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Re: Seismic / building code

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Yes, I'd like to comment:

First, I think you do a massive injustice to the structural engineering 
community. In most areas of California, the 97 code has yet to be adopted. 
The discussions held on this topic prove to me that we have some of the best 
engineers working to understand not only the procedures of the code changes, 
but are honestly interested in understanding the Intention of the code.
Since most of us on this list do not participate in Seismology, Existing 
Buildings, Wood and other committees where these codes originate in idea and 
methodology we are not accessible to the in-depth discussions the members of 
these committees hold to explain the how the materials are expected to 
We therefore, rely upon each other on this list to work through the mechanics 
(as well as what other documentation is available).

I sat on some of these committees a few years ago when I lived in Los 
Angeles. What we read in the code is the last word on the issue. What we lack 
is the tons of information that led these published statements.

With this said, it does not mean that we are obligated as professionals to 
agree with the code. There are many reasons why these are not good codes. 
However, I doubt that anyone can truly argue that those who worked on these 
codes were totally committed to their ideology and belief that what they were 
doing was for the best protection of the public (whether some of us believe 
this to be misguided in some instances) and as an aid to help mitigate damage.

There is a gap between academics and practicality and we see this when we as 
a profession feel powerless over the politics that exist in code creation 
which masks basic failings. Some of us believe this to be the case. However, 
I would venture to say that those who created these changes did so because 
they felt it would indirectly force inspection and observation compliance 
that would also improve construction quality. 

Roger Turk implied that California is forcing this through so as to take the 
lead on the publication of the IBC. I would hope this is not the case, but I 
sadly think that Roger may be right. However, I think it may be based upon 
California committees who feel that they have devoted years to the 
development of these codes (as the history of the UBC will show) and that 
they should have the right to continue down this path. This is where I 
disagree inasmuch as we have a new world of engineers open to us who have 
fresh ideas and can approach a problem California has been working on for 
years and possibly see a bit further or past those obstacles which may have 
plagued the committee's work for years.

I don't have to agree to agree with this way of doing things, but I would be 
hard pressed to say that because we all have different opinions, that we are 
out in left field and have no understanding of what we are doing. 
This is the injustice that you do to the profession. There are many ways to 
cook stew -- none of which are correct or wrong -- just different. There is 
much more to building codes than the simple academics and number crunching. 
There is a struggle of opinions, politics and all between different groups 
with different responsibilities and interests. We have to contend with the 
same passions from Architects, Builders, Insurance people, Pest Control, Real 
Estate personnel as well as what we feel is right as an engineering 
profession. The water is full of different species of fish and may of them 
are predators. 

Andrew, you attempt to simplify the process down to matter of not knowing 
what is the correct way to solve a problem. There is no one correct way and 
this is where engineering judgment comes into plan. What we strive for is the 
best way to solve the problem in the most economical manner and one which is 
intended to serve the public. What I hope we strive for is to try and 
determine the intention of the code and if this intent is honest or an 
ability to mask a bigger problem that we, as a professional community, feel 
powerless to resolve.

There is one fact that you don't admit to. Those who responded to this thread 
(on Rigid Diaphragms and shear walls) as some of the best minds in our 
profession -- this, in my opinion, is fact because each of these people is 
willing to discuss and debate the intent of the code rather than simply 
accept it as a method to feed their families and hobbies.   

You really are doing these people a disservice with your suggestion and I 
think this is wrong.

Dennis S Wish PE