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Reroofing and disclosure of risk

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Dennis S. Wish PE

I wanted to thank Mark K Gilligan for his comments about the pubic's  
ignorance of the risk that they take when having work done. I have carried 
this discussion much further in prior posts by suggesting that there should 
be a level of performance disclosure made available to anyone who purchases a 
home (not just adding a new roof).
This ties in with other threads on our list that I have been actively vocal 
about. One house is not constructed with the same level of care as the next. 
In my case, the non-engineering community is at fault for using their lobby 
power to over-rule the engineering community by voting to establish 
prescriptive construction methods that are sub-standard to engineered 
However, the same is true of engineered solution that become more 
conservative to try and offset the failure of the contractor to perform his 
duty of compliance with the plan.

You stated: "I would argue that we have both a legal and moral obligation to 
inform our clients as  to the risks that they are accepting by making various 

I agree with this in concept, however the majority of those structures (If I 
may carry the discussion that far) that are sub-standard, do not originate 
under the authority of an engineer or architect of record - they are 
prescriptivly built structures. Therefore, our legal and moral obligation may 
be ineffective as we have no authority to be involved. The perception of the 
pofessional community to "bitch and moan" about sub-standard practices might 
hurt the engineering community as being perceived as a creating a market. 
Sorry, but I do believe that we are considered the bad guys in an issue where 
sub-standard prescriptive measures are marketed by developers as meeting 
compliance with the code and not "over-designed" as are engineered products.

It comes down to changing the public perception about quality of 
construction. The public believes that every building that requires the 
authority of the building official to issue permit is designed and built to a 
minimum life safety level. They do not understand that it is not built to a 
minimum performance level standard. Therefore, when the damage occurs, the 
owner wants to seek compensation from those they believe are responsible. Our 
system further makes it easy to file suit based upon a professional opinion 
biased by the money paid to the expert by those he is hired to represent.

One solution is to submit for opinions from an impartial board or reviewers 
who do not represent either side - but how would this be funded except by 
government funds.

I'm vasilating here. My intent is to show that we need to lobby for more 
education of the public to alert them of the differences in quality that are 
not disclosed to them when they purchase a home. We should next work to 
educate and demand certification of those who build structural systems or 
interpret structural drawings in the field.

Dennis Wish PE