Jason, while I share your sentiments, I think you will find William Lyon
Company to be one of the larger developers of tract housing throughout
California. I would almost be sure that the homes were engineered and that
there was an Architect as well.
One of the problems that I found is that laborers building tract homes do
not really know how to interpreter drawings. They learn from the first
couple of houses that they apprentice on and then continue the repetitive
skills on all the other homes in the tract. If there is a deviation in the
plan, it is usually minor and does not slow them down.
I recently designed a custom home for a neighbor/friend who lives down the
hill from me. She hired a crew of laborers who told her that they were
framers. They simply did not know what they were doing as they were used to
working in a large development of homes with only a couple of deviations in
plan. A single custom home, not matter how simple was beyond their skills
because they learned by doing, not by interpreting drawings. They were part
of a team building homes and when left on their own, they were lost.
In most cases, quality defects occur because the framers are not skilled to
the point that they understand what the concept of a load-path relates to.
The foreman or supervisor looks at the plans and instructs the laborer what
to do. If the foreman has too much responsibility, he is spread thin and can
not verify the quality of the work.
If the engineer or architect is not checking the job (and how closely can
you check a job if you are only required in most cases to do an observation
just before framing inspection) then the defects are never corrected.
There are many issues that lead to quality problems. The solution would be
to require framers to be certified and to be specifically trained and tested
on their ability to interpret drawings. This means that while laborers may
be constructing stud walls, framers are setting beams, drags, trusses,
straps and hardware and insuring that shear resisting elements are protected
from other trades who tend to bastardize them.
I just don't think that it is as simple as separating the "Jimbo Billy Bobs"
from the "quality shops" because I've seen quality shops subcontract to
terrible framers on one job and good framers on another.
Going one step further, how much should the GC (General Contractor) know
about the responsibilities of each of his sub-contractors. In my opinion,
The GC should not be licensed to take the overall responsibility of the job
unless he or she is pre-qualified and tested in each of the responsibilities
of his sub-contractors. In other words, you don't become a GC by taking the
GC course, taking the pre-test with all the expected test questions and then
paying your licensing fees once you pass the test that the course guarantees
you will pass! So you wake up one morning after spending your life selling
insurance, decide to become a General Contractor, take the course, pass it,
and start to hire sub-contractors. The only problem is that you know nothing
about framing a house and you blindly trust the first framer that comes
I know a local builder. The quality of his homes is exceptional. If he
should lose his framer, I guarantee you that he would not know what to do
nor would the quality of the homes he builds be maintained. He has virtually
no idea how to interpret a set of plans but was able to pass the state
licensing boards for General Contractors (Residential).
We are living in an era of mechanical connectors, proprietary building
materials, plated wood trusses and other "engineered" products that demand a
basic understanding of how to use the parts to connect one piece of wood to
another. We live in high risk regions that require specific, positive
connections of walls to roofs or to intermediate members. The problem, in my
opinion, is the lack of appropriate training and skills by Framers and the
General Contractor that hires them. Until this is resolved, there is nothing
that the engineering community can do to protect homeowners.
The Aas decision gave the GC much more power than he deserves. The Supreme
Court in California chose between building code law (the intent to protect
from potential damage and injury) to product law (protection of the builder
until damage or injury occurs).
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jason Kilgore [mailto:jkilgore(--nospam--at)leok.com]
> Sent: Tuesday, April 03, 2001 4:06 PM
> To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
> Subject: Re: Aase ruling
> > Dennis-
> > I suppose one could have asked the learned jurists (or legislators) how
> > they'd
> > feel about this matter if, the next time they plugged in a
> toaster or hair
> > dryer, they were to have a significant chance of being electrocuted--but
> > one
> > will be able to correct the wiring problem until there is actual damage
> > (death?).
> > Chuck
> You forget -- the learned jurists and legislators make enough money to
> afford a custom-built home designed by a legitimate architect or designer.
> They can also afford a decent contractor who doesn't cut corners.
> They're response to the above question would be something on the order of
> "Get references and hire a better contractor."
> It's the people who can only afford shoddily-built "speculation"
> homes built
> by Jimbo Billy Bob's Konstruction Kompany that get screwed.
> The best way to fix something that's broken is to require the people who
> make the decisions *use* the thing that is broken.
> Jason W. Kilgore, P.E.
> Leigh & O'Kane, L.L.C.
> (816) 444-3144