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
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
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)aol.com