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Re: More questions about rigid plywood Diaphragms

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At 07:51 AM 7/6/99 -0700, "Ed Workman" <eworkman(--nospam--at)>  wrote in response
to a posting by Joe Grill:

>Joe its not you that's crazy. It's this new code
>The problem is that code work is done by  small (dedicated) groups. In some
>areas of interest the group could be described as ELITIST. What is lacking
>is a review process that allows the profession as a whole to participate
>BEFORE publication. Now I'm sure that one of the elitists would answer this
>with facts that subcommittee meetings are open, hearings are held etc, but
>that would be self serving hogwash. It remains true that the process remains
>inaccessible to most practitioners and it need not be.

This is a very big part of the problem, and I agree completely with Ed. 

At the June 99 monthly meeting of SEAOC- Central Section in Sacramento,
which unusually featured a speaker on a wood framing issue (nails) the
outgoing local president was explaining (in careful avoidance of saying
anything specific, as is now customary in SEAOC leadership) that the past
year saw very little accomplished by the SEAOC Board of Directors, due to

In the course of challenging this SEAOC Director to get specific, and in the
ensuing heated discussion that then went around the room at length, I stated
as follows that there has been an unfortunate perversion of priorities by SEAOC:

        The purpose of individual SEAOC duespaying members has become to
support and serve the big, autonomous SEAOC code-writing committees like
Seismology, instead of the other way around. The committees have taken over
the Association. Elected Directors aren't looking out for those who elected
them, but are rubber-stamping Committee ambitions and results, heedless of
effects on constituents.

Joe is indeed crazy, like so many of us, if he is still practicing in small
woodframe jobs filled with architectural features that make for what in big
buildings the Code calls "structural irregularities."  It is well-agreed
that residential and similar chopped-up little jobs cannot afford the
lengthy, rigorous, supposedly exacting design analyses that the code
apparently requires now, in spite of so-called "simplified" provisions. And
there isn't nearly enough knowledge of assemblage properties like shear wall
and diaphragm stiffnesses to make the attempt meaningful to the building's
performance anyway.

The reason we're crazy to be in this work is that the BUILDING's
performance, although stridently held out by the committees as the reason
that compels explosive growth in code size and complexity, is almost beside
the point. It is the performance of the ENGINEER, not the building, that is
the unstated target of codewriting committees AND of the enforcement that
hurts. Small, contractor -helping woodframe job engineers are clearly the
low-life, bottom-dwelling "expendables" in this elite world of SEAOC committees.

"Enforcement that hurts":  That's not usually what one gets from building
departments, who are burdened themselves by the hassles of code
interpretation and a need to be practical and efficient, but instead it
comes from litigator attorneys and their engineer experts AFTER construction
is completed to the building official's interpretation and satisfaction. And
it's also what one gets from the PE Board's engineer experts, staffers and
prosecutors, likewise in spite of prior satisfaction of the code agency. I
gave defense testimony last week in a residential case license-revocation
action brought by the PE Board against a civil engineer. I can't directly
tell about it yet, but I can tell you about my resulting inner personal mood
at the time and in the days since: seething, embittered rage bottled up like
a bomb.

And that case grew out of simple but naively misconstrued 1988 UBC code
provisions relating to woodframe and relating to the mix between provisions
aimed at engineers vs the parallel provisions aimed at contractors and
inspectors. With the many-fold increase in complexity and ambiguity in the
97 UBC in these same matters, there is an exponentially greater chance that
no matter what you do, someone else will gladly and profitably testify you
got it wrong, and then you are in for an awful ordeal.

A tip-off that our code-inflicting committees don't much know the "right"
way to comply with what they wrote is found in their seminar and design
manual coverage of residential woodframe: meager, late, uncertain, and too
lengthy for a yet too-simple example selected for modeling. Ironic: SEAOC
and ICBO author/experts are unable to explain how to follow their methods
"right" in a real-world situation, but lesser persons in business as experts
will have no problem years later explaining how most ANY method you used was

Suppose you're in the Army and all the tech manuals are written by drill
team leaders, procurement clerks, and pilots who fly helicopters. But you
are sent out to dig up hidden land mines and defuse unexploded bombs, using
those required manuals as your code. It's like doing woodframe residential
jobs governed by obtuse SE committee -written codes: things are more likely
to blow up in your face.

July 4th was the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, a good
model document. In the middle of that then-subversive 1776 rant was a litany
of offenses being endured at the hands of the King of England. This SEAint
list's members are posting a growing litany of offenses being endured at the
hands of our SE Committee elite. Fine, and let's go on and make a
declaration of independence from these people. Cut off their dominance and
let 'em eat cake. Restore the mundane end of this profession so it can be
practiced by people who aren't crazy to be doing it. 

Charles O. Greenlaw  SE     Sacramento CA