Return to index: [Subject] [Thread] [Date] [Author]

RE: Philosophy: Seismic Design Standards

[Subject Prev][Subject Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]
Martin, you actually pushed the limit by almost matching my word count:>) I
think Shafat reduces the allowable size of submittals each week to insure
that I knock off a sentence or two each time.

Seriously, I have a few comments:

1. In most small town across the US and engineer is not required for the
design of small wood framed structures. Raj Jalla PE is (or was) the chair
of ASCE's residential committee who I had the pleasure of meeting about a
year or so ago. ASCE's concerns are the same as the engineers practicing
with the UBC except that they are more concerned with the damage associated
with wind and hurricanes. Basically, the damage breaks down the same as it
does in California (being very generic for the moment) - the majority of
damage associated with natural disasters is due to construction quality or
lack of it. The problem is believed to be the wide gap between prescriptive
methods and the minimum engineered solutions. We can either raise the river
or lower the bridge but we need to bring the standards closer together in
order to improve wood structures. The IBC does not appear (from my review of
the first draft) to have changed prescriptive methods while engineered
solutions remain much as they are in the current UBC. We need to close the

2. I don't think labor unions are the answer. Why is it necessary to form a
labor union to require contractors to show a minimum understanding of even
the prescriptive methods of the code before they are issued a license? Read
my response to Rick Drake in his thread "Improving Construction Practices".
The problem is that no one is attacking the lobby from the construction
industry that refuses to establish more restrictions on obtaining a
construction license. We try to compensate by stricter codes, but this
becomes unrealistic as we learn that we can not expect an unskilled
contractor to comply with a stricter and more complicated level of
detailing. Again, it depends on your perspective. In large design practices
most of the labor is skilled or union. In wood projects (except large
tracts) you are dealing with low cost unskilled labor under the direction of
contractors who have no knowledge of and are not expected to know the
minimum prescriptive requirements of the UBC. This is the obstacle that
needs to be overcome.

3. I am familiar with the assessments that you mention (which I believe is
generally based on a set of standards created by Ted Tszutty). As you
mention, this is not for the benefit of the public or the home buyer but for
the investor who needs to determine the level of risk that the building
presents in order to make a financial decision. This is too complicated for
the public who, at present, believes that any building given a stamp of
approval by a building department is constructed to exactly the same
performance expectation and this is wrong. If there were a disclosure act
that rated homes based on prescriptive, engineered and custom levels of
design the home buyer may have a more reasonable understanding of the
expected levels of damage. This would prevent unscrupulous developers from
taking advantage of the public as they currently do.

4. I like the idea of a Blue Book Lite - however, we should not lose sight
of the need to address existing problems before venturing into new territory
as we just did. What I mean is that we need to unite the design team
(architects, engineers, building officials and builders) and resolve the
weaknesses in each field before we fine tune the design process. Again, you
can't expect the level of performance we design into a structure if the
quality of labor is less than that which is capable of conformance to our
design details.

5. We agree on this one. I was not intending to point out the problems
within the engineering field so much as the cross-over between architectural
and engineering. I still find many architects in my area who are performing
structural engineering and are not qualified. I also see many engineers who
design architectural systems because they are allowed by code. In either
case, neither professional does his client the level of perfection that they
could obtain had they had the right professional for the job.
Sorry to be crude, but the analogy I've used in the past has to do with a
Proctologist who decides to perform brain surgery - you can imagine what the
patient ends up with:o)


-----Original Message-----
From: Martin W. Johnson [mailto:MWJ(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Tuesday, January 18, 2000 10:38 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: RE: Philosophy: Seismic Design Standards

Actually, Dennis, I agree with a lot of what you said (in fewer words, of