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Re: Conv. Constr. one direction

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At 03:30 PM 7/26/99 -0700, you wrote:
>As an aside question, is it the responsibility of the engineer involved on
the project to ensure that it does comply with conventional construction?
>Thor Tandy  P.Eng  MCSCE
>Victoria BC
Thor, as to the 88 UBC and Calif PE Act, the answer divides into two major
ways, but generally the answer to the question as you expressed it is NO.

The two ways are by how the engineer is "involved". First, woodframe
residential up to 4-plex and up to 2-story and basement may be designed and
drawn by anyone. An engineer or architect is only necessary to the extent
the bldg official finds elements or portions not in compliance with code
conventional construction, and who then requires design of the non-complying
elements and portions by an E. or A. This is in Cal PE Act 6737.1 and Arch
Pract Act 5537, and reprinted as info in the Contractor's License Law and
Reference Book. (94 and 97 UBC similarly restricts conventional to mostly
residential occupancies, without necessarily requiring a licensed designer
for it.) 

This incidental engineering input does not place the engineer or architect
who does it into responsibility for more than the design of non-conforming
elements and portions done by that engineer, unless such person contracts
for more. The "anyone" remains in responsible charge of exempt aspects of
design, and the contractor (or owner-builder where allowed, like on personal
residences) is answerable to the building official on construction matters
such as the assurance of complying with conv. constr. provisions. Once the
building permit is granted, the designer normally is superfluous to code
compliance issues. 

The Cal Architects Board for many years has sent agents around to "educate"
local building officials on license law requirements, and in the recent few
years, so has the Cal PE Board, but using clerk-type staffers, not
experienced design professionals who also understand the laws, of whom few
exist. It is hard to overstate the power and autonomy given by state law and
tradition to local bldg officials, power that bypasses the state licensing
boards to their chagrin.  Disregarding Cal law, the UBC itself provides
similar arrangements for engineering of non exempt elements and portions,
but these provisions are scattered out between the administrative sections
and the so-called engineering sections. It is not easy to have a good grasp
of it all on a cursory look.

In the second version, design (meaning responsible charge and preparation of
drawings and specs) is restricted to a licensed architect or engineer. But
such persons are still welcome to employ non-engineered conventional
construction anywhere the building code permits it. Again, the conventional
construction alternative is expressly deemed by code to comply with the
code's engineering requirements, so there's no burden on the engineer to
re-engineer what meets conventional provisions. 

And again, there is not normally a burden on the A or E designer to "ensure"
(your word) that the actual construction complies, since that is the duty of
the contractor or other person building the place. There isn't any clear and
convenient way I know of for the professional preparing the plans to
delineate the non-conventional construction -based portions so that builders
and inspectors who use the drawings can distinguish engineered work from the
rest. Ordinarily there would be a presumption that conventional construction
applies except where drawn and detailed otherwise. In other words, where the
drawings provide no specific indication, conventional is assumed and the
code prescriptives are to be enforced. 

Practically all of the above description is 180 degrees opposite from what
occurs in institutional and high rise projects that are "fully" engineered
and have  engineer-controlled construction quality programs. Cal public
school projects are the oldest model of this (since 1933) and the push from
SE policy buffs for ordinary and residential occupancies is toward this

The major reason residential engineers get undeserved legal grief is because
they are condemned by engineers acting as accuser experts who come from the
other, "total-control" end of the practice spectrum and who don't (or won't)
adjust for the profound differences in residential work, and who don't know
when the residential work is perfectly acceptable by its own standards and
codes. That was so glaringly obvious in the two PE Board license revocation
attempts I helped defend, and in many others I have read the final outcomes
of, where the Board lost. 

The same failure to understand residential and adjust to it also accounts
for why Seismology and other SE committees continue to produce codes and
habits of mind so ill-suited to residential wood framing, thus exacerbating
the vicious circle of persecutions against residential practitioners.

Charles O. Greenlaw  SE   Sacramento CA