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

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In an email dated 12/02/99, Dennis Wish described the basic problem of the code
development process, that too few are willing or have the time to participate,
until the use of a new code is forced upon theml.  I believe his analysis is
largely correct and also, that this is unlikely to change in the forseeable

Dennis also implied, and I concur, that this is not greatly different from the
standard political process, except that political delegates are elected by the
people represent while code writers volunteer.  Again, correct, though I suspect
the electorate puts about as much thought into selection of its representatives
as engineers put into the review of pending code proposals, i.e little to none.

Finally, Dennis suggested the publication of a monograph, outlining the pending
changes to the codes, and the committees interpretations and recommendations.
This is an excellent suggestion.  Actually ICBO staff routinely did this for
ICBO code changes, as part of the balloting process.  When anyone submitted an
code change to ICBO, it was published in a monograph, as indicated by Bob
Bachman, together with analysis and recommendations by the ICBO staff.  This was
to assist the ICBO members and committee to understand what was proposed.
Unfortunately, only ICBO members recieved these analyses and also, the staff
analyses were sometimes based on less than a full understanding of the what was
submitted and its basis.

I believe that the publication of such a monograph by SEAOC as a service to its
members would indeed be a good idea, especially now that the Seismology and Code
committees have a substantially reduced role in the code development process,
compared to what existed prior to 1997.  I will discuss it with the committees,
this week.

One last work.  It is clear that many California engineers (and I presume
engineers in other states) are dismayed by the 1997 UBC and don't understand why
such massive changes were made.  Really, it was not because the Seismology
Committee decided to do so on a capricious basis.  Rather, it was a well-planned
and intentioned effort, sanctioned by the SEAOC leadership.  In the spring of
next year, it is expected that California and most other states will abandon the
UBC, BOCA and SBCCI codes and adopt in their place the 2000 International
Building Code. The 2000 IBC is based on the NEHRP Provisions, a document that is
drastically different than the SEAOC blue book.  This was known by SEAOC as long
ago as 1994.  In forming the 1997 UBC, SEAOC specifically sought to do several

a) Update the code to a strength basis to be consistent with the NEHRP
b) Adopt the notation and terminology of the NEHRP Provisions as well as many of
its technical provisions.
c) Incorporate lessons learned from the Loma Prieta, Northridge and Kobe

The fact is, had the major rewrite of the UBC in 1997 not occurred, engineers
would have faced exactly the same issues, two years later with the adoption of
the IBC.  In fact the change would have been even more severe, as in parallel
with changes to the UBC to make it more like the NEHRP Provisions, the
SEismology Committee also worked with the Building Seismic Safety Council to
move the NEHRP Provisions closer to the older UBC.

Change is never easy, but like it or not, the world does change around us.  I
believe that SEAOC acted prudently and in the best interests of its members,
even if not perfectly, in the development and adoption of the 1997 UBC.