First, let me apologize to Don Carr. I did not intend for my comments to be
considered an attack on NAHB-RC. It is true that I do not agree with
NAHB-RC's philosophy for establishing a committee representing Architects,
Engineers and Builders that is restricted to paid members. I believe that
there are other ways to fund what should be a service to the community that
will not restrict professionals who have valid comments from participating.
SEAINT has done this very well and I would venture to say that they are
extremely small by comparison. Remember, this list is supplemented by SEA of
Southern California when proceeds do not place the server in the black. Yet
we never advertise for new members.
REACH (Residential Engineers and Architects Council on Housing) is one of the
best ideas to come along in a long time. When I was first approached by Don,
I assumed that NAHB-RC was committed to addressing the weaknesses in the
building industry (including engineers and architects) that led to the
majority of damage that resulted during natural disasters. I was impressed
by the idea that REACH wanted to form a committee devoted to the importance
of establishing a building team. The team should consist of Architect,
Engineers, Builders and Building Officials. The purpose was to establish
responsibility for each partner in the process, so as to reduce or mitigate
damage, produce good quality homes, create better prescriptive methods and
better training of both the builder and the building inspectors.
How many of us would doubt that this is truly a great idea. I believed
NAHB-RC was dedicated to this idea, I was invited to participate (without
having to be a paid member) on their committee. Again, let me make this clear
- Don asked me to participate and offered me the opportunity without charge.
I am sure that I would have supported REACH by becoming a paid member. I was
honored to be asked but felt that there was a principle at issue here that I
did not understand in the beginning.
When I told other engineers about the program, I assumed that the listservice
would be open to any member of the building industry who might want to
participate. I hoped this would foster interest from those specializing in
residential construction to work through some of the historic problems that
created historically insurmountable obstacles between engineers, architects
and builders. Whether it is ego, politics or simply an impasse, we need to
overcome the problems that plagued the building industry. Few of us can argue
with the statistics that show that defects in construction are far too
prevalent. The cause is no longer the concern. However, we are making the
public pay for our inability to bridge this gap. I object to those who are
willing to work for unity but who are expected to having to pay for the
Unless I have been taken off the REACH Listservice, I have not (up to the
time that I retired my CWIA email account) seen any discussions related to
residential construction occur on their list since the start. Most of the
comments were administrative. In the beginning, there were some discussions
-- seeded by me. When I attempt to discuss the issue of a closed list with
NAHB-RC I have been ignored or the responses have skirted the issues.
Possibly they just know better than I do what makes a successful listservice.
What is the purpose is served to the building industry by having 50 paid
members who are not discussing the problems and potential solutions that our
industry needs to address?
Again, I apologize to Don for seeming to attack -- it is frustration not
anger that motivates me. For the third time in this post I must state that
the basic idea of REACH is what the industry needs. NAHB-RC has the resources
to provide this. Why won't NAHB-RC use their political strength (if they feel
so strongly about the benefits of REACH) to invest in the building industry?
They can, as SEAINT has done, fund their service by sales of publications,
education programs, seminars and more. Their principle goal as a nonprofit
organization should be to correct problems that have cost the insurance
industry over 20 billion (Northridge earthquake) and may have been avoidable.
Don, SEAINT is a professional forum for engineers. Because of this, we don't
advertise our discussions to builders and architects and therefore, you get a
skewed opinion. REACH was intended to unite the industry with equal
representation. Yet, you monitor the SEAINT for the majority of discussion
about residential construction rather than trying to promote this same
discussions on the REACH listservice where others can participate.
You indicated in your post: "The REACH list service, modeled after the SEAINT
listservice has not yet started to function. The members of REACH have been
offered the opportunity to become involved on a list service but we have only
couple of takers so far. "
Don, only a percentage of those who join will be vocal. The SEAINT
listservice has somewhere near 12,000 engineers who subscribe, yet only a
hundred or so are actively involved at any one time. Sooner or later many
more will participate when a topic comes along that they are passionate
enough about. I would love to think that we could have 12,000 activists on
the list but the fact is that the majority (probably over 98% are nine to
five engineers. Nothing wrong with this, these people are devoted to family,
relaxation, enjoyment of their efforts and any number of reasons not to
participate in the workings of our profession. Memberships for most are
simply added to titles and used to impress, stay abreast of work in area's of
interest, or many other reasons. The fact is that the majority are not
activists and maybe this keeps the list from exploding with hundreds of posts
daily. Therefore, when you suggest that of fifty members there are no list
takers as yet, this is not surprising. You are marketing the list to the
Having 50 members who are sitting back waiting for the discussion to begin is
not going to complete the goal that REACH set.
Possibly the reason that the SEAINT list is so successful is that the
listservice is free -- no strings attached. It was planed to promote
discussions between professionals and understands that it can only do so when
it is free speech. Let me pose this problem. Would I want to pay for
membership in a list that took the position that engineers overdesign? I
don't think so. However, would I jump into the fire and have my opinions
heard if this was an open forum? You bet I would.
Making changes in the building industry is not without painful confrontation.
We have years of resentment that exists between professions that need to be
placed on the table and openly aired. Who wants to pay for this type of
potential abuse. Those who care will be tempted to do so publicly.
SEAOSC absorbs the overhead when not generated through advertising or other
services intended to offset the cost and maintenance of our server. SEAOSC
invested their money into the server because they had the foresight to see
that we needed to establish a worldwide platform that promotes intelligent
discussion of issues important to our profession. I personally think SEAOSC
(with Shafat's help) has done an excellent job in maintaining our Internet
So, how does all of this benefit SEA? Well, little by little, our combined
voice on the Internet is changing our professional organization. What occurs
on the SEAINT List has had a strong influence on the SEAOSC board of
directors and is now reaching the state chapter - SEAOC. More of the board
members, committee chairs and the membership at large (including ASCE, NSPE,
CASE and other industry professionals). I recently published many of our
comments about the discontinuity between prescriptive residential buildings
and the increased code requirements for new buildings. Hopefully this will
add fuel to the fire that is already occurring in our profession from those
with strong opinions against stricter codes and in favor of resolving the
building problem that REACH seems to be concerned about. It is better than
doing nothing at all.
My professional opinion is that this would have been a much easier fight to
wage if REACH was behind us rather than disconnected from the "team."
Remember that these codes originated in the committees all across the state
of California and on up to every other SEA chapter in the country that
reviewed and commented on the work. If REACH wants to resolve conflicted
issues they need to establish professional relationships with SEA, CASE, ASCE
and the multitude of engineering organizations that shape the way we design
I think I would rather be the thorn in the side of REACH that will one day
allow NAHB-RC to understand what a great potential they are sitting on. When
you tear down the wall and allow those who are interested enough to
participate you will create a team worthy of a united impartial solution.
Until then the most productive idea's will probably be coming from the SEAINT
I hope you understand that this is constructive criticism for a great idea
(REACH) that may never be realized. We need these changes now, before we get
too deep into future code cycles and cannot undo the costly changes we are
creating in the code. I need to do what I can to get NAHB-RC to understand
Dennis S. Wish PE