Subject: Re: Seismic Upgrade ..... Appeal to those who created the code
Date: Sun, 02 May 1999 18:42:18 -0700
I'm not sure I can speak to your specific frustration as I was not involved in
the passage of that information. However, I can speak in generalities as one who
has worked in the code development process. I am not responding to you
personally as I know you have been involved as much as you could. The real
message here is to everyone who complains about the provisions after they have
been approved rather than before they are approved!
First, let me say that occassionally a proposed change or a new procedure will
sail through the process and not be challenged by anyone. Interestingly, these
provision usually never surface again as a problem, until new data or information
becomes available that requires the item to be revised.
The Code change process is definately one of compromise and negotiation. Our
committees will work for a significant period of time on the most simple of
changes. In some cases, we work for years on a concept before it ever sees the
code development process.
Where the problem comes in is trying to anticipate who your opposition will be.
Once identified, the smartest thing you can do is either send them your proposal
for their review and comment, or invite them to participate in your discussions.
In the case of the '97 UBC provisions, the SEAOC Seismology committee did just
that! Industry representitives, other engineering organizations, and in some
cases building officials (or their representatives) were involved in the
process. Now, you think you have a provision wherein everyone is in agreement.
You present your change at the first level hearings to obtain the approval of the
committee. During the discussions, someone from the committee, or (most likely)
maybe someone you failed to identify as an opponent testifies against the
provision. The committee is wavering as the opposition arguments are very
strong. Quickly, the representative organize a meeting to see if they can
address issues. Compromises are reached, and changes are made. Finally, you
secure the approval of the committee. Now the real work begins!
The revised proposal is printed as approved as revised. The problem, none of the
discussion is included. Now it is published and all ICBO voting members are
reviewing the change. They have some 500 changes to review and take a position
on. Some outside individuals (again, those you failed to identify as possible
opposition) decide to challenge the actions of the committee.
Challenges are then published. People have challenged your proposal for
disapproval while others have challenged it include some other changes. You now
have less than 6 months to resolve all the conflicts. You first work with those
who want further revisions. You hear what they have to say and their reasoning.
You begin the process of trying to convince them that what they want to revise
does not completly work with your proposal. Others present information that
makes sense and just might enhance the proposal. Others refuse to respond to you
at all. So, again you begin the negotiation and compromise cycle realizing that
you can not allow a revision that will compromise the integrity of the entire
Now you go to the annual business meeting. You think you have resolved the
problems with your opposition and you now have a provision that is different from
the starting point, but the premise and the logic of the orginal proposal has not
been compromised. You begin talking with voting members (who again, have not
been a part of the conversations leading to where you are today!). Their
feelings are the provision is no good because I can not understand it (a valid
point!); or there were too many challenges to allow me to support (another valid
point); or if you can make a few more changes I can support what you are
proposing. Again, the negotiation and revision process begins. Finally, you
have succeeded in satisfying all the objections. The issue comes to the floor,
final revisions are made in accordance with the disucssions held, and the measure
passes. You now have a new code provision that is different than what was
orgininally submitted. Unfortunately, it does not work for every possible
condition! But, very possibly neither did the orgininal proposal.
As much as the committees try to figure every combination and every situation
that a provision could be applied to, they can not possibly cover every one.
Sometimes we create problems that don't need to be created, unfortunately that is
the nature of the beast.
In my discussions with building officials who actively participate in the code
change process, they all agree that they will seriously consider the judgement of
the engineer of record. For this to work the engineer must provide adequate
justification, with an engineering basis, as to why a provision should not apply
to a specific situation. Please try to remember the process. It may not be the
best in the world, but it is what we have.
Use your engineering judgement to convince the building official that the
provision should not apply to the specific condition. In the future, you may
want to become more involved in the process as an individual. This can be done
by following the changes--it does not mean you have to go to all of the
meetings. When you see something that you don't like, or you don't think is
quite right, take the time to contact the proponent and speak to them about the
provision. Code provisions are like any other regulation--some agree with it,
some oppose it. Just like government, if you do not involve yourself, and try to
affect change, it will never change.
> Dennis S. Wish PE
> I'm kind of at a loss and frustrated as well. There have been many
> suggestions for Lynn as well as to warn him of the potential liability of his
> actions if he chooses to use his engineering judgement.
> Remember who changed these codes - our fellow professionals. We may not agree
> with the direction that these committees took and possibly they did not work
> out all of the potential details and problems associated with these changes.
> Now that their work has been published, it becomes code and we are forced to
> follow it.
> A bad code is still a bad code, but is protected as long as there is no
> opposition to it.
> Is it that we have no faith in our ability to act in numbers or are we
> complacent, apathetic or just don't give a damn.
> There have been many who voiced their opinions of the problems created by
> this code. How many lurkers are there in the shadows who agree with the
> discussion and simply have no desire to respond, voice an opinion or "make
> waves" (the worst excuse I can think of).
> Better yet, I would love to see some intelligent discussion from those who
> made these changes and believe them to be in the best interest of the public
> compared to working in a direction to improve construction quailty and assure
> that the finished product reflects what we have designed. If I'm wrong, I'd
> love to know it and would happily back off and start defending the other side
> of the issue.
> I urge each of you to act upon your conviction. When the time comes that you
> feel passionate about a section of code that is wrong, I'm sure you will
> desire to have the support of your fellow members behind you to correct the
> Let me be clear that I don't specifically blame any of the engineers on the
> committees who deveoped this code because I believe that they felt justified
> in their work. I believe that they did not see the whole picture or felt that
> the lobby on the side of the construction industry was unconquerable in our
> ability to improve and correct the actual causes of failures discovered by
> FEMA and other organizations after natural diseasters. Therefore, I think the
> committee has the same problem we do. How to force compliance to a code that
> forces observation and inspection compliance during construction. Rather than
> fight the beaurocracy, we work from what we know best - code creation and
> revision. Not the most cost effective approach to the problem.
> I'll get off of your backs after this post. I'm frustrated that we, as a
> unified professional community, sit back and take whatever is thrown at us
> without consideration for our clients. Yet, we seem happy to take the abuse
> from the Architectural and Construction industry as "overdesigners" and
> money-mongers (until damage occurs then they are happy to attack our
> Someone has to take a stand and this is as good a time as any.
> Dennis Wish PE