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Re: Seismic / building code

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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 
privilege. 
 
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 
a 
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 
wrong people.

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 
presence. 

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 
residential buildings.

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 
Listservice.  

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 
this.

Respectfully,
Dennis S. Wish PE