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Re: Effects of the New Code on Wood structures - good or bad

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To those who are frustrated with the 1997 UBC wood design provisions.

It would be nice if members from Seismology would participate online in our 
discussions rather than "lurking" in the background and discussing our 
concerns without our involvment. I have received many responses from SEAOC 
members in the last month - all of which to inform me that the Seismology 
committee is aware of our concerns and has spent many hours discussing our 
concerns. However, although it is not the answer that we would like to hear, 
the consensus at this point is to use the new code until Seismology and the 
engineers using it have gathered enough information to make a determination. 
It is my opinion that Practicing Engineers and the public should not have to 
bear the cost of research. The code should not have included wood design if 
there was not sufficient evidence of loss of life or major structural damage 
attributed to inadequate design methodologies to endorse a dramatic change in 
This is not a dramatic change to those who practice on masonry and concrete, 
but represents a drastic change and increase in work for those of us who 
design wood.

I feel justified to criticize any engineer - volunteer or not who has an 
effect on the manner in which I earn a living. This is not a game, nor is it 
a clinical study - it is a business and will affect most of us financially 
one way or the other. 

Seismology Volunteers are no better nor worse than the rest of us who 
participate on this list and feel that the code is improper for wood design 
of residential structures. So far, the difference is that SEAOC members 
(which I am an active participant) appear to feel that they are being 
attacked after throwing the first stone - this new code and have yet to 
address the professional community face to face. I suspect, as with most 
legal matters, that our concerns are "Taken under advisement and a decision 
will be reached which we will all be notified off."  Excuse me but we live in 
the 21st century (as of a few months) and have the technology to discuss this 
with those in a position to create change.

What Rick fails to explain is the endless amount of "Politics" that exist. In 
this case, Politics is defined as "Ego", "Sensitivity to criticism" and 
"bull-headedness".  If, as a volunteer of SEAOC you feel that this provision 
is justified, tell me this:

1) How many more lives will it save compared to past codes?
2) How much will it reduces the Insurance companies claims for damages in 
similar earthquakes as we had to Northridge.

If you can answer these questions now, then maybe the new code is a good 
thing. If the answers are either insignificant or unavailable until studies 
such as the CUREe-Caltech program is completed, then maybe the code change 
for wood is premature. If you can not guarantee a significant reduction in 
the cost of claims to the Insurance industry - maybe the code should not have 
been changed. If homeowners can not benifit from the change by lower 
deductables than maybe the code change is premature.

Now answer me this: If we start seeing more prescriptive construction by 
conventional standards increasing into the middle class homes, what benifit 
will this code change have? None. Rather, it will promote poorer quality 
construction by forcing engineers out of the homebuilding market and placing 
lower and middle income families into the hands of the developers and 
contractors. Remember, conventional construction requirments have expanded in 
this code rather than become more restrictive.

Now tell me. Has Seismology considered these issues? I don't think so. Should 
they have? You bet your life they should have!
Who has the right to critisize - WE DO!

It is Improper for SEAOC Seismology members to assume that any professional 
engineer whose business and livlihood relies upon the design of wood 
structures should not be critical of those who create the code. I doubt very 
highly if Fluor Daniels designs many lower and middle class wood residences. 
I doubt that the majority of those Volunteers who sit on the Seismology 
committee have every given any serious consideration to the ecconomics of 
residential design and construction.

As one member pointed out, it would have been better for Seismology to have 
studied the effects on wood structures rather than release it into the 
professional community so that engineers can experiment at their expense. 
This is putting the cart before the horse and causing those who can least 
afford it to bear the expense. As Frank Lew stated many times "Show me the 

I think it is no less appropriate to critisize those who refuse to respond to 
our concerns than it is for you to criticize us for speaking our minds.

Dennis S. Wish PE
Active Volunteer of SEAOC

In a message dated 7/22/99 8:38:29 AM Pacific Daylight Time, 
Rick.Drake(--nospam--at) writes:

<< To those who are frustrated with the 1997 UBC wood design provisions.
      It is productive to discuss the deficiencies, ambiguities, and 
      possible interpretations of the code.  Discussion leads to knowledge 
      and innovations.
      It is counterproductive to badmouth the SEAOC seismology committee 
      VOLUNTEERS who have provided the input to the code.
      It is productive to make constructive code input to the VOLUNTEER 
      SEAOC seismology membership, both local and state level.  This input 
      should include a detailed thought process of the problems with the 
      current wording, and suggestions to improve the situation.  Actual 
      design examples and proposed code wording would be a big help to the 
      VOLUNTEER committee members.  From a practical standpoint, proposals 
      should be as revisions to the 2000 IBC, although proposed revisions to 
      the 1997 UBC would still be useful.
      To those of us who are SEAOC members, the FASTEST way to effect code 
      changes has always been to work through your local seismology 
      committee members.  Contrary to the stated opinion of several on the 
      list server, the committee members do work for a living, and they do 
      listen to input from those not on the committees.
      To those of us who are SEAOC members, the SLOWEST way to effect code 
      changes has always been to gripe, complain, and badmouth the authors.
      If it's broken, let's fix it, the fastest way possible.
      Rick Drake, SE
      Fluor Daniel, Aliso Viejo