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RE: shear wall design; std. of care

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I have had little involvement in this discussion but saw Charles comments
about "Standard of Care" and had to comment.
Most of us admit that we have a problem complying with the current code
methodology as it applies to custom homes, and although commercial and
industrial wood buildings tend to be easier to design using torsional
analysis, I believe the differences in more "regular" structures to be
fairly insignificant.
The issue of a standard of care is immensely important - more now than ever
before. This is because few engineers are designing in full compliance of
the code and few building officials and plan check engineers are enforcing
full compliance - at least not until more is known to justify or negate the
While engineers design to less than the published minimum standard, they
offer themselves up as "bait" to the bottom feeders who would use this as an
excuse to defend a dissatisfied client and pull the engineering into a
"normally" frivolous law suit based on non-compliance as grounds for the
litigation. They might win as the only defense the engineer has is the
"Standard of Professional Care" which has not, as yet, been determined to be
different than what is published as a minimum standard of the code.
Some of us have been discussing the need to compensate for this by bringing
engineers, who specialize in residential design, together to address the
issues that the Seismology committee won't get to for months and use our
work to help define a "standard of professional Care" that may not agree
with the code. The intention is to present it as a petition which, when
signed by a fair representation of the profession, will essentially attack
the liability issue by creating a written "Standard of Professional
Practice" for residential design.

This is not a phrase that should be interpreted lightly as it represent our
legal defense and our only viable means to create unity within the
profession to legally defend ourselves from lack of compliance with a
codified law.

As to the comments about my response to why I don't use the deadload to
resist uplift in a Shearwall. I can't say I never have - as Bill Allen
pointed out, economics demands that I comply with my clients budget from
time to time. I feel it is prudent to disregard the resistance because of
the lack of quality control in the field that is beyond the engineers
capability to control. This is a buffer against poor construction - much
more than a compensation for any failing in the design method or code

I used to think that engineering is the art of creating the most economical
design that will maintain the minimum standard of life safety defined within
the code. I can, in good faith, adhere to this credo when I know that most
contractors will not build to the same level of care that I expect and will
be looking a the financial bottom line over quality of construction most of
the time.

I urge those who wish to discuss the "Standard of Professional Care" issue
to do so and to suggest how we might define this care to protect us from the
same thing we must use to protect the public - our own code.

Dennis S. Wish, PE
SEConsultant(--nospam--at) <mailto:SEConsultant(--nospam--at)>
(208) 361-5447 Efax

-----Original Message-----
From: Charles Greenlaw [mailto:cgreenlaw(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Wednesday, November 17, 1999 9:59 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: shear wall design; std. of care

        But to use the term "standard of care" as an offhand euphemism for
"customary simplest method" is absolutely outrageous. "Standard of care"
is a legal term of the most serious and grave import. It is defined in BAJI,
the state's official jury instructions, and is the basis for jury, judge, or
hearing officer to use in weighing evidence, including expert testimony, as
to whether an accused person was negligent. Ignorant, careless use of this
term by engineers can and does cause blameless engineers to be sued for
serious money and to have revocations of their licenses pursued tenaciously
by the PE Board. Costs to save one's savings and one's license to practice
quickly runs to many tens of thousands of dollars, with no recourse against
anyone. All because another engineer didn't know his engineering with enough
versatility, and didn't know legal terms at all. Or worse.

>Many, like Dennis Wish, recognize the issue and do not use the dead load
>resistance that occurs between the ends of the wall.

        To the contrary, Dennis said he "never really thought about the
reasons" for not using dead load out along the wall.  Bill Allen however
gave the reason that is the most compelling: There isn't enough fee to fool
around calculating little increments of dead load to offset overturning
uplift. This is the same disincentive I follow, even though I worked out for
myself in Jan 1985 the same findings so well expressed by Nels Roselund the
other day. But if I expect a calculated need for some hold-down device, I
use a plenty strong and stiff one, because it costs little more than a wimpy
one, and seismic loads are understated, and gravity has little available
overstrength. Do I reckon with increased panel shear stress due to
distributed O.T.-resisting dead load? I'll never tell, because it might not
resemble some engineer critic's "standard of care".

Charles O. Greenlaw, SE   Sacramento CA
Still on SEAOC Prof. Practice Committee; unsure why or for what good.