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RE: Question for East Coast Engineers

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I agree with your last statement. As I told Bill Allen privately, I know
that this will never be corrected since it takes the efforts of concerned
engineers to speak out or unite to voice a position - something that even
this list has trouble doing. However, I'm just dumb enough to believe that
the more I spout off, the less responsibility I have to take for my
profession when the time comes for homeowners to walk away from their
investments or file bankruptcy because they can not afford the repairs.

In the first part of your note, you have made (I believe this is what you
meant)an assumption that the developer and contractor has read or has
knowledge as to what is in the conventional framing section of the code.
This is not the case. I have yet to meet either a developer or framer that
owns or has read the section on conventional framing. The fact is that they
believe this to be a loophole that allows them to build the way that was
traditionally passed down - not on updated or specific methodologies created
by our profession. They know that "Conventional Framing" provisions exist,
but they have never been challenged to conform to the provisions themselves
since this is a very unendorsed provision. Don't flame me on this, many
inspectors in smaller jurisdictions throughout the United States are not
trained to understand or follow structural load paths. Many are nothing more
than contractors themselves who find work in building departments.
Before I get flamed anyway, I will admit that in some area's (such as my
town) the building Inspectors are expected to go through the ICBO training
to improve their knowledge. I get a lot of calls from my local inspectors
asking me to define or help them rule on certain site conditions.
The problem is that before an inspector can rule on a condition in the
field, he must be sure that it can be justified by a code reference. The
Conventional framing section (with the possible exception of the IBC) does
not address many issues including the depth of headers. If the inspector can
not find a section specific to the issue, he generally lets it go as part of
the intent of the Conventional framing section of the code.
I think you see my point. Developers and Contractors are very aware that a
section of the code exists to let them build by traditional methods. They
don't know the specifics by do know that they don't have to pay for an
engineer who designs in accordance with other sections of the code that are
more restrictive. Therefore it becomes a profit game. How little cost is
necessary for compliance and how much can I profit from the sale.
The discontinuity in the approach is quality and the lack of knowledge of
the performance by the buying public.


-----Original Message-----
From: ErnieNSE [mailto:ErnieNSE(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Thursday, May 07, 1998 1:45 AM
To: seaoc(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: Question for East Coast Engineers

Politics play and important role in the Building Code writing and
process. Some Developers and Contractors want to save money by eliminating
Structural Engineer and simply submitting plans that conform to the
Conventional Framing Provisions of the UBC. Or even if it is not the money
part that matters, they may just believe that for simple jobs, Engineers are
not required. They think that the Code provisions are adequate.

With a strong and active influence, financial backing and political
connections, these Developers and Contractors will fight for retaining the
Coventional Framing Provisions in the Code. It would be hard for the
Engineering Community to beat these guys, even if we educate the homeowners
and general public on the danger of the current situation. Maybe in the long
run after a long, hard fought battle.

For the short term solution, we should just work for the improvement of the
Code provisions. We cannot make it perfect that all possible conditions will
be covered but we can try and do the best we can. We can add more or
clarifiying provisions that we feel are missing or not clear. Or we can
prepare a Commentary or Reference Manual that has more rafter, joist and
table for various conditions, sketches of structural connections for all
structural members, seismic and wind bracing details, etc. We distrubute
to Building Departments so that un-Engineered Plans will have this
Details as part of the construction package.

For the long term solution, let's work on adding restrictions on when the
provisions are applicable. Hopefully, if only the very simple and small job
will qualify as an un-Engineered project, these guys will not object to
removing the provisions in the code if they cannot take full advantage of it
to save money.

We can discuss this issue for as long as we want but if nobody does anything
about it, nothing will happen. Let's do something about it.

Ernie Natividad