From: Charles Greenlaw <cgreenlaw(--nospam--at)speedlink.com>
Date: Fri, 18 Jun 1999 10:58:40 -0700
This reply disputes what was said about contractors not having to know the
building code on wood framing, and laments the bind residential engineers
suffer from codewriters' ignorance of residential construction reality. -C.G.
at 02:42 PM 6/17/99 EDT, Dennis Wish PE, wrote:
>At this time, the contractor is not required nor expected by certification to
>have specific knowledge of the UBC. This may free him of the responsiblity
>to have specific knowledge as to how a diaphragm (horizontal or vertical)
>should be properly nailed.
Perhaps not by individual certification-- I don't know --but the California
Contractors License Law at section 7110 says, "Willful or deliberate
disregard and violation of the building laws of the state, or of any
political subdivision thereof, or of [list of misc codes other than building
codes] constitutes a cause for disciplinary action."
Further, look at the Uniform Building Code itself. Vol 2 is grandly titled
"Structural Engineering Design Provisions" yet Chap 23 on Wood therein
contains a wealth of empirical, prescriptive woodframing provisions clearly
and traditionally intented for use by contractors and building inspectors IN
THE ABSENCE of engineering. Those provisions state directly how the
construction is to be done. There is likely not to be ANY design
professional involved to "parrot" the code language onto drawings. The code
book stands on its own to contractor and inspector alike, same as always.
How can it be said with a straight face that contractors aren't expected to
know and follow the building code that their License Act expressly charges
them to not violate, and portions of which code our PE Act at sec 6737.1
(and sec 5537 for architects) specifically exempts us from being involved with?
And that's not all. Through the 1994 UBC at least, which will spawn
litigation for another 13 years or so, other construction empirical
prescriptives are scattered throughout Chap 23. The section on notching of
beams, on lateral support of beams, nail spacing and penetrations, use of
joist hangers, portions of wood shear walls and diaphragms, decay and
termite protection, walls, floors, sheathing, fastenings-- all this is
before the section on Conventional Light Frame Construction is encountered--
contractors are directed by much of this. Much the same is true in the
reorganized Chap 23 in 1997 UBC, where all its major sections apply to
Construction as well as to Design, notwithstanding the chapter's title. (Sec
2305.2 through 2305.6)
And nothing codewise acts to separate engineer-only provisions from
contractor- directing provisions. Great setup for lawsuits, like the one
this thread got started over.
Who buried all this contractor-relevant code material, under which most
residential framing is done, (with engineering input normally only for a few
portions and pieces) behind a title that says in effect, "For Engineers Only"?
Well, ICBO must have. Do you suppose the lawyers prodded them for the sake
of good business, or was it the structural engineers who wanted it for their
own prestige? Whichever, who gets the most milage out of the resulting
anomalies and ambiguities? Who suffers most?
>Although it would seem that the engineer is responsible for specifying each
>and every element in the code that is to be used on the job, I believe this
>is a handicap that can and does create liability for the engineer.
Yes, and that's a handicap that NOBODY actually undertakes all the way, not
even on California public school and hospital jobs, where the engineer's
role is believed supreme, let alone on woodframe residential where the
engineer's role usually is incidental if at all. Once I did a single story
"house" that was a public school classroom for TMR students being trained in
domestic housekeeping skills. It was plan checked by Pat Campbell, later
SEAOC President and a zealous chief structural engineer of the state
school-checking agency. No big deal. I remember answering to Pat's
satisfaction that the living room ceiling, GB sheathing on 2x joists, was
its own diaphragm for spanning across the room. That was about 1975, in
The bigger, and ever-worsening problem is high-blown SE's from tightly
controlled, engineer-driven jobs like schools and hospitals inflicting their
notions and habits of total control into the contractor- and local
official-driven residential construction world, via miscast code provisions
only plaintiff and PE Board lawyers and their hired guns will actually use:
Use unreasonably after the fact, and against hapless small-time residential
engineers who get caught bewildered in the middle like Kosovar refugees in a
philosophical turf war.
Contractor-run residential framing practice is plainly a change-resistant
fact of life in the real world; it is a tradition-based sociological
creature that's disinterested in what the SE elites desire, the same as teen
pregnancy is a creature that doesn't care what pulpit pontificators preach.
At least the medical profession isn't punished for what their client
families' boys and girls often do.
Charles O. Greenlaw SE Sacramento CA