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RE: seismology committee

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I thank you and Scott for your comments. I hope you understand that I am not
trying to be obstinate or mean spirited - I am admittedly passionate as I am
sure are all of the volunteers that participate in the code creation.
You comments still lead one to believe that there are debatable issues in
the code and complexities that should be worked out of the code. Your
comments also substantiate, the growing complexity of the code creation
process as well as the weakening strength of SEAOC in the overall scheme of
code writing.
Through all of this, the majority of the practitioners (I'll accept your
ratio of practitioners to researchers although I don't agree when
considering SEAOC alone) outside the committee are having a difficult time
being heard, but most of all participating in relevant discussions at a time
when the technology is in place to all almost anyone who is willing to
participate the opportunity to do so. What stands in the way is the effort
of those within the committees to accept an additional tool that brings new
ideas into play.

Possibly, you examples also shed light on the old verbiage "too many cooks
spoil the pot". I don't believe that there is an argument that a more
simplified approach needs to be examined from a rational basis. The fact
remains that little if anything is being done to accomplish this.

Harold, while I greatly admire your contributions as well as Scott Maxwell,
Martin Johnson and others whom have participated, you still speak from a
position as one with the ability to physically participate while many of us
are geographically too far to make it feasible and others are at the mercy
of their employers who are not as considerate as some companies that support
their employees participation in SEA chapters.

How about the suggestion that even the path to draft information from NEHRP,
FEMA, ASCE, SEAOC, BSSC and all organizations who are presently
participating in code creation be localized so that practitioners and
researchers who are on the outside can review and comment. Finally, this
does little good if the comments end up in a circular file as did the many
which were finally give to me (see my other post on this subject) months
after they were submitted for consideration by the Seismology Committee.

One of those who submitted information and supporting documents obviously
spent a great deal of time on his ideas, suggestions and proposals with
regard to the new code. It is true that SEAOSC who received the package, was
under no obligation to adopt any of his changes, but the sad fact was that
they did not open his envelope or even pass on his comments until the
package was given to me, a few months after he wrote them. By then it was
simply too late.

Each member who participates, if only to feel as though the are represented
by a professional organization rather than at the mercy, deserves the
courtesy of a short response that recognizes his or her contribution. This
was not done. I might add that the envelope contained support for the
Seismology committee as well as opposition. In this case, the members were
simply shut out of the process and this is inherently wrong.

Dennis S. Wish, PE

-----Original Message-----
From: Sprague, Harold O. [mailto:SpragueHO(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Thursday, February 08, 2001 11:30 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: RE: seismology committee


You are correct.  In your assessment.  Currently, I chair one of the
technical subcommittees and I am a member of the Provisions Update Committee
(PUC) of the BSSC that develops the NEHRP Provisions.

Many of the people involved on the SEAOC Seismology Council are also
involved in the development of the NEHRP Provisions.  The 1997 UBC was an
incremental step toward the NEHRP Provisions which are codified and
contained in the 2000 IBC and the ASCE 7.  The big issue with NEHRP was the
new maps and the disappearance of zones which did not happen in the 1997
UBC.  Since there are no zones the zone triggers had to be modified in the
NEHRP.  Some of the Blue Book / 1997 UBC was developed as a result of the
NEHRP, and some was developed within the SEAOC Seismology Committee.  For a
full list of those who are seated at the NEHRP table, you might want to look
at the list in the back of the NEHRP Provisions.

There are some academics participating in the NEHRP process, but the
majority of the participants in the PUC and Technical Subcommittees are
practitioners.  SEAOC in its various California and other state domains have
votes and input, but the development process has evolved to rely on a more
national, broad based constituency.

One of the issues that was discussed informally recently was complexity.  It
is a sincere concern that the code is getting very complex, but provisions
are only added when there is a perceived and demonstrable need.  Some of
code gets added when it is pointed out that engineers are interpreting the
code as a lawyer as opposed to as an engineer.  Intent of the code can be
determined by looking at the commentary, but it is seldom done in practice.
I have had this argument even within my own company.

Lateral Drift issue:
This thread started with a discussion by Gerard Madden on the differences
between the 1994 and 1997 UBC invoking equation 30-6 in the UBC-97.  I sat
in on an informal discussion on the issue with 2 of the members of the
seismology committee that created this section.  And the issue focused on a
review of a tall building in San Diego.  I don't want to betray any
confidence, but suffice it to say that the 1997 UBC has a problem in this
area.  It is a major issue to fix it, but it will be fixed.

I am just a foot soldier in the code development community.  The
participants who really know what they are talking about (I fake it) share
the concerns expressed on this forum.  The participants see the warts, and
try to fix them.  Sometimes the fix adds complexity, and creates its own
warts.  But I assure you that the concerns for simplicity and accuracy are
shared by my BSSC colleagues.

Hopefully, now that the impetus for seismic code development is unified and
contained in the NEHRP and ASCE 7 processes, the effort will be more
efficient and responsive.  Seismic code provides no value if it can not be
understood by the practitioners.  By the same token, it is incumbent on the
practitioners to not only use the code, but to review the commentary and
background in order to understand the intent.

Harold O. Sprague
Retired Iron Worker
Half-Fast Engineer
Mediocre Seismic Guy

> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Scott Maxwell [SMTP:smaxwell(--nospam--at)]
> Sent:	Thursday, February 08, 2001 12:18 PM
> To:	seaint(--nospam--at)
> Subject:	RE: seismology committee
> Dennis,
> I won't step into the debate of the use of the term "bashing", but I will
> reinforce Martin's point about extend of the "power" of SEAOC's Seismology
> committee.   I think that it is unfair to lump all the critizism of the
> seismic code at SEAOC's Seismology committee.  From what I understand,
> with the advent of the NEHRP provisions and the adoption of those
> provisions into the model codes, the SEAOC Seismology has lost much of it
> past power.
> Keep in mind that in the past the UBC seismic portions WAS the SEAOC Blue
> Book.  This is no longer the case with the IBC and was never the case with
> the BOCA and SBBC codes.  From my understanding, the seismic code of today
> and the future is a product of NEHRP which is a product of the BSSC
> committees.  I am sure that at least some of the SEAOC Seismology
> committee members are also participants in the BSSC process, especially
> since California IS still one of, if not the most, earthquake aware states
> in the country.
> Scott