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Date: Mon, 03 Mar 1997 09:10:19 -0800
From: Bill Allen <ballense(--nospam--at)>
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Combining responses to Lynn Howard and Joe McCormick:

Lynn Howard wrote:
> Well, I like Bill Allen's idea.  The California Building Code is already
> written, and if you take the OSHPD and DSA amendments, then you have a
> really good Code.  This is a State Code.  Why would it be so difficult
> to simply require that local jurisdictions to adopt the State Code
> instead of the UBC?  If it is good for State projects, why not all
> projects?

1. I like the idea of adopting the California version of the UBC. But of
I've already passed my S.E. Since first suggesting this idea informally
at SEAOC dinner meeting after Northridge, I have come to understand that
there are a significant number of qualified Civil Engineers doing
engineering. I wouldn't want to exclude them even if I could. I do
however, if the B&P Code and the UBC changed to the California version
S.E.s only), there would have to be a transition period and some

> Just for the record, I bascially like things the way they are.  Sure
> there are some things I would like changed, but overall, I am not one to
> try and create more government programs to help the structural
> engineering community, or create an elite group.  If being qualified to
> perform a vital service means that we are elite, then so be it.  But if
> I can get my SE license, it is not such an elite club:)

2. I CERTAINLY don't like the way things are. However, I don't want to
see more
bureaucracy. I think we have all of the code mechanisms we need; I just
we need to refine them.

> This thread bascially started out as someone suggesting that we a SEOAC
> get together and have some kind of program that would try and increase
> the fees we get for our services.  That is the subject that got me all
> excited.  This other stuff that has come up are things I would not
> normally post about, but I am trying to keep this thread going so that
> we can get more opinions out.
> As I see it, if we as a professional organization want to kill two birds
> with one stone, we should try and push for any program that would keep
> unqualified people from practicing structural engineering.  And quite
> frankly, just because SEOAC has failed it it's efforts in the past at
> this is no reason to stop trying.  Maybe a fresh approach is necessary.
> There are always people who will tell you something can not be done when
> you are trying to do things like this.  We need to look at those
> organizations that have been successful in doing this kind of thing, and
> learn from them.

3. Like who? where? I thought that the best avenue would be to
our representatives at SEAOC to battle for us. If there are other
I certainly think we should pursue them as well. But who would they be?
appreciate the fact that this thread has been a good avenue for
but it would be more interesting if it was a venue to incubate
activities as well. I'm not absolutely certain, but I do not recall any
of our
elected representatives from SEAOC participating in this thread.
> If the "people" are bent on getting the government out of their lives,
> and this includes allowing unqualified people design the structures they
> live in and work in, then the "people" will get what they deserve.  I am
> all for a smaller government, but I am not in favor of "no government".
> There is a role for government, and one of the basic roles is protecting
> the life and safety of it's citizens.  It is easy for most folks to see
> how a police officer performs this role, but not so easy for professions
> like ours.

4. Want another idea? In California, the DMV requires proof of insurance
register a car. How difficult would it be for a building official to
proof of E&O insurance by the person stamping and signing the structural
engineering? This method would allow Civil Engineers to perform
engineering and provide better protection for the public as well. But I
it would eliminate the $500 calc and sketch jobs that I feel really hurt
> The 6 items that I listed are not serious roadblocks to those qualified
> people who practice structural engineering.  The only real "hurdle" is
> the SE exam itself.  My partner of 12 years has nevered passed the SE
> exam either.  But if he were pressed to do it, he could and would.

Joe McCormick wrote:

> This would certainly make it more difficult for some people to qualify
> as a person who could do structural design, despite their qualifications
> to do so.  In the Plain Language Pamphlet of the Professional Engineers
> Act structural engineering constitutes "...the application of specialized
> civil engineering knowledge and experience..."  The same pamphlet states
> that the purpose of the Professional Engineers Act is "To safeguard the
> life, health, property, and public welfare of the people of California."
> The purpose of the Act is not to provide certain individuals with a
> state-mandated monopoly.  It simply isn't true that all Civil Engineers,
> Mechanical Engineers and Architects who do structural engineering are a
> public hazard.  Incompetance has less to do with liscenses and more to do
> with ability.  You would be hard pressed to show that Terzaghi was
> of designing a steel frame because he didn't have an SE stamp.

5a. I think we all need to ask ourselves if the Professional Engineers
Act is
doing its job. Subsequent to the Northridge earthquake, there were some
meetings put on by SEAOSC where speakers demonstrated some of the
damage. Speaker
after speaker, details were presented about the enormous damage to
commercial and
multi-family structures. When Jack Bruce (of DSA) spoke, he illustrated
a significantly
lower frequency of post-earthquake, structurally unsafe schools. I think
there were
three total. I had to ask myself, why was this. The design base shear
was the
same. The only differences were that a S.E. signed the plans, testing
inspection were required and plan check is much more rigorus.

Also, why is the equivalent legislation is Arizona so much more
restrictive when
they "only" have seismic zone 2B to contend with?

5b. No, Terzaghi didn't have an S.E. stamp. The Architect's example of
this is
Frank Lloyd Wright. We also have a FEW contemporaries who fit this
category, but I
don't believe ANYONE wants guidelines built around these special people.
It is the
other end of the spectrum we should be concerned about. With regards to
(Civil-Civils), Mechanicals and Architects doing structural engineering,
here's a
test. Tell me how many you PERSONALLY know who could properly calc and
detail the
lateral force resisting system for a two story, single family residence
in seismic
zone 4. Don't worry about SMRF's or anything else "high-tech". You have
to exclude
Civils who only do structural engineering. To me, they are structurals
but haven't
taken/passed the test.

> This is a fantastic demonstration that registration in a particular area of
> engineering fails to guaruntee that the individual is qualified to perform
> such work.  If it is possible to pass the Civil test and gain comity in so
> many other jurisdictions while being utterly unqualified in the discipline,
> why should we believe that the SE designation is any more of a guaruntee?

6. No, it's because the Civil is my P.E. and the Structural is only a
Title. To practice,
I must be a P.E. therefore I needed a Civil. I personally think this is
a mistake.
I think my S.E. should be my professional license. I would then let my

The SE designation is not a guarantee, but tell me what you think AFTER
you sit
at an exam.

> Perhaps the reason for requiring a Civil registration and additional
> experience requirements for SE's is because such work is the "specialized
> application of civil engineering knowledge"?  The California law seems to
> suggest such.  Having specialized knowledge of civil engineering seems to
> imply that Civil Engineering itself contains non-specialized knowledge of
> structural engineering, does it not?  The concept behind the Structural
> Engineer title is sound and I support it, but it would be a mistake to
> dismiss other engineering disciplines as incompetant in the area....they
> simply aren't the experts!  There is as much of a role for all those "other
> guys" named above in structural engineering as there is for physician's
> assistants and RNs in medicine - you simply do NOT need an expert for
> everything!  Requiring an expert to look into every single structural
> engineering project is not in the ultimate interest of the public welfare
> - it's economic waste.

7. To some extent I agree. However, I do believe "experts" are warranted
in seismic
zones 3 and 4 (at least 4). There is too much going on and too much at
for "wanna-bes" and part-timers.

> There is a middle ground.  An intermediate structural engineering liscense
> or certificate is needed, along with a review of the "turf" which should
> be the exclusive domain of SEs.  I agree that the current deliniation of
> exclusive SE boundaries is way too broad.  But reserving all structural
> engineering work for SE's is far too constrained.  A voice of reason is
> far less likely to get "pooh poed" than one of extremism.  To say "ALL
> structures are the EXCLUSIVE domain of SE's" is simply an exercise of one's
> ego rather than the one's head.

8. I don't like this at all with the "intermediate structural
engineering license."
I would much rather "encourage" the Civil Engineers doing structural
to pass the test. I believe the "middle ground" should be related to
expanding the
projects where an SE is required. Currently, Architects and Civils can
do structural
engineering for everything except schools, hospitals and buildings over
160 ft. I
believe, at minimum, this should be changed to include seismic zones 3
and 4 (at
least 4).

I'm done. I've got to get in some billable hours today.

Bill Allen

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Richard Lewis, P.E.
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