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RE: Testing the waters in Court

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Before I respond, please keep this thread on the listservice as I believe
the issues are important. The City of Los Angeles ST-12 document was
recommended to me as a document exempting one and two story structures as
was expected to be the position of the seismology committee based on Ron
Hamburger's appraisal of the 12/4/99 meeting. However, when carefully read,
this is not what the document states.

I believe that my post was in agreement with your appraisal of the L. A.
City document. This was my point. For a while now it was touted that Los
Angeles has exempted one and two story wood structures from full compliance
with the UBC provisions. This is what those on the listservice expected
after reading Ron Hamburger's synopsis of the December 4th Seismology
meeting "unanimous opinion". However, as you and I indicated, this was not
the intention of the Los Angeles Interim document ST-12.

This means that the issue is as yet unresolved and that Los Angeles chose
only to provide an "Alternative" design methodology intending to achieve the
same or similar solution as the UBC. This absolves the city of the
responsibility which many of us assumed, was a recommendation to comply with
a less than compliant standard.

This does not, in any way, add credence to the full compliance methodology
simply because it resolves the problem in a less tedious manner - the fact
remains that many of us believe the design resulting from compliance with
the code is much too conservative and fails to address the greater
problems - construction quality and education.

The fact remains that many cities in outlying areas are accepting and
issuing permits for less than compliant designs. In my area where three
cities and the county of Riverside have chosen not to enforce compliance are
based on the lack of understanding, the failure to provide rational
explanations and the known errors in the UBC that are yet uncorrected.

Returning to the point of my post - at what point will the independent
members of the professional community find it necessary to resolve these
issues in court and should we be suggesting a defense fund for engineers
caught in the trap?

Dennis S. Wish, PE

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Gilligan [mailto:MarkKGilligan(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Saturday, February 19, 2000 12:15 PM
To: Dennis
Subject: RE: Testing the waters in Court


I would suggest that if the building department has taken the position that
the alternate design methodology anticipates equal or greater levels of
protection,  the Building Department is not allowing a lesser level of
design.  Even if some expert can show that this methodology produces
designs that do not comply with the code, your reliance on the building
departments statement that the methodology anticipates equal of greater
levels of protection, would support your position that you excercised the
normal standard of care.

While building officials may accept non-compliant designs it has been my
impression that their formal written positions are based on their
interpretation of the Building Code and hence can be relied on by the
Engineer in interpreting the Code.  Remember it is the Building official
that determines compliance with the Building Code and as such I would
expect the Courts to give great weight to the formal position of the
Building Official when there is a question of code compliance.

In this context I see our liability exposure with respect to this issue as
relatively modest compared to other aspects of structural design practice.

Mark Gilligan