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Seismology Committee Web page - Rigid/Flexible Part II

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Part II of III
John Shipp related his opinion of the code language to me last Saturday at
the seminar. He believes (and I paraphrase) that the code should have
stopped at section 1605.2 of the 76 UBC which stated "Any system or method
of construction to be used shall be based on a rational analysis in
accordance with well-established principles of mechanics." Anything beyond
this should be left to the discretion of the engineer of record. However,
the rhetoric of the code, as SEAOC would like us to believe, has not stopped
at this statement but has created a very complete network of code rhetoric
that allows us very few shortcuts around full compliance. The simplified
design approach is not "simplified" and does not remove our ethical
responsibility to do the work in order to prove that the structure need not
comply to rigid requirements. Inasmuch as the code rhetoric is highly
debatable, professional judgment can be tested and any angry clients who is
dissatisfied with the performance of his structure or who desires to include
an engineer into a litigation case, can easily find a witness to
authenticate the claims as ambiguity can be justifiably argued from either
opinion without ever reaching a consensus and at the expense of the innocent
Our time is best served attacking the actual problems related to earthquake
and wind damage - the high cost of labor and the subsequent use of
unqualified and untrained laborers who are unable or unwilling to follow
structural details. We should also be focusing our efforts on raising the
standards on prescriptive conventional construction and insuring that the
damage we are attempting to correct in the new code is enforceable on low
and middle income structures which will most likely be built by the least
restrictive methodology. The engineering community needs to understand that
the more we push conservative engineering the more we drive away otherwise
responsible developers who feel they can not compete with competition as the
cost of their buildings rise in cost. The engineering community needs to
understand that a 2% rise in construction cost can easily ruin a family's
ability to qualify for a loan. This is a business that does not realize the
life safety and performance concerns of the engineering community as long as
a prescriptive, greatly inferior method is at their disposal and requires
them only to make a few minor design changes to qualify a conventional