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RE: engineers and single family houses

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Bill Allen wrote:
"If this effort (engineered construction for conventional 
framing) would be
attractive to the insurance industry, why aren't they (the 
insurers) rushing out to pay
our fees to design the structure properly?

I believe that the insurance industry is lobbying for stricter 
contols and changes to the UBC. Remember that the conventional 
framing section of the UBC that just became less restrictive was 
written long before Hurricane Andrew and Northridge.
Since Loma Prieta, the State Seismic Safety Commission (and if 
Fred Turner is still on the list will be able to confirm this) 
formed the RRR Committee (Residential Repair and Retrofit) to 
create Appendix Chapter 5 of the 1994 UCBC. The intent was to 
provide a prescriptive measure for the anchorage of over 1.6 
million residences in California which were identified by an 
Assembly Bill (the number escapes me) that required disclosure 
to home buyers of the structures deficiencies to anchorage and 
cripple wall sheathing.
This committee had representation for SEAOC (I represented Ben 
Schmidts seat on two or three occassions), contractors that had 
special interest in retrofit (which I was embarassingly 
associated with as well), the insurance industry, the pest 
control industry and the AIA. I'm sure I've missed a couple, but 
the provisions of this code were adopted based upon the 
requirments of interested "lobbyist".
I have not kept up with the political lobby by the Insurance 
Industry, but I believe that they are active on this issue and 
do influence what gets adopted by ICBO to a degree (based upon 
their voting power).

There are a couple of side issues which I am sure you don't want 
to hear, but I am obliged to tell:
1. Excessive engineering to compensate for poor quality 
construction is not the answer. The City of Los Angeles 
emergency requirments for light weigth wood structures - 
including increasing the shearwall aspect ratio - is meant to be 
a prescriptive correction for the lack of cyclic testing and 
having an appropriate design methology for shear wall 
displacment. SEAOSC has been working on this. From the little 
information that I received, I understand that they are working 
on an approach to shearwall design and distribution based on a 
method that Ben Schmidt SE suggested years ago - load 
distribution by stiffness.
The public is peanalized for our failure to provide sufficient 
design standards. I hope that the latest cyclic testing data 
will change this to a reasonable design method not based on a 
defacto aspect ratio.

2. You can't improve construction quality until you require 
observation on all residences. You can't require observation 
unless you require a designed system. We need to either get rid 
of the conventional framing provisions or be in better control 
of them.

3. It would be an incentive in favor of engineered homes if 
Insurance carriers provided a reduced rate. However, the cost of 
home insurance is of no concern to the builder / developer who 
only looks at up front cost to build. Therefore, the builder / 
developer / contractor (BDC) has autonomous control over 
construction quality and uses the conventional framing section 
of the code force engineers to design to minimum specs in states 
that require engineering (California) or let the BDC do as he 
pleases as long as he "supposedly" complies with the letter of 
the code - which I doubt he read or understands.

This is not to critize the building industry as a whole. I'm 
sure that there are quality builders and I'm not attacking them, 
however, these quality builders can not compete with the 
"bottom-feeder" that represents the majoiry of low income to 
moderate income homes.

We need more reform than to expect the Insurance industry to pay 
our fees.