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RE: Complexity of Code

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Okay, you got me Peter - I had to look up "promultage" - I think you meant
"promulgate". Provided you meant that your are reluctant to "declare" ideas
beyond your direct experience, I fully agree.
Even still, there is a learning curve when the code changes force us to
learn something new about our field of expertise. As an example, we did not
have to consider Rigid Diaphragm Analysis, nor did we pay attention to
diaphragm deflection calculations for small residential diaphragms - not to
mention that few wood structures considered redundancy factors. When these
were presented in the 97 UBC, it required many of us without the skills to
seek the education and this is where the problems occurred.
Before discovering that rigid analysis is easily explained in Amreheins
(sorry about the spelling of his name) book on Masonry design, I relied on
the examples provided by Bill Nelson and Doug Thompson that were part of the
98 Wood seminar and later posted in the ICBO Seismic Design Manual.
Each of these examples were missing information as to how specific numbers
were derived - where they came from, including the reference points. Trying
to interpret the intended meaning of the code by following an example that
expects the user to take a leap of faith in understanding is simply not
I learned the code in a few very useful, but intense means.

I sent letters (e-mail) to both Bill Nelson and Doug Thompson asking for
clarification as to where the numbers came from. I did not receive a reply.

I then asked others on the Listservice to explain where the values came
from, but nobody responded.

Finally, while jumping in to recreate the formula's into spreadsheet logic,
Mike Cochran and David Merrick responded to questions I had. Mike Cochran
and I spend many a sleepless night debating the issues in the code. Mike
understood much better than I and was able to penetrate my block until I
finally started to understand. The discussions began to turn to discovering
the fine points and drawing conclusions as to their weakness and strengths.
We spent nights debating the value of trying to change the stiffness of the
piers at the front of a garage and comparing the results realistically to
the stiffness of the wall at the back of the garage. We looked at the issue
of whether actually being cognizant of the stiffness mattered when you were
designing for deflection. In other words, did it matter that the steel
columns were more flexible than a twenty foot long shear wall if the columns
were intentionally designed to maximum deflection based upon an inflated
shear using an R of 2.2 when the back wall used an R of 6 or 8.

My point is that when we debated the issues it became clearer to me as what
the goal was and I thought that I really understood the code. However, there
is so much to cover depending on material that much of the complicated
issues are soon forgotten and I was back to square one.

Look at what Gary Searer did with his publication on Rho. The Seismology
committee can disregard his work, but he used scientific reasoning to create
a hypothesis that he sought to prove. He did this. He found the flaw in this
section of the code that has serious repercussions for the residential wood
market, but we politely dismissed by the Seismology committee who did not
have the time or resources to correct their mistake and provide an act of
ethical responsibility to the public.

I know I am rambling, but the point is simply that we extend beyond our
experience with each and every new code. We have to learn to rethink those
areas which we historically felt comfortable and to develop not only new
skills but a revised intuition for how the materials perform. In the
process, we use our professional ability to ascertain whether this intuition
is correct or whether there is still a flaw in the code.

This is why the additional complication in the code creation cycle requires
us to expand our experience to the next level.


-----Original Message-----
From: Peter Higgins [mailto:76573.2107(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Tuesday, February 06, 2001 8:21 PM
To: INTERNET:seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: RE: Complexity of Code


Agreed. However, one of the things which distinguishes a practitioner from
others is a recognition of their limits.

I, for one, am extremely reluctant to promultage ideas beyond my own direct
experience. I suspect it is shared by many. Perhaps it explains the clarity
of code generated by previous committees where such people dominated.

Peter Higgins, SE