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Re: Redundancy Factor

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In a message dated 7/31/99 9:24:33 AM Pacific Daylight Time, NDZ28(--nospam--at) 

<< Lynn, you have an excellent point.  I too will write to all the 
 that I deal with.  I don't know if I'll have any success; I'm with you 
 though, Hopefully all the key people will join in. (and the general 
 membership-this is no time to sit idle, especially for those of us whose 
 workload is wood framed structures).  
 Andrew >>

Please consider the following:

Excerps from a personal letter to the building official in the city of Rancho 
Mirage California who allowed engineers to submit designs based only on 
traditional flexible diaprhagm and tributary distribution methods:

I was surprised by your position on flexible diaphragm design that was 
discussed in our conversation this morning. Arnold sent me some pages from a 
book published in 1990 "DESIGN GUIDE TO THE 1991 UNIFORM BUILDING CODE" by 
Alfred Goldberg, P.E., H.A.I.A. (3rd edition published by GRDA Publications, 
Mill Valley California).
I have quoted a few paragraphs that I believe you should read and evaluate. 
Although the city has no real liability in the issue, you may be placing 
engineers in a litigious position that they are unaware of. The code is 
specific, allowing less "professional judgment" than past codes. Inasmuch as 
the code is a law, engineers and building professionals can decide to design 
to a stricter standard but can not authorize a design method that is less 
than what the code assumes to be the "Standard of Care". This is a very good 
topic to be discussed at our meeting with other professionals from the area.
Article 11 - Legal Implications of the Code (page 11-1)
"Unfortunately, we are living in an increasingly litigious society. Because 
the code is an ordinance or law enacted by a jurisdiction, it is as much the 
law as any other law on the books. Violation of the code is a violation of 
the law and can result in financial or personal loss to the individual or 
firm committing the violation."
The Designer and the Code (page 11-2)
"The designer should follow the code, when faced with a determination made at 
the local level that is knowingly contrary to the code and accepted practice 
in the profession. The choice of a more restrictive reading of the code 
cannot be overruled by the official. One can always exceed the minimum 
standards in the code. By doing so, the designer will avoid the trap of 
taking responsibility for the code violation that the official inadvertently 
set up. Remember that the code provides an "out" for the official via Section 
303( c ) ['91 UBC]; there is no similar one for the designer."
The Building Official's Legal Responsibility and Resources (page 11-3)
"The enforcement official who chooses to ignore the code, (see "The Designer 
and the Code" above), places both the jurisdiction and the official in 
serious jeopardy. Cases have ruled that both the individual and the 
jurisdiction can sustain liability if the action by the official was 
knowingly wrong. The official should obtain maximum assistance from the cited 
sources rather than incur such liability. The public is ill served by 
officials who choose to ignore the law they are to enforce."
The "Standard of Care" (page 11-4)
"The acceptance of substandard drawings from several designers does not 
establish a standard level of acceptance in that locality. If that standard 
results in drawings that are incomplete for proper construction, in 
litigation the designer will answer to the courts. It is foolish to hope the 
courts will rule that the continued presence of inadequate drawings will, 
over a period of time, establish that level of performance as the 
professional standard in the locality.
If a building official has made an erroneous interpretation and maintains 
that misinterpretation when responding to similar inquiries from other design 
professionals, that repetition of error does not establish a legal basis for 
violating the code. The designer must know and comply with the code, just as 
the driver of a car is required to know the speed limits, comply with them 
and not rely on the traffic cop to verify them."
Steve, I appreciate your position on this issue and I personally agree with 
you that residential construction should be designed as a flexible diaphragm. 
Unfortunately, we are both bound by the letter of the code to comply with the 
rigid diaphragm provisions until which time that the code can be changed or 
simplified. I have been working with the professional community to institute 
change and hope that our meeting will be the first step in having the 
opinions of many of us, who specialize in residential design, be seriously 
considered by members of SEAOC's Seismology Committee who originated this 
methodology. It has been brought to my attention that wood framed structures 
fell through the gap and was forced to comply with the same sections of code 
as commercial and industrial structures with known rigid diaphragms. 

*******end reference********

I do not believe it is possible based on the referenced information to 
resolve legal liability of the engineer who submits a revision to the code 
that promotes less than full compliance to the letter of the code. I believe 
that the adoption of the code must be at a state level and any revisions must 
occur at that level as well. The building official does not have the power 
modify the code to less than minimum compliance. I admit that I do not know 
if the city can refuse to adopt compliance to a new code that provides 
stricter enforcment of code provisions.