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RE: Wind damaged residences in Kansas

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Tom, this parallels my experiences in Riverside County California. When I
first move here - five years ago - there was little control for structures
created under the provisions of Conventional framing. The weak link was the
code and the few non-professionals who understood the limitations of the
written code.
We had great interpreters of the code, but politics played a very important
role as to how the code was interpreted.
This is not to say that the building official was entirely at fault - just
uninformed and without proper training of a viable load path.
Since this time, at least two engineers locally (my self included) offered
to help the building departments to bring their staff up to speed. In my
case, I hand delivered dozens of photo's showing the errors in construction
that were overlooked by the local inspectors.
In the last five years, our city (La Quinta) has required their technicians
and inspectors to complete the ICBO training courses and local construction
quality has improved tremendously. The remaining problems are:
1. Conventional framing is less restrictive than more restrictive of a
minimum engineering solution.
2. Errors or omissions in the code leave too much room for interpretation
(i.e., connections of interior braced panels to the roof diaphragm).  This
is compounded by ICBO's resistance to correcting known deficiencies due to
the change over to the IBC in the year 2000. Until the provisions of the IBC
(which do address some of these issues) we can see as much as four years
before we can expect improved construction quality for those following the
1997 UBC provisions for Conventional framing.
3. The pressure placed upon the building official by local developers to
defend known deficiencies is compounded on those developers who threaten
communities with lost revenue by removing and relocating their projects into
less restrictive cities.
4. There will always be professionals that feel more is better than less,
but still less than an engineered solution. Once the professionals stamp
goes on the plans in more rural area's, the plan check process stops and
plans are accepted. Although wrong, it happens and little can be done to
accommodate the process of assuring a proper load path.

Others have indicated that the abuse a professional takes from either the
builder or the homeowner keeps many engineers from working in this area.
It's understandable, although my experience has been that the politics
involved in commercial projects can be equally stressful. Someone has to
take responsibility to insure a proper design but the codes are not friendly
to professionals who wish to create a minimum standard that exceeds the
standard expected of an engineering solution. This has been considered
ethical engineering as applied to most forms of prescriptive methodology.

I sound like a broken record to most - since I am well known for my position
on this issue.  As  you pointed out, most large metropolitan areas are very
responsible for proper engineered solution.  However, engineered solutions
do not mean that engineers have to be hired, however, someone has to create
a proper prescriptive package that can be followed by non-professionals.
Unfortunately, this is not often the case with Code rhetoric. The building
official is not paid to interpret the code for the public. We leave this
responsibility to the builder or designer, but we don't require that they
have the ability nor the understanding of a load path to insure that
construction is in compliance with the intention of the code. although we
consider the non-compliant issues to shove the project or portions of it to
a professional, we can simplify the matter and the cost to the owner if we
simply provide a better descriptive model or example.
I remember that the City of Los Angeles had what was termed a typical Type V
sheet. Taken mostly from Architectural Graphic Standards, it was a better
graphical description of how to comply with this section of the code than
any other I have seen. Not difficult to create, the Type V (five) sheet laid
on the counter for homeowners to take and clearly showed how a two story
structure was to be built.

I think that we are assembling the interested parties to address the
problem, but we need to go much farther than those of us near or in major
metropolitan areas have done. We need to identify the problems nationally -
in area's where professionals have historically not been required for the
construction of residential buildings. We need to understand that the reason
was that residential construction was considered a low risk - not from a
life safety standard, but because only one family was at risk.
Structurally speaking, I think that only in the last five years of so has
the section of the code which addresses residential construction been
considered appropriate experience to qualify an engineer for applicable
experience to take the SE exam. I may be wrong and it may still be excluded
from allowable experience. In my opinion this is ludicrous since Wood
engineering is equivalently challenging to any other material in some way
probably more challenging.

We are starting to see changes in responsible charge for improving wood
framed structures. Whether it originated from Hurricane Andrew, the
Northridge or Loma Prieta earthquakes or the numerous damage from high winds
through out the Midwest is inconsequential. The fact is that we are looking
at the financial effect upon the insurance industry, homeowners, banks and
other financial institutions and the professional community is being called
to action.

Change is on the horizon - but we need those individuals who are willing to
work with other professional organizations to create change that does not
cause the profession to needlessly be involved yet to improve the
understanding of the information required to build homes.

I know my response has been overly stated, but I have forwarded this to the
REACH List which is new and created to address these issues. In all fairness
to those not interested in this topic, I would suggest we take the thread to
the REACH list and make it available in the SEAint archives for non=REACH
list members.

If anyone wants specific information on how to join the REACH list, please
let me know privately and I will foreword the information to you.

Dennis Wish PE

-----Original Message-----
From: JAKABY(--nospam--at) [mailto:JAKABY(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Friday, November 13, 1998 4:31 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: Wind damaged residences in Kansas

The San Francisco Bay  area and surrounding communities are enforcing good
design for wood frame residential structures.  In fact, they're almost going
overboard, if there is such a thing.  Of course, we have the threat of the
One hanging over everyone's head.  I've been involved in many residential
projects that were brought to me after the building department requested a
"lateral analysis".  In some cases it's ridiculous, others very necessary
to significant modifications.

The building departments are enforcing the code and architects and engineers
have responded.  Conventional Construction? Forget it!  No such thing

On the flip side, I reviewed a project in Hollister, California where the
builder/developer/designer/engineer built a residence on expansive clay.
plans had shearwalls and holdowns.  I asked him who was the engineer?  He
replied "There isn't one", to which I asked who designed the shearwalls &
holdowns? " We just put them on the plan wherever we thought it made sense".
!?!  Many jurisdictions still do not require engineering for residential.

I see many tract homes where you wonder how they got away without a single
solid wall in the front of a two story.  The nearest solid wall is usually
the back of the garage.  The 2nd floor diaphragm is cantilevered at least 20
feet. Guess where the Master Bedroom sits?  That's right,  over the garage!

The bottom line is the more we educate and inform the customers, the more
will demand sound engineering.

Tom Jakaby, SE