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Seismic / building code

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I'll throw in a comment or two:

1)  It is interesting how threads on this listserver quickly turn from a
discussion of an issue into almost personal arguments.  I know that I have
been quite defensive about some of my posts, so I am NOT saying that it is
wrong or even inappropriate.  But it would be nice, IMO, if responses to
posts were a bit more restricted to the issues rather than to the person
posting.  I find the information on this server to be not only interesting,
but valuable as well.  I try (and don't succeed at times) to remember that I
subscribed to this list to access the knowledge of fellow professionals, not
to lay down and defend to the end my own personal views.  OK, I hear my
soapbox creaking beneath me.

2) Regarding this thread - As I understand Yank's initial post, he was
pointing out that, basically, UBC97 stinks.  I agree, it's pretty cumbersome
and confusing in many places.

But what I would like to know is: How do most design professionals view the
UBC and other codes?  Are they design guides to be adhered to strictly?  Or
are they documents that show ONE way of achieving safe structural design
(and legally compliant structural design)?

I personally take the second view.  IMO, the UBC is not and should not be
used as a design guide.  No document like the UBC could possibly cover every
conceivable design situation, otherwise the book would be even longer than
it already is.  As I see it, the people involved in writing the code
provisions are giving it their best shot in trying to come up with standards
that will, in most cases, lead to a safe design.  But I would not expect
them to create a document that would be capable, with minimal
interpretation, of taking care of ANY situation that I came across.

Furthermore, I don't always follow the code anyway.  Sometimes I look at a
code provision as say that it is too conservative, or too liberal, so I make
my own decision as to what is required.  See UBC97 section 1921.2.1.5.

I will have to say, though, that the design review process that I have to go
through (with regard to plan checking) is minimal, so perhaps in Ca this
approach would lead to too much work or too big of a headache.

My point is, I agree that the UBC is deficient in many ways.  UBC97 is much
more deficient that UBC94, IMO.  But, I have some difficulty in seeing how
this prevents an engineer from designing his structure the way he sees fit.
As long as that design professional is competent, and can back up his work,
I feel that the failings of the UBC can be minimized.

Just my $.02

T. Eric Gillham PE
GK2 Inc.
PO Box 3207  Agana, Guam  96932
Email - gk2(--nospam--at)
Ph:  (671) 477-9224
Fax: (671) 477-3456