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Re: Seismic / building code

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First, to Eric and others I apologize for being defensive to Yank's comments. 
Yank and I are and have been close friends for over twelve years. Friends 
need not always agree and I need to remember this. 

I too agree with Eric that certain portions of the code are overkill. My 
position is not that the code is bad, but that it is used, at the expense of 
the public, to cover-up other larger problems that we, as a professional 
community, have either not tried to change or been able to change.
The building industry should be defined as a coalition of architects, 
engineers and builders. To this day, there is no politically active building 
industry proponents that are willing to sit down and correct the problems 
that exist in residential (or any other material for that matter) 
construction. I choose residential construction because it affects the 
largest number of building in this country (if not the world) that has 
suffered the greatest percentage of costly damage in natural disasters. 

Engineers don't need to overdesign, they need to work with other profession 
to work out a program of education for those who build what we design. The 
BIA and other building organizations, need to take responsibility for the 
damage that occurred in various natural disasters that was clearly attributed 
to errors and omissions. Engineers have to take responsibility to update the 
Wood section of the code so that prescriptive measures are clearer and 
without errors as currently exists the UBC. We need to raise the standard of 
prescriptive design so that it at least meets the minimum requirements that 
we set for all other wood frame construction.

I don't particularly want to debate the argument of life safety against 
damage mitigation. The code has already established the policy that we are 
designing to a performance standard. The insurance industry has already 
proven that the cost (which I would remind each of use comes from our 
pockets) to repair damaged buildings is unacceptable. Architects resent the 
fact that engineers are involved in area's of design that they need not be. 
Engineers want to stop architects from crossing over and performing 
structural work. Builders who construct the structural systems of a building 
presently need not know any more than how to swing a hammer. As the codes get 
more complicated, there should be a demand to make the framer responsible for 
his part of constructing the structural system. His education should be, at 
the least, an understanding of the load path so that he can protect the 
design from changes that tend to occur when the engineer is not around and 
the owner or GC wishes to add an opening into an area where a shearwall 
occurs. Better yet, how about the mechanical who needs to put HVAC ducting 
through the blocking that happens to occur above a high load shear wall. Or, 
the plumber who decides to bastardize a sill plate for a toilet vent or water 
pipes. In most cases there are fixes for these problems. Maybe one is to 
relocate the wall, however there are opportunities to manufacture new 
products that will allow these protrusions and still transfer shear.

My point is that we are moving in the wrong direction. I don't blame the 
committee members that seek out better performance from the code. I just 
believe that we are completely ignoring the bigger problem and possibly fear 
the effort that it will take to change a big lobby like contractors and 
architects have.

Since I have the floor, I recommend those interested go back to the archives 
and review the comments about the REACH (Residential Engineers and Architects 
Council on Housing) sponsored by the NAHB-RC that we had on the list. NAHB-RC 
started a great idea to define the building partnership of Architects, 
Engineers, Builders and Officials.  Then NAHB-RC got greedy and decided the 
only way to benefit the industry was to charge those interested in working on 
this committee a members fee of $100.00 to help improve construction. 
This is one program like the SEAINT that should not restrict progress by 
fee's but should generate its income differently. The most important thing 
was to promote those with opinions to participate.

I'll quite while I'm ahead. We need to focus on the real problems, not mask 
them at the expense of the general public.

Dennis S. Wish PE