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RE: Reliability - Redundancy Factor, 1997 UBC, Section 1630

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I would like to respond to the letter than Frank received from Robert

As much as I would like to take issue with the facts presented in his
letter - I can't. There is a process which has been followed in an orderly
fashion in the creation of the code. Regardless of the accuracy of the
problems that we are finding in practice, I can not, in all honesty fault
the process. However, I can point out that the process is encapsulated in
such a manner that to participate, one must keep up with the process which
never slows down or stops.

I stated in one of my other emails that the majority of policy issues,
whether it be professional or political (government) are developed by a
small minority of individuals and passed into law on a vehicle powered by
the apathetic majority - the purest form of majority approval. The
difference between the political and professional process is that laws are
written and voted on by "representatives" of the public who are voted into
office. Professional policy makers are volunteers who do not necessarily
represent the interest of the true majority of their professional peers.

The flaw in the process is the assumption that the lack of response is an
affirmation. However, had the lack of response been considered denial of the
process, everything would stop in its tracks until a means was established
to bring the issues to the majority of the members.

Still, would the submittal of a code draft to every member of SEAOC bring a
majority response? I doubt it - in fact, I can be reasonable certain that it
would not. For whatever reasons, the majority of professionals are unable or
unwilling to disseminate and offer critical opinion of a complicated or
involved code draft. Reasonably, there is both little time and a great lack
of enthusiasm to devote the many hours needed to learn the basic methodology
and then to respond to it in a timely fashion.  Six months after the
adoption of the '97 UBC, few engineers understand the method in depth and
even fewer comply with it.

To be frank, only a select few members of our profession are compelled to be
involved in the policy making process. Not that the members are uninterested
but simply that they do not have the time to be involved in the process.
Most engineers chose not to deal with the new code methodology until after
the adoption of the code. The amount of work in a time of prosperity makes
it difficult to keep up with the demands of our clients let alone have the
time to spend with our families.

So we are faced with a dilemma - how do we enact a policy and require the
approval of the majority of the membership before progressing with the
codification process? Most code changes in the past were simple changes -
rhetorical in nature. Most expected similar changes in the '97 code. Few, if
any, anticipated that the changes would have such a significant impact on
the way we design buildings. The fact is that the change in the code is not
nearly as significant to concrete, masonry or steel buildings and was not
anticipated to be any more significant to the design of wood structures than
the soils and near-source features. However, when the majority of engineers
were forced by adoption of the code to learn just how significant the affect
would be on wood structures, it was too late to stop or reverse the process
in the eyes of the policy makers. Essentially, the professional community
was blind-sighted and, in my opinion, even the code writers had not
anticipated the affect that adopting a one-code-fits-all philosophy would
have on the under-rated percentage of the professionals who practices on
wood structures.

What would help overcome this problem in the future? One suggestion would be
to create a summary that simply defines the highlights of the changes in the
code and offers opinions by knowledgeable professionals willing to define
the pros and cons of the issues as they would a state proposition up for
voting. The full draft should be made available to those who wish to
disseminate the information in greater detail, but the majority of the
membership would be required to vote based on accepting or rejecting the
philosophy or intention of the code.

The flaw in the existing process is the fact that the code is written by
volunteers rather than elected representatives of the profession. Electing
committee members is not reasonable considering the lack of enthusiasm to
volunteer. Because of this, it becomes important for the members of the
profession (either affiliated members of the code writing organization or
all licensed engineers)to evaluate and vote on the issues before they reach
ICBO for codification.

The evidence clearly supports this idea as engineers who practice on
residential structures have a strong philosophical difference with the
Seismology and Code committee as it exists in the current code. Not only are
their specific issues with accuracy, there is a strong consternation (as
noted in the 99 Blue Book section 805) among the majority of engineers who
specialize in wood design.

I submit this suggestion to the policy makers as well as the members of the
professional community for further discussion.

Dennis S. Wish PE