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Re: MaxBeam, MaxQuake, MaxWind

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May 16, 1999 12:14 AM
>From the Office
of Dennis S. Wish, PE
Editor - SEAINT Online
Dear SEAINT Listservice,

In a message dated 5/15/99 7:07:51 AM Pacific Daylight Time, 
scaldwell(--nospam--at) writes:

<< From the literature that was provided, it is pretty clear that these
 programs are marketed primarily to non-engineers.  In fact, the brochures
 state:  "Easy to use structural software for architects, builders, drafters,
 engineers, and building departments."  Perhaps this software, in addition to
 prescriptive building code requirements, explains why some architects feel
 competent in designing wood frame structures (thereby causing premature
 aging for Dennis Wish and others). >>

I received a copy of the software about two years ago from ArchForms. My 
intention was to review it for Online (SEAOC Online at the time). I decided 
not to review it for numerous reasons. The fact that it was marketed to 
Architects, builders and designers (draftspersons) was very disturbing. It 
reflects many of the fears of those on this list that believe a full 
understanding of structures is a mandatory prerequesite to using any 
engineering program. Had ArchForms emphasized this I might not have been as 
I have since discussed this with a few software vendors - all of whom sell 
structural software to architects. I understand the developers business 
decision, but also am comfortable that these softwares are being written 
under the supervision of engineers who understand the methodology they are 

These programs appeared complete but upon closer inspection are lacking. I 
don't remember exactly at this moment, but one issue  was the lack of loading 
conditions,  lack of ability to apply stress increases for roof live loads, 
repetitive loads etc. 
Again, drawing from memory, only one beam could be designed per spread sheet 
and it was not possible to distinguish between types of loads (DL, LL).

Two years has passed and ArchForm may have provided major changes to the 
program which overcame these deficiencies - I don't know for sure. I found 
the spreadsheet difficult to navigate as it was necessary to zoom out to work 
from left to right (it was a very wide spreadsheet) and at the scale needed 
to view the entire width of the sheet, the cells were too small to access. 
The difficulty is constantly zooming in and out or scrolling left and right.

I do, however, have a bias toward any software that places powerful tools in 
unskilled hands. This happens to be one that I suspect is used predominately 
by non-engineers. Is this bad - in my opinion yes. I've used this analogy 
many times: A doctor who specializes in Brain Surgery while trying to build a 
business as a Protologist will have patients with crap for brains. Sorry, but 
I don't know of a more direct way to state my passionate opinon on this issue.


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