I share your frustration and I understand exactly how you feel. This gives
us one more reason to work harder and take charge of our professional
Last month I wrote a letter to the board expressing my concern over the
existing committee structure. My biggest concern is that some of our
committees are chaired by members who have NOT had a single meeting for
over 12 months. Now, that is inexcusable!
We need to setup "Checks and Balances" for our committees and demand that
they report to their local boards and membership every so often. The
assignments to our technical committees should be very clear and the
general membership should have a say in that. If a committee chair fails to
meet three months in a row, he or she should automatically be removed and
replaced by someone else.
My appeal to all Structural Engineers. Please get involved with your local
SEA. Become a member of at least one committee where you feel you can
contribute. With Internet, it has become much simpler to participate in
At 04:07 PM 5/13/00 -0400, you wrote:
I believe we agree. Volunteerism is the soul of SEAOC. Your service is
superb, and I appreciate all you've done.
For the record, I served on the SEAOSC non-building structures seismology
subcommittee for almost 15 years. I spent over 5 years on the professional
practice committee. Let me give you a bit of history from direct
I wil limit my comments to the NBSSSC. If anyone is interested, the PPC
experiences were in many ways similar.
1) For a period in the late '80's the NBSSSC was disbanded (or at least
never met), I am told, because the then chairman of the main seismology
committee didn't believe non-building structures existed. As one who made
his living throughout a career designing a very few "buildings" (the rest
being power plants, refineries, mines, mills, etc. etc.), this arrogance
was apalling, but it stood for several years.
2) After a change in guard at the main seismology committee, the NBSSSC
started meeing again under the chairmanship of extremely able and senior
engineers from our country's largest consulting firms. They generously gave
of their time and effort as guidance for the structures we designed was
seriously lacking. Further, the 1994 UBC made design of some of these
structures impossible. For example, it arbitrarily quadrupled the base
shear for several rigid classes of equipment. If we tried to design to
these ridiculous standards, we would have driven them into a dynamic
resonance with the equipment they were supporting.
3) Over 6 years the committee again met reasonably regularly and did some
extraordinary work, developing rules for equipment and structures most
people do not realize exist, let alone appreciate their unique structural
demands and dynamic behavior. The culmination of this work was a series of
code changes to the 2000 IBC which were dutifully taken up to the main
committee, commented upon and, honestly believed to be approved.
4) I will start to use names now, since this is public record. Orhan
Gurbuz (SE, PhD, etc. etc.) the chairman of the committee was then suddenly
tapped by the United Nations to head up the effort to repair the Chernobyl
sarchophagus which apparently was something of an emergency. He left
without submitting the changes, and e-mailed them to me for submission
which I did. I signed them (on his behalf), since Orhan was clearly going
to be out of circulation for some time.
5) Saif Islam then, without the courtesy of contacting anyone on the
NBSSSC, let alone me, sent off a letter to ICBO from the main seismology
committee stating that these changes were not from SEAOC, and had been
submitted without their knowlege or approval.
6) Orhan Gurbuz was not around to defend himself, but I did find the
minutes of the meeting (such as they were) where he presented his changes.
Orhan came back from that meeting with the clear understanding that the
changes were approved, and the minutes certainly do not contradict this. As
noted above, Orhan came away believing that the main committed had approved
our work which he then submitted as chairman. Reading the paltry minutes of
this meeting gave me the same impression.
7) I then sent a letter to ICBO in response to Saif's stating the above. If
nothing more, I was trying to clear Orhan's name as a renegade of some sort
(something he most certainly is not).
8) At the hearings, I stayed away from commenting on any of these
submissions made by our committee. We now have some of the most ridiculous
code treatment of esoteric structures ever written. Not unexpected when
being voted upon by a bunch of building officials without a clue of what
they are looking at, and receiving only one side of the story. But that's
the way it is. I'm a big boy and can take it, but Orhan got an undeserved
hatchet job by someone unqualified to sit in his outer office, let alone
design what he does every day.
9) As you might have guessed, I have since resigned from that committee.
However, probably no one has noticed since it has not met since. I expect
the ostrich's head is back in the sand and non building structures no
longer exist, despite the fact that we build far more of these (dollar wise
at least) than anything else.
So, after 15+ years of volunteering - I'm out of here. The organization has
been diluted by big egos enough. When highly skilled persons of worldwide
experience and recognition not only cannot be heard, but are impugned for
their efforts, its time to write the place off as anything but a shell of
its former self. Some day I will probably stop paying my dues, but I cannot
give up totally on the organization yet. Perhaps there's a phoenix in the
ashes. I hope so.
Peter S. Higgins, SE