The following "Letter to the Editor" was published in 1996 Structural
Engineers Association of Northern California and Southern California
newsletters. In response to numerous requests, it is repeated here so others
who do not have access to these newsletters will have the opportunity to read
this "Letter to the Editor", entitled "And the Buildings Will Not Even Catch
With the continuing emphasis on "Performance Based Seismic Design" as
expressed in the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, Vol. 2, No.
1, January 1999, PEER CENTER NEWS, web site:http://peer.berkeley.edu, and
other similar seismic engineering bulletins and newsletters, as well as FEMA
273 and 310 Guidelines, it is timely to present again the following "Letter
to the Editor."
"AND THE BUILDINGS WILL NOT EVEN CATCH A COLD"*
"On a recent airplane flight in early December 1995, I had the privilege of
talking to a professor from one of the California Universities for Research
in Earthquake Engineering (CUREe) universities. He expressed his concerns
about the ethical and professional liability issues related to the structural
engineering profession being able to met the goals of Vision 2000, which is
to develop the framework for procedures that yield structures of predictable
seismic performance - Performance Based Seismic Design.
"He was very concerned about the ability of knowledgeable structural
engineers to design and retrofit building to meet the Vision 2000 performance
goals and levels of "Fully Operational" and "Operational" (Refer to Figure
2-1: Spectrum of Damage States, Vision 2000 - Part 1, April 3, 1995.) His
concerns was that structural engineers have an inadequate data base of full
size testing of systems and components and their actual earthquake
performance on which to base the necessary engineering judgments to design
and retrofit buildings to meet these seismic performance goals and objectives.
He was also concerned about the apparent structural engineer's innocence and
unsophisticated understanding of the legal issues related to their practice
compared to medical doctors. All medical doctors eventually "fail" and lose
all their patients through death if they outlive their patients. They do not
even try to offer perpetual life unless they are quacks or charlatans. Yet
they are will to spend considerable sums of your money - with your
permission, of course - to extend your life a few years. If you follow their
recommendations your life can be extended. However, they do not offer
perpetual life and along the way you will still catch colds.
"Now with Vision 2000 performance levels of "Fully Operational" and
Operational" structural engineers are offering to provide owners with the
equivalent of "implied warranties" and seismic risk-free "perpetual life" for
their buildings if these structural engineers will just follow some enhanced
design and quality assurance procedures.
"AND THE BUILDINGS WILL NOT EVEN CATCH A COLD. Think about it."
Frank E. McClure, Consulting Structural Engineer
* All rights reserved. July 30, 1996.
Note: The FEMA 273 Guidelines Performance Level of "Immediate Occupancy" is
equivalent to SEAOC Vision 2000 Rating of "Fully Operational", and FEMA 273
Guidelines Performance Level of "Damage Control" is equivalent to SEAOC
Vision 2000 Rating of "Operational." (Reference: Chris Poland, PEER CENTER
NEWS, Vol. 2, No. 1, January 1999.)