidated by
developers. If you get sued prove your case.>>

<<Wright - ... A certain amount of over design certainly isn't an error or an
omission. ...if this guy were my client I'd want to have a chat with him
about professional judgement and responsibility. If he won't listen to
reason, you don't need him as a client. He'll cost you a lot more sweat than
what he'll pay, and you can bet he's only started cutting corners.>>

These and similar high-principled sentiments expressed in the postings are
unassailable.  And it's not surprising, coming from a self-selected group of
engineers who take their professionalism seriously enough to participate in
the seaoc listserv.  Unfortunately, their pronouncements are preaching to the
choir, and do not acknowledge some realities.  To his credit, Dennis Wish
addresses them in his postings, albeit with some anguish:

<<Wish - ... Developers and Builders are not really interested in the safety
of the finished product. These clients search for the lowest engineering
price, but even more important, the most creative and ecconomical design. The
judge this on their history of building by either "conventional construction
standards" that don't require an engineer's stamp, or by older code
requirements. ... But as long as there are those out there that will accept
this work inadequate designs will exist. ...  I must tell you that advise
such as "don't accept the work" is not the answer I'm looking for if I want
to continue working in this field. ... Mr. Pendyala, I wish I had the type of
client that was so enamored with my ability that he would rather give into my
demands rather than go up the street to my competitor who will happily design
the way he wants. ..courage of conviction is fine if you have the only
engineering practice in the area.>>

Wish indeed tells it like it is, and as building department staffs see it.
 In my years in code enforcement, I checked a ton of plans, and saw countless
more that my plan check staff involved me on over issues of code compliance.
 The variations in competence and professionalism would astound many listserv
readers.  The common denominator is very low, for the reasons I mentioned in
a recent posting excerpted below:

<<Lew - ... And some engineers will do the developer's bidding and produce
inadequate designs and/or rubberstamp the plans rather than lose the job.  In
any given region, there usually are a few such ethically-challenged
individuals or firms that wind up with a disproportionate share of the design
work.  Some builders just want minimal plans and calcs to pull permits and
don't care about design quality or details because they are going to build it
the way they want to anyway.  These spec and cheap-o builders quickly learn
the identities of the cooperative offices.>>

To varying extent, the issue of ethical flexibility is one faced by
practioners in many other fields.  I've a daughter who was a CPA for a big
six firm, and I'm aware that the levels of diligence in designing audits, and
hence the costs, are very different between these firms and solo practioners
or small offices.  The latter have more incentives to be cost-conscious, not
only due to the need to get the work and to eat, but also to establish ground
floor relationships with smaller companies that may grow larger and need more
extensive services.  Another example is an MD friend who recently joined an
HMO, and is adjusting to arguably lower standards of care imposed by
cost-containment panels.

The reality is that, in all professions, there are more bottom-line oriented
clients than there are quality-oriented ones.  For engineering work, the work
volume from the first is an order of magnitude higher and more common.
 There's a saying that the difference between a professional and a technician
is that the first is focused on doing the right thing, while the second is
focused on doing things right.  In an ideal world, engineers would do both.
 In the real world, the balance between doing the right thing (to high
professional standards) and doing things right (to "meet code" and/or pass
muster with building departments) will be answered differently by each of us.

Franklin Lew, SE



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Richard Lewis, P.E.
Missionary TECH Team
rlewis(--nospam--at)techteam.org

The service mission like-minded Christian organizations
may turn to for technical assistance and know-how.