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Re: Tangshen - Response to Frank Lew

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I think, unfortunately, that most people, including a lot of engineers, don't 
know what a building code is, what it represents, how it is written, and, 
frequently, how bad it is.  They believe that conforming to a building code 
will give them a *safe* structure.

In 1971 I was serving on the City of Tucson Building Code Review Committee 
as a representative of the Tucson Chapter of the Structural Engineers 
Association of Arizona, reviewing the 1970 UBC for adoption by the City.  We 
had just about completed the review when a disaster struck --- The Pioneer 
Hotel in downtown Tucson caught fire just before Christmas which resulted in 
more than 70 deaths.  We had already reviewed the fire protection 
requirements of the code and had felt that they were "reasonable," but when 
we went back and reviewed them after the fire, it quickly became clear that 
the provisions really said very little and were clearly inadequate.  The 
committee spent another year going over the fire protection requirements of 
the UBC and in reviewing and revising the UFC for adoption.  It takes 
disasters, unfortunately, to make people and politicians see how inadequate 
the building code is.

I am again serving on another building code review committee for the City of 
Tucson and Pima County as a representative of the Tucson Chapter, SEAOA.  In 
spite of the objections of the Tucson Chapter, SEAOA, the 1994 UBC, as 
adopted by the two jurisdictions, permits the use of mud adobe, burnt adobe, 
*straw bale* construction, and rammed earth.  When the Structural 
Subcommittee of the review committee came back with the recommendations that 
these products not be used, the committee chairman went ballistic and 
immediately appointed another subcommittee, chaired by a mechanical engineer, 
referred to as the "Good-Earth Committee," to restudy the products.  
Naturally, *that* subcommittee came back with the recommendation of adoption.

Some members of the review committee are now planning to have the committee 
submit a code change to the IBC to permit straw bale construction.  They view 
straw bale construction as the greatest thing since sliced bread!

A. Roger Turk, P.E.(Structural)
Tucson, Arizona

Tom Chiu wrote:

. > Sorry, I disagree with you, I think there are some people out there, who
. > want to have the choice of buying a better structurally built house
. > rather than just bare-bone spec. house, if there is a financial benefit
. > on doing that.  Once that structural rating is incorporated in the real
. > estate public record, it shall benefit both buyers and sellers.  The
. > seller can demand higher price if the rating is higher and the buyers
. > can always pick the house with bare-bone spec, if cheap prices are their
. > priority.
. > 
. > 
. > Christopher Wright wrote:
. > > 
. > > >I think we, as engineers, should educate the public on what they are
. > > >getting by buying a house that conformed to present Codes which only
. > > >address life-safety
. > > SEAOC is beating the wrong horse. If you want to address property damge
. > > talk to insurors and lenders. Put together a solid rationale on how much
. > > money they stand to lose, and you'll start to see action. The 'public'
. > > buys on price and they aren't much interested in technical education, 
. > but > they'll come around when insurance rates get affected.
. > >