Need a book? Engineering books recommendations...

Return to index: [Subject] [Thread] [Date] [Author]

Re: Disaster dilemma

[Subject Prev][Subject Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]
Can't stop injecting my 0.02 so here goes. I have a limited agreement with
Frank on this issue, but feels that he misses about 50% of the argument.
Assessment is only a part of the game. Repair and retrofit is the other side
that will put displaced people back into their homes. This is the side of
the problem that becomes overrun with profit mongers and bottom feeders that
infect and give ligitimate engineers a bad reputation. How many times when a
retrofit program is approved in a city do clients accuse engineers of taking
advantage of poor financial times and creating a market to line their
pockets. This gets worse when a homeowner pays for services that are
ineffective or don't resolve the problem. I have seen too many instances of
reports from engineers requesting the residence be torn down because of a
few cracks in the stucco or in the slab on grade. I have also seen insurance
companies cheat homeowners out of work that is necessary because of a
"loop-hole" in their policy about bringing back to past code standards
without insuring the problem won't happen again.
So when Frank indicates that you needn't be an engineer to assess
residential lightweight wood framining, I disagree.  He is correct when
considering initial assessment, but wrong when it comes time to hire an
engineer in order to submit a report to the building official addressing the
initial flag and what needs to be done to make the structure livable.

-----Original Message-----
From: FLew98 <FLew98(--nospam--at)>
To: seaoc(--nospam--at) <seaoc(--nospam--at)>
Date: Friday, January 23, 1998 2:46 PM
Subject: Re: Disaster dilemma

>> Even for safety assessment, only qualified persons should be allowed to
>>  inspect the buildings.  It is not limited only to SEs, if the
>>  architects, civil or geotech. engineers have the required training and
>>  some basic structural courses, may be they can do the job.  The point is
>>  that the public has relied on us to provide them prudent professional
>>  judgement regarding their safety.
>The vast majority of safety assessment inspections in Loma Prieta and
>Northridge were NOT performed by volunteers who had building structural
>backgrounds or had  'required training and ...structural courses'.  I know
>this first hand - as the CALBO disaster coordinator for the Bay Area when
>Northridge hit, I found, scheduled and sent over sixty people on three day
>stints of assessment duty.  They performed over a thousand assessments.
>a handful of the assessors were engineers.
>By far, the greatest public request and need for safety assessments are on
>smaller scale wood-frame buildings, mostly single family residences.
>not surprising since these comprise 90+ percent of our building stock.  For
>such assessments, common sense is much more useful than engineering
>Some engineer volunteers at both earthquakes tacitly acknowledged this by
>objecting to assignments to assess such 'trivial' structures.  They only
>wanted to assess engineered structures that would make use of their
>Not for them such penny-ante structures that a carpenter with common sense
>could assess as well.  But there weren't enought of these glamorous
>to go around, and some of these folks left in a huff and never returned.
>To my knowledge, in both Loma Prieta and Northridge, there are no
>cases where a building that was green-placarded by a non-engineer assessor
>subsequently caused injuries to occupants due to aftershocks or other
>structural failures and falling debris.  Before we embark on an unwarranted
>(and futile) effort to restrict the ranks of safety assessors, and at the
>of being tiresome about it, I have to again ask those who would have the
>revolve around us engineers, "Where are the bodies?"
>Frank Lew, SE
>Orinda, CA