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RE: engineers and single family houses

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At 04:19 PM 10/11/97 -0500, you wrote:
>In Kansas and Missouri single family homes are rarely, rarely, hardly
>ever, almost never designed by a PE.  You will occasionally see some
>homes designed by architects, but even those are the exception.  Some
>towns in Missouri have yellow page adds for home design by draftsmen.
>The vast majority of homes are built from purchased plans with little or
>no structural detailing.
>The vast majority of homes are stick built from dimensional lumber.  The
>use of prefabricated roof trusses and manufactured wood products is
>rare.  Even more exasperating is the fact that the codes are up to the
>local municipality.  It is often very difficult to figure out.  Overland
>Park, located in Johnson County, Kansas is BOCA.  Leewood, located in
>Johnson County, Kansas is UBC.  Unincorporated areas of Johnson County
>are UBC.  Some areas use CABO.  Kansas City, Missouri is UBC, but allows
>CABO for residential construction.  Missouri has no default state code.
>Some municipalities refer to the National Code which was merged into
>BOCA years ago.
>That is why when a micro burst or small tornado hits a residential area,
>the houses come apart.  Keep in mind that F1 and most F2 tornadoes will
>have wind velocities less than the prescribed building code.
>Although my current company does not engage in residential or light
>commercial, my prior employer of 10 years ago did offer services for
>residential and light commercial.  Occasionally I do offer consulting
>for friends, family, and close acquaintances just to keep aware of the
>practice and to play "find the load path".  I have angered many guys who
>swing hammers for a living.  Building officials are very little help.
>They are just happy if the drain lines slope down, and the lights come
>on when you flip a switch.
>When my own home was being constructed, I asked the carpenter foreman if
>he saw any problems with the details like the hurricane anchors.  He had
>done some commercial work but said that most of his crew would have to
>be spoon fed.  One of the crew said, "What's a hurricane anchor?"  The
>foreman shook his head turned to me and said, "See what I mean?"
>Harold Sprague
>Black & Veatch

A few years ago, if I remember correctly, a church was used as a safe haven
during a big wind event somewhere in the east (i.e. - east of California).
Anyway, the church collapsed and the news media portrayed this tragic
occurrence.  Looking closely, one could see that the church apparently had
been constructed of unreinforced masonry.  Ever since then, I look closely
at the T.V. news when ever they show a wind diaster and sure nuff, there's
another unreinforced structure gone down.

In California in spite of it being earthquake country (zone 3 or zone 4),
many of the residences are very complicated and there are structural
engineers as well as many civil-structurals who do residences.  In the San
Francisco Bay area, where home construction can be a few million dollars,
the fees (good ones) are paid by savvy owners. They will also pay top
dollar for soil reports.

Reading your post about the apparent indifference of the building officials
in your area and others, I guess we don't have as much to gripe about
concerning the uneven competency of building officials here in California.

The thread about the Texas not being in zone 4 is interesting; I would
hazard a guess that Texas's problems would be big winds, which not a lot of
California engineers have been paying much attention too.  The point comes
home when one has a tornado warning and tornado touches down about two
miles away from my office last year.  (I'm in Shingle Springs, CA).  Even I
wonder when towers go down in the San Francisco area from winds above 100

The thread and controversy about civils and structurals has lots of sides.
I know of some very good civils doing structural engineering who don't want
the responsibility because they become targets of the legal profession.  My
firm used to plan check for some cities, possibly you have too, but we were
plan checking guys who basically were surveyors or had been road engineers
- didn't know the first thing about structures - but were being paid pretty
good fees.  

A point:  Prior to Loma Prieta, we did some buildings near Santa Cruz.  A
civil-structural got some other buildings across the freeway after bad
mouthing my firm.  Loma Prieta happened.  Our buildings rode it out very
well, including all of the glass walls.  The civil-structural was paid to
go back and rehab his thrashed buildings.  

About a year after Loma Prieta and after I had moved to the center of
California, some lady called me one afternoon and said that I probably
wouldn't remember her, but she wanted to thank me.  It seems that she and
her contractor and I had some pretty big battles over her plan check.  I
prevailed at the time.  Seems that there was lot's of damage to residences
in her town, but that her home had ridden the quake out o.k.  Although this
may be rare, I knew of a civil-structural who had the same thing happen to

By the way, that city let our firm go because we insisted on all of the
plan approvals meeting the minimum U.B.C. code.  

When I took the California S.E. license, I don't remember any problems
concerning difficult in-depth structural engineering.   There were no
problems that stumped me - I remember that I just had to go at a much
faster pace to complete the test.  Since then, I have graded some of the
tests and one thing that I remember is that the little details or code
provisions could be the downfall or loss of points for the problem.  I also
remember grading some papers where you wondered how the person got his
civil license!

Dennis mentioned moment distribution and diaphragms - I got that stuff in
my senior year, had concrete, steel and wood in my junior year.  And I was
fortunate enough to live in an area where you could get good University of
California extension courses in various focused structural engineering
subjects and where SEONC over the years has presented very good seminars.
Of course that meant you had to go to these at night and pay money.

I've never been sorry that I got my S.E., but that really wasn't my goal in
life.  But preparing for the test, I think did make me a more proficient
engineer.  As being an ego trip, I don't think so.  We really don't get
much respect compared to an mediocre attorney or doctor.  And we certainly
don't make the money.  But I can tell you it's fun to point out structures
that I've designed to my grand kids.

Neil Moore

(who won a 10K today in his age group, because no one else showed up!)