From: Charles Greenlaw <cgreenlaw(--nospam--at)speedlink.com>
Date: Mon, 22 May 2000 19:43:56 -0700
Dennis, let me reply on a few of your points, to generally express
agreement, but from another direction. I want to stick just to the issue of
ROLES for engineers in "house structure" technical provision policy, rather
than go into the separate issue of what structural performance objectives in
houses "ought to be."
At 03:44 PM 05/22/2000 -0700, you wrote:
>Historically, NAHB has preferred that engineers NOT be involved in
>residential construction. Considering the current code issues, I might agree
Right. Considering what "engineers" in the form of SEA committees
have done to residential-impacting codes, I understand any NAHB wariness of
engineers in general. I have been involved for ten full years in SEAOC
committeework on residential conventional (prescriptive) construction
issues, and on other engineering chapter issues that affect residential
structures. The truly nitwit "braced wall line" provisions and "unusual
shape" disqualifiers were forced past the objections of the few
committeemembers who actually practiced in residential framing. That ten
years experience has left me as disillusioned about SEA in residential
issues as Peter Higgins appears to be about seismic code for non-building
In the situation that Peter recently described, there were excellent
engineers in that similarly specialized field, acting in a subcommittee
under SEA sponsorship, but their completed work was trashed and the
participants disparaged, by higher-ups in the SEA organization. Avoidance
and circumvention of SEA is the obvious remedy for them. So too for NAHB in
residential structures: avoid and circumvent the SEA organizations.
>My point is that there is room for engineers to be involved in the
>improvement of conventional (prescriptive) construction standards.
Yes, that was my point, too... To be involved, but not in the
capacity of a SEA representative. To be involved, but as a welcomed ally and
helper, not as a hostile elitist or control-a-holic who wants to dictate the
outcome in a policy sense.
>I don't think it is time for SEA to step out of residential UNLESS engineers
>are able to step into NAHB and raise the minimum level of compliance for
>conventional construction. Not only does this include the obvious code
>change, but it includes appropriate demonstration of skills by those who are
>building conventionally framed homes - from the designer to the framer.
>Once this is accomplished, then I would agree with your assessment. The
>problem right now is that our Seismology Committee members do not understand
>this, are not willing to compromise in spite the lack of evidence that
>propels them forward, or they simply do not care about single and two family
>homes enough to do something for the millions of people that must live in
Unfortunately the above two paragraphs, taken together, seem to make
for an impossible situation: SEA would have to stay involved until NAHB
accepts engineers in to do what those engineers want but which NAHB doesn't
necessarily want of us-- impose code change and improve compliance with same
by field crews. But SEA (we agree) isn't any good in such an involvement. We
have a go-nowhere impasse here. Let SEA fix itself first or give up on
residential, and let NAHB answer to other interests that have proper
credentials in housing quality policy.
Former State Sen Leroy Greene, a member of Central Section of SEAOC
since 1949 and a skilled structural designer, knows where public policy is
made. He says that "engineers don't run the world but they make the world
run." If and when NAHB, whether altruistically or under pressure, wants to
raise code and/or workmanship standards, engineers are on call to help work
it out. But engineers are out of their role to force themselves and their
ideals onto NAHB. We don't run the world. Trying to run part of it is among
the ways the SEA's have gone astray.
In 1992, Sen Greene gave a group of engineers his opinion on the
then-newly released 1991 UBC's structural provisions. He used the word
"asinine" as a general characterization, and said it reached to "flyspeck"
level of detail. What would he say of the 97 edition, or the 2000 IBC? (This
is an engineer who willingly enacted laws in the legislature for 34 years.)
What if NAHB sees it like he does? As code complexity culprits, the SEA's
would not be a most-favored engineering resource.
>NAHB is not ready to run free, but they have taken the Bull by the horns and
>have opened a door of opportunity for engineers to become a part of the real
Well, NAHB IS free. They may not be free of outside pressures, but
they ought to be free of pressure from SEA's, which are currently ill-suited
to be house structure nannies. They are free to solicit engineering to help
their interests, same as anyone.
I think we agree on those last two items. Thanks for the topic to spar with.
Charles O. Greenlaw SE