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Conventional Construction - Believe it or not - it's true

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I doubt that any one of you will believe this - especially coming from me. I do swear that it is true.
I was spending time this evening at the local Barns and Nobel in Palm Desert California. I was looking at books on woodworking when I overheard a lady asking the store clerk for directions to any books that might help her determine if the home she wants to buy is structurally safe. She said she was looking for something in print that might help explain if a two story is as safe or less safe compared to a one story home. I swear it is true.
The clerk said that she did not know of anything written that could help her, although she did have a book in the Architectural section called "Why Buildings Stand Up" or close to that title.
None of you would expect me to stay quiet - and your right. I politely interjected that I knew of no book that would explain it in laypersons terms, but that she could contact the California Seismic Safety Commission and FEMA in order to request information that might explain how earthquakes effect homes.
I did mention that the professional community was in heated debate on this issue. Her concern was that she did not know how the home she anticipated purchasing would fend in an earthquake.
The lady was from Ventura County - Santa Paula area. I suggested that the only way to really determine how the home compares to comparable homes in the area is to have it inspected by a registered Civil or Structural Engineer. I went into the next ten minutes explaining to her the difference between Civil Engineers and Structural Engineers and warned her about hiring a Civil who does not practice structural engineering on a regular basis. Seeing her eyes glaze over, I quickly changed the subject and warned her against hiring a contractor to provide this service. I also warned her that home inspection services are not qualified to perform structural inspections either.
She asked (yes she did) why there was no published information on how to evaluate a home and suggested that it might be a good book to write and market (hint hint).
I gave her the names of a few engineers in her area that I remembered from this list and also suggested that she send a post to the list asking specific questions. I let her know how helpful the members of this list would be in order for her to make an informed choice. I only asked that she request a private response since she is not a list member.
She voiced concern that even her Real Estate Agent was of no help to her and assured her only that the home was built within the limits of the code.
The lady was born in California and experienced the strength of Northridge earthquake. Now that she is in a position to buy a home, she is concerned with how safe her family will be and how the house will perform in a comparable seismic event.
 
How's that for dumb luck?

Dennis S. Wish PE
La Quinta, California
wish(--nospam--at)cwia.com

ICQ# 6110557
http://wwp.mirabilis.com/6110557

"The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do."
Walter Bagehot