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Committee on Wood

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In recent threads that have run back and forth on this list server, it has been
strongly suggested by certain correspondents that the members of various SEAOC
committees that are active in the code development and maintenance process are
ignorant of wood issues and go about writing code changes in an ivory tower,
isolated from reality and thoughtless as to the consequences of their actions.

Although I risk incurring the wrath of some of the more prolific of these
correspondents, I think it is important to state that the above are distorted,
extremist views, offered by a few individuals who are extremely disaffected with
the process.  The following is intended to provide a more realistic and balanced
view of the committees and code process, for those of you who have not actually
been involved.

SEAOC maintains three committees that actively participate in the code
development, code update and code maintenance processes.  These include the
Seismology Committtee, the Code Committee, and the Existing Buildings Committee.
The Existing Buildings Committee has historically worked on the provisions for
upgrade of archaic structures as they have appeared in the Uniform Code for
Building Conservation.  The Code Committee has worked on administrative
provisions of the code, gravity load provisions of the code and most issues
related to wood frame construction.  The Code committee, for example, made a
major rewrite of the Conventional Construction Provisions that regulate
not-engineered wood frame construction.  The Seismology Comittee works with the
"seismic" design provisions of the code.

Each SEAOC committee has regional counterparts in each of the four regional
SEAOC organizations.  These local committees are comprised of design engineers
(and some times engineers on building department staffs) who have interest and
regularly practice in each of the areas of specialization of the committees.
The have close relationships with leading academics at the local Universities.
Each regional committee elects a local chair person and delegates to the State
Committee.  Although there are exceptions, the delegates are typically those
individuals who have shown both the committment and knoweldge to represent the
committee in an appropriate manner, at the State level.  The State Committees
are comprised of 3 delegates each from Northern and Southern California and 2
delegates each from Central and San Diego.  The committees represent a wide
range of practice (from samll buildings to large buildings) (from design to plan
check) and no proposal is passed along to the code bodies without development of
a complete committee consensus.

Since 1994, this process has become even more complex.  The SEAOC committees
send delegates to the Building Seismic Safety Council Committees.  The BSSC
Committees are a national version of the same process conducted in California.
Here the representatives of SEAOC, meet with design engineers from around the
United States as well as with building officials, contractors, and
representatives of the wood, steel, concrete and masonry industries.  In total,
more than 120 nationally prominent engineers are involved in this process of
reviewing various proposals, modifying them andn passing them along for
approval.  Proposals at this stage go through a rigorous balloting and consensus
process.  Before being approved, proposals must be balloted through the
Provisions Update Committee (a group of more than 30 engineers) and all negative
ballot comments must be resolved to the satisfaction of 2/3 of the PUC members.
Then the proposal is sent out for ballot to the member organizations of the
BSSC.  These include - the variosu SEA's around the nation, as well as the
various industry associations including AFPA, AISI, AISC, ACI, PCA, etc.  Again
all negative ballot comments must be resolved.

Finally,  proposals are passed along to the code organizations (ICBO in the
past, but now ICC) and again, the proposals go through rounds of hearings,
challenges and voting. The entire process, takes about 4-1/2 years.  During this
4-1/2 years there is ample chance for interested parties to make comment and
also to run example problems, and challenge the validity of various proposals.
The result is a code that the United States can be proud of .  When we have
earthquakes or hurricanes, we dont loose 20,000 or so lives, as do people in
Turkey or Mexico or China or Japan.

Is the code perfect?  Absolutely not.  Does it have problems?  Of course.  Can
it be made better?  Definitely.  Are the opinons of the people who use the code
day in and day out in design important to the process?  Absolutely.  Is the list
server a valuable addition to this process.  Yes, of course.  Do the members of
the committees listen to the points raised on the list server threads:?  Again,
yes they do.

The system is not perfect.  However, to suggest that the code committees are
unconcerned or unknowledgable in design issues is ludicrous.  Further to suggest
that because some one designs a specific type of building on a regular basis,
they do so properly, is also incorrect.  As a somewhat exagerrated example, I
believe it is fair to say that many designers of unreinforced masonry buildings
felt they were being wrongly persecuted by unknowledgable academics when the
code was changed to prevent construction of these buildings.  After all, hadn't
they built thousands of these structures?

This is not to suggest that any of the individuals who have been active in the
list server are inexpert in design.  Since I have not personally reviewed their
work, I would have no way to comment.   However, I am familiair with the work
with many of the members of the State and National committees and can attest to
their competence and legitimate concern and desire to improve professional
practice.

I would like to conclude by requesting that members of the list server continue
to make known their concerns with the code and issues of pratice, but to do so
in a manner that is respectful of those members of our profession who care
enough to donate hundreds of hours of time to participate in the process, rather
than try to tear it apart.