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engineering judgement

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>Tom Harris wrote:
>(Recently on a hillside ( cliffside ) home i had a contractor say i had
>engineered the  house  " 10,000 " times above code... I had followed L.A.
>city hillside guidelines in an area where UBC was " adequate "  ( L.A.
>guidelines not required ).
Tarek Mokhtar added:

>I believe Tom to be 100% justified, since it is the duty of every
>engineer to employ the state of the art in his or her profession.
>I didnt think you had to wait for the 94 UBC to design timber
>according to the 91 NDS and I dont think you should wait for
>the 97 UBC to be adopted to design shear walls using the 2:1 ratio
>when this was adopted by the city of LA in 1994.If staying abreast
>of the latest development in your profession could open you
>up for litigation then may we should all retire.(lovely business
>we are in )
>Tarek Mokhtar
>consulting engineer

With regard to the "duty of an engineer" and the risk of litigation in this
business, a little caution is suggested. Often statutes and settled law
decisions cover a professional practice issue, and an individual engineer's
personal opinion, if taken as a substitute for the law, can cause havoc for
another engineer. (An outrageous example of this was posted by Tom Harris on
Sept 11.)

Quoting from Cal Jur 3d, a reference found in law libraries statewide: "An
engineer has the duty to exercise the ordinary skill and competence of a
member of his profession; failure to discharge that duty will subject him or
her to liability for negligence." (sec 43, 6 Cal Jur 3d rev.,which cites two
appellate decisions)

Considering use of the so-called "state of the art" is one thing; an
obligation to employ it is another. Selecting among alternatives is part of
the skill engineers exercise. Accommodating uncertainties in loads, in
strengths, in work performed by others, and in trustworthiness of a new code
provision, is included in exercising skill and competence--in my opinion.

>From long experience on Seaoc code committees, I have seen how hasty,
haphazard, and ill considered many code provisions are. The care you and I
put into design of ONE building is vastly better than the care put into many
of the code provisions that govern ALL buildings, especially when the code
matter came from occasional meetings of volunteers who got a huge pile of
agenda material only a few days previously, and whose planes leave soon.
That's an apt description of the review process now happening with respect
to creation of the IBC, upcoming successor to the UBC in this part of the
world. Is it a solid basis for suing some engineer's pants off?

Charles O. Greenlaw, SE    Sacramento CA