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Re: 97 Code is a Life Safety Standard

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The Code language does not sound all that ambiguous
to me.  

The level of protection a Code compliant structure
provides is very important to define BEFORE you
start writing the Code.

Design ground accelerations should be defined with
the period of recurrence of the predicted quake also

The fact is that we DO NOT design for the "BIG"
one.  People should in fact be aware of that.
An 8.0 on the San Andreas near San Bernardino would
be devastating.  The new code has sought to mitigate
the failures from these large quakes by including
the near source factor.  This is a good thing.

Any engineer can design to a higher standard if they
wish.  The Code is only a MINIMUM design standard. 
No one is stopping anyone from a higher design

However, the MINIMUM should be defined in the Code,
and in my opinion, the MINIMUM that an engineer
should be allowed to design to is "life-safety".

No one is suggesting that engineers hide behind the

As to your last statement about peoples dream houses
"just barely standing up", it just doesn't hold

If you look at the FACTS, thousands of older
non-engineered single story wood framed houses that
were within 2 Km of the epicenter of the Norhtridge
earthquake stood up just fine and required only
minor cosmetic repairs.