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Re: Seismic Upgrade prob. W/97 UBC

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May 03, 1999 10:55 AM
>From the Office
of Dennis S. Wish, PE
Editor - SEAINT Online
I want to address Rick Ranous's response. First, Rick provided an accurate 
account of the code development process. He is well qualified considering 
Rick's years of dedication to SEAOSC and SEAOC. We are fortunate to have Rick 
on the list (as well as others like Bob Bossi, Rawn Nelson, Ron Hamburger, 
Bob Kazanjy, Shafat, Ron Ogawa, Chuck Greenslaw and the many active List 
members who I failed to mention and who have spent so many years devoted to 
our profession. 
I want to be perfectly clear that my opinions are not meant to denigat the 
work of the talented engineers who volunteer service to our professional 
I am not happy with the current code and understand better, from Rick's 
explanation, how we arrive at this point from countless hours of negotiation 
and comprimise. Having spent a few years on the (then) Hazardous Building 
Committee, I can understand the frustration and tedius work needed to create 
and publish a code. 
We have established a process that is, at the moment, inflexible to change. 
This is the result of the cycles of developement that are going on at any one 
time - new projects, completion of existing projects, updating of older 
projects and discussions of those projects down the road.
Adding a virtual community to the equation implies that we need to stop the 
mechanics of SEA and work in a new variable. This is not, in my opinion, 
adequate or responsible. What we need to do is to jump on board while the 
train is still moving and hope that we can alter a direction without stopping 
the train.  This is a tough one as we approach adoption of a method (not 
necessarily a different code as Ben Yousefi pointed out to me) that many of 
us feel is unnecessary.

So, question number one becomes; How do we delay adoption of the methodology 
for plywood diaphragms until more dialog can be voiced and until the results 
of Curee-Caltech project is completed. At that time, we should be able to 
determine if the problems were design related or construction issues. I think 
that there is enough preliminary information - including those public 
statements made by SEAOSC to question the relavance of the new methodology.

Second, why did and how did building officials neglect madatory compliance 
with these provisions which were clearly written in the '94 UBC.  What has 
suddenly changed that takes the judgment of the engineer out of the equation 
and mandates compliance?

The future of code developement:

I don't believe that we have an adequate channel for code drafts and 
development discussion. I have not joined ICBO or the many other 
organizations that help create code changes and am at a disadvantage as to 
who, what and where we can obtain the information we need until the final 
draft or the finished code is presented to us.
I don't blame this on the professionals or organizations, afterall, this is 
our responsiblity as an International presence. It is obvious that we have 
not come near our goal of making this information EASILY accessible. 
Times are changing but it is still difficult to reach or participate on 
committees when you are restricted by distance or work obligations. This 
prevents me from active participation in anything but that which I can do 
Still, this does not address the problem at hand - how do we reach the 
community in order to convince those who are in the middle of the process 
that we may be making a mistake.
The suggestion to work with the building official is good if the building 
official is willing to comprimise based on the judgement of the design 
engineer. This rarely occurs when the local building official hires an 
outside agency to plan check or make these types of decisions. In this case 
the outside agency assume liability for their decisions and will be more 
cautious about protecting the city and their liability than reaching solution 
based upon good engineering judgement.
In addition, none of this reduces the engineers liability. It would be too 
easy to sue based upon the premise that he did not follow the letter of the 
code (regardless of his aguments which may have swayed the building 

This leaves unresolved conflicts which we must find answers to:

1. How do we obtain the cooperation of all committees and professional 
organizations (including ICBO) to create easy access to development documents 
including written arguments?

2. Once we have access, how do we channel our comments and suggestions to 
those important individuals who can evalute and respond to us (most likely by 
public message boards or listservices)?

3. How does the "system" encourage the committees and chairs to use the 
Internet for an exchange of ideas if these individuals have no priority or 
interest in the Internet's professional community?

4. When faced with a problem like the one that exists in wood framing - what 
channel is available to us to stop the process or change the process without 
creating a greater liability?

5. How do we integrate a new community of professionals who are, for the most 
part, only online, into the physical committee process that is already at a 
stage of developement that may be farther than the new majority (for a better 
word) want?

I anticipated that SEAINT would be the key to resolving these issues. 
However, the process is much slower than I would like and there is the never 
ending obstacles of politics and bureaucracy to muddle through. 

I think that this is a good place to work through these issues as long as we 
have the participation of those who have the power to make the changes.



Dennis S. Wish, PE
Editor - SEAINT Online
publication of the Structural Engineers Association
of Southern California (SEAOSC)
SEAOSC Office - seaosc(--nospam--at)