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RE: Architects Doing Engineering -Enough

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Frank, while I agree with a lot of what you have to say, I would like to
encourage you to remove your "macro glasses" for a moment. There was more
than loss of life due to the moderate Northridge event. Property damage was
in the billions. As you are aware, earthquake insurance is difficult at best
to obtain and the rates have gone up along with the deductibles. While I'm
sure the code authors' primary concern is loss of life, this magnitude of
property damage can not be continuously ignored. I believe this is why
Dennis Wish suggested that we call on the insurance industry to support this

As we move towards a national code, I am concerned that this "macro vision"
will grow. I don't know much about hurricanes, tornadoes or heavy snow loads
but I do know earthquakes (I was at "ground 0" during the twin 5.0
aftershocks of the Northridge E/Q-quite an "E" ticket<-Disneyland term). I
certainly believe special provisions for high seismic zones are warranted
such as elimination of Conventional Framing Provisions and structural design
by unqualified persons (i.e., architects and civil-civils).

Bill Allen

-----Original Message-----
From: FLew98 [mailto:FLew98(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Friday, May 22, 1998 9:03 AM
To: seaoc(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: Architects Doing Engineering -Enough

I've chased my share of earthquakes, starting with Anchorage, and fully
appreciate the damage that a 7+ event can cause.  But in the U.S., the
failures we've observed and seen photos of, even when combined with the
buildings that sustained moderate damage but were not noted in publications
recorded in statistics, comprise a *small* percentage of the building stock.
The number of wood frame houses that sustained the classic failures of
wall buckling, shifting off foundations, and excessive deflections from
torsional racking, comprise an even smaller percentage of the housing stock.

This thread started with a focus on 'conventional framing' requirements in
model codes in the United States.  I attended presentations on the Armenian
and Iranian earthquakes, as well as read recon reports from EERI, etc.  The
impression I have is that the designs, materials, and construction practices
for houses in those regions are quite different from those for conventional
framing in the U.S., and it is not valid to make extrapolations of potential
damage in the U.S. based on those events.

Now, I'll mount the soapbox for a moment.  Compliance with codes and
regulations incur costs as well as provide benefits to society.  The public
has to perceive a reasonable cost-benefit ratio before there is support for
law or regulation, or for calls for such laws and regulations.  Regarding
seismic performance of wood frame houses, the vast majority of citizens:  1)
have never experienced a major seismic event;  2) have never suffered any
earthquake damage to their own houses;  and 3) don't know of friends and
family members whose houses have been damaged by earthquakes.   So, when
on this listserv mount soap boxes to preach ever-stricter seismic design and
construction requirements and practices, and to bash incompetent designers
(i.e. architects and civil-civils), it isn't surprising that they make
impact on the average citizen, construction mechanics, contractors and
developers.  Such apocalytic warnings just don't correlate with their own
experiences, notwithstanding the frenzied media coverage of damage after
earthquake.  People intuitively know that earthquake risks to their own body
and property are much smaller than other risks they face and accept.
Earthquakes have caused fewer than 3,000 deaths in the U.S. in the entire
century.  Contrast that with the *annual * vehicle deaths of 40,000+, and
deaths of 20,000+.  Yet, people aren't clamoring for laws to require us to
only drive Humvees at 15 mph speed limit, or to live in concrete bunkers and
use bedding and furniture made of non-combustible materials.

Bill Allen observed that many postings on this listserv are "preaching to
choir".  How true.  And equally as effective, since the majority of people
aren't regular churchgoers.

Frank Lew, SE
Orinda, CA