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RE: Architects Doing Engineering - Regulating Public Awareness

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-----Original Message-----
From: FLew98 [mailto:FLew98(--nospam--at)aol.com]
Sent: Saturday, May 23, 1998 10:45 AM
To: seaoc(--nospam--at)seaoc.org
Subject: Re: Architects Doing Engineering -Enough!

I'm a realist who has tired of playing Don Quixote.  It's your turn.

Frank Lew, SE
Orinda, CA

This is the problem Frank, your tired, apathetic and possibly appropriately
so. However, you don't provide the encouragement that those who have the
energy to be activists need to help instill change.
I understand the frustration in your comments, but feel that the answer is
not simply to walk away from it. It's no different than walking away from
voting because you are frustrated with the choices.
If the code can't be changed to make it complete and at the very least,
equivalent to an minimum engineered solution, then we need to take a
different approach such as disclosing the risk to the public
The facts are very straight forward - The level of protection, the fact that
there is a difference in performance that can have a financial impact on the
public - is hidden or concealed by the seller of the home. It is my belief
that the Realtor is unaware of the level of performance their product is
designed to. The builder and/or developer must be responsible for this
knowledge and decision making process.
As with any used car, the level of performance should be rated and disclosed
to the public - not at closing, but in the real-estate records. A simple
brochure can be written by the state that clearly defines the level of
performance with an expected cost of repair to market value for various
types of natural disasters.
This need not be a California initiative since many of the comments come
from other parts of the country and relate to other natural occurrences such
as Hurricane, Tornado and Flood.
The advantages may not seem obvious at first but should include:
1) lowering the profit margin of the developer /owner by true comparison of
the structural performance between competing structures. If the developer
wishes to maximize profit at the expense of performance, the public who must
burden the expense of repair has the right to know.
2) Disclosure may help improve the minimum standards for performance above
the level of Conventional Framing by public demand. Personally, I believe
that the home owner would choose to pay a 0.5% or 1.0% increase in
construction cost to improve performance and reduce the personal liability
when the event occurs.
3) Improved performance or disclosed rated performance may create an
incentive for reductions in insurance rates. This is not possible today
since the level of performance is unknown to the Insurance Carrier unless
the home was constructed to some minimum level of compliance such as those
required under a Fanny-Mae or HUD loan. Private lenders do not care what
level of performance is followed so long as it complies with written code.
4) Advertised homes can use the level of performance as a marketing tool to
promote sales. At this time the uninformed home buyer believes that all
homes are built equal and that code compliance protects them from excessive
damage as well as loss of life. This is why so many home owners are angered
when they learn that a home performed as expected by code in spite of the
level of structural damaged it suffered.

Frank, if you can not work from within to promote change - do it from the
outside. BUT DO IT.  You may be tired and frustrated, but it's better to say
nothing that try to convince the community to sit back and accept the
inability to create change. As long as the global unity grows, there is
still chance for change. We just need fresh ideas and those with the energy
to do something constructive.

You don't need to be a pessimist, nor do we need over optimism. You can't
claim the "reality of the situation" unless you have explored all avenues of
the problem. Granted, it's harder to crack, but I don't believe it's
impossible.

One final comment. You stated :
"SEAOC wasn't viewed as a credible player until the Sacramento office was
established.  Up to that time, we were four splintered voices that sometimes
didn't agree among ourselves."
The creation of a Sacramento office did not solve the lack of unity between
chapters. What it did do is water down the SEAOC opinion by compromise. I
believe that the more compromises the chapters make, the less effective they
will be as a united voice.
Also, SEAOC should not be the only Structural Engineering voice allowed to
vote. Why is ASCE, SEA (other states), CELSOC, NSPE and the culmination of
all professional organizations united to improve the voting power. Just what
percentage of Structural Engineering professional affiliations compare with
other groups (AIA, NAHB, BIA, etc)? Why are non-structural affiliation
allowed to vote on structural issues in the code?
These are questions that I am ignorant of and would like to know.

Respectfully,
Dennis Wish PE
Dennis Wish PE