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FW: definition

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Depends on who is asking me.
 
If it is a client, and I have done an analysis (or some educated guessing), I can say "The building meets the INTENT of the current building code and therefore it is safe".  This judgement is made within the context of our society's definition of "safe", which is basically a building that meets the minimum structural requirements that society (loosely used, since it includes politicians, government officials, professionals, and citizens to a greater or lesser degree) has deemed are necessary for the protection of life, limb and property.
 
If it is a friend, or a client I know well, I could go on to say "In my professional opinion, this building is not likely to be overloaded to the point of collapse, or so that it creates a hazard to the occupants or persons in the surrounding area".  This is a much more subjective judgment, and can be either more or less conservative than the code requires.  For example, on Guam we have to deal with 155 mph sustained wind speeds (170 mph 3 second gust for ASCE 7-98).  There are numerous examples of prefab metal buildings being blown away, but none that I know of regarding CONCRETE strutures (other than cantilevered walls or hollow block) being severely damaged by even our wind loading (we have exceeded 155mph winds 4 times during my 32 years of living on Guam).  Therefore, even if a code compliant calculation shows that a small concrete structure doesn't meet OTM requirements for wind loading, I would hesitate to say PROFESSIONALLY that it is unsafe, based on experience.  Conversely, with regard to some code seismic provisions, particularly regarding weak stories and discontinuous shearwalls supported on R/C columns, the fact that someone shows me it meets the letter of the code doesn't necessarily mean I would say it is safe.
 
A long winded answer to be sure, but it is not a simple question, hence the not so simple answer.  It all depends.  I can always fall back on the code if needed, but if I have experience in the area of concern, I have no qualms giving my "true" opinion if the situation allows and warrants it.  Otherwise, I stick with the code definition of safe, which is a code compliant building, even though this requires interpretation as well.
 
Hope this helps.
 
T. Eric R. Gillham PE
PO Box 3207 Agana Guam 96932
Ph:   (671) 477-9224
Fax: (671) 477-3456
Cel  (671) 687-7115
 
 
 -----Original Message-----
From: Alden Manipula [mailto:amanipula(--nospam--at)novagroupinc.net]
Sent: Friday, December 15, 2000 8:48 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: Re: definition

so what's a good way to answer when someone asks me, "You're a structural engineer, is this building structurally sound?"  it always seems like i'm walking into a trap when someone asks me this. 
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, December 14, 2000 4:27 PM
Subject: FW: definition

It all depends on who is giving the deficinition.  For that matter, what is the definitive meaning of the term "safe"?  That a building will never, ever fall down under any circustances?  Or that it has  a .5%, 1%, 5% etc. annual probability of collapse?  Safe, structurally sound, adequate are all necessarily relative comparative terms.
 
For what it is worth.
 
T. Eric R. Gillham PE
PO Box 3207 Agana Guam 96932
Ph:   (671) 477-9224
Fax: (671) 477-3456
Cel  (671) 687-7115
 
 
 
 
 -----Original Message-----
From: Alden Manipula [mailto:amanipula(--nospam--at)novagroupinc.net]
Sent: Friday, December 15, 2000 1:33 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: definition

i really dislike the term "structurally sound", it seems like such a relative term to me.  what is the definitive meaning of "structurally sound"?
 
Alden Manipula
Structural E.I.T.
Nova Group, Inc.