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Re: Enercalc's Structural Engineering Library Survey

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I used Enercalc's software for retaining wall designs from '84 to '89. Back
then their retaining wall design was a 1-2-3 spreadsheet. What a mess! I
remember recieving several newer versions, each permitting more complex
modelling with increasing numbers of input variables. All new releases were
very buggy (I understand that tradition continues to today). I remember the
frustration of inputing the same design parameters on the new and older
version and getting substantially different results.  Thinking I was
somewhat the Supercalc expert, I'd start to dig through the cell entries to
follow the calculations to see where things derailed. Again, what a mess. I
remember hidden cell formats and column widths set to 0. All the while
you'd be jumping all over the place.

Don't get me wrong. I love spread sheets. But more precisely I'm
comfortable using MY spreadsheets. I know how they were developed and I
take care to make the calculation process is documented and easy to follow.
I've found it very difficult to become comfortable using [the typically
undocumented] spreadsheets crafted by others because of the time it takes
me to go through it cell by cell checking its formulae. It is nice however
to look at other spreadsheets to be exposed to the styles and techniques
others use to solve problems.

Brent Koch, P.E.

> From: Dennis S. Wish PE <wish(--nospam--at)>
> To: seaoc(--nospam--at)
> Subject: Re: Enercalc's Structural Engineering Library Survey
> Date: Saturday, August 23, 1997 11:39 AM
> Neil,
> I hope that you did not think I was knocking spreadsheets, I love them
> use them daily. My point was that not everyone is as consistent and
> as you are in the development of your software. Your goal may have been
> create documentation for the intentions of distributing and selling your
> software.
> I would venture to guess that the majority of spreadsheets used to submit
> calc's to the building department are created on the fly and have no
> supporting documentation. There is little beta testing since the program
> created in a small office for personal use.
> My personal opinion is that if you create a program to do calculations
> you do not clearly show how you arrived at your solution (as you would do
> hand or by programs like MathCad) then that program should not be
> for plan review until you can justify your results.
> Some plan checkers that I have spoken with indicate that they really
> look at the calcs that much since this is the responsibility of the
> engineer. Instead they look at the drawings to insure that the load paths
> are properly attended and that the details clearly indicated how to solve
> each of the connections and drags.
> This sound tough, but obviously you did this to insure the least amount
> problems within your office. I have done the same with my Equake, but
> not done this with my recently released free-ware to the SEAOC web. Why,
> because I was hoping that someone would contribute a series of help
files. I
> will provide this in the future, but at this time am the only person that
> really knows how I derived my output. Still, I do submit these to the
> building department all of the the time and they accept them without
> questions.
> I guess it is a question of who assumes liability for the results.
> I believe that automated calculations should be as clearly written as
> calculations and that the building official should not have to waste time
> searching for my mistakes.
> BTW, thanks for some of your tips in your post. You gave me some idea's
> to how to improve my office productivity.
> Dennis Wish PE