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RE: Standard of Care v Code

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I think there is more to this issue. A "Standard of Care" may be regional if
it defines an agreeable standard of practice by professionals and building
officials in an area. An example might be the use of dimensionally stable
lumber in a desert region - although not required by code, may be used by
most engineers in the area because of their knowledge of the problems
associated with higher moisture content lumber. In this case, the issue
becomes debatable in court as witnesses reporting on the practice of local
engineers may establish what is the standard of care for the area.
As you pointed out, the UBC is the law, but it may not represent the
"Standard of Care". This is where the system breaks down. There are cases at
this moment where engineers are being sued for non-compliance with minimum
code requirements - such as not complying with shear distribution by torsion
as required in codes between '89 and '97. I know of Expert Witnesses within
our profession who have been or currently are on both sides of this issue.
Unfortunately, it becomes an issue of trying to prove a "Standard of
Professional Care" existed by presenting sufficient witnesses to attest to
this in court. The downside, is that the other side can produce an equal
number to negate the argument.
In the 1999 (Seventh Edition) "Recommended Lateral Force Requirements and
Commentary" [Blue Book] Published by the Seismology Committee of SEAOC,
there is a statement in Section C805.3:

"The adoption of the 1988 UBC, did not seem to prompt any significant change
in design practice related to the assumption of diaphragm flexibility for
wood framed structures. Most designers continued their past practice and
most building officials continued to accept this practice. This is one area
where a divergence developed between common design practice and a strict
interpretation of the code. With the adoption of the 1997 UBC this
divergence has now raised enormous consternation among designers of
residential structures, which constitute a large part if not a majority of
wood frame structures in areas of high seismicity."

Unfortunately, the wording that many of use who commented on this section of
the Blue Book was much more direct and used the phrase "Standard of
Professional Practice", the Seismology Committee decided not to go this far.
However, the portion of this paragraph is a step in the right direction
since it begins to define a historic practice as a "Standard of Care".

Again, my point is that a Standard of Care need not be compliant with a law
if those who develop the standard believe the law to be flawed. This is
still not to be considered cavalier since those who are reflected in this
rhetoric are considered qualified experts in wood design by the nature of
their practice.

For this reason, we need to go the extra nine yards and address this section
of the '97 UBC for those mentioned who raised "enormous consternation" of
the latest enforcement.

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

-----Original Message-----
From: GEOHAK(--nospam--at) [mailto:GEOHAK(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Friday, November 19, 1999 1:22 PM
To: seconsultant(--nospam--at); seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: Standard of Care v Code

The code (i.e. UBC) is the law which engineers are required to follow, at
least they are expected to.  In my opinion, engineers are expected to
a design which exceeds the safety requirements spelled out in the code.  You
are  correct when you wrote that the code provides only minimal safety

The objective of a design is to produce a building that will meet the
expectation.  I do not beleive that only following the letter of the code
will provide complete protection to the engineer.  In addition to exceeding
the code requirement, sound engineering judgment is imperatif.  That is when
the standard of care comes into play.
The standard of care is a subjective test based on a "reasonable prudent
person," in this case an engineer.  I do not see how you can "codify" that,
as you are suggesting.  The test is:  what would a resonable prudent
have done in this situation? By the way, this test is appplied by the trier
of fact, whether judge, jury, or arbitrator.

George Hakim