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Re: Building Standards, Aase ruling

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I am not "bashing" the building departments.  My comments have absolutely
nothing to do with the approval, plancheck, or inspection practices of the
local building departments.  The local inspector can only inspect to the
requirements in the building code and on the contract documents, the same is
true of plancheck and enforcement.  The reason for lower code requirements
for residential building is two-fold, the GC / Developer lobby in the ICBO
and local government (your golden rule below), and for many of the
exceptions (which IMHO are intended to apply to standard residential
construction not high-end custom homes) history indicates that these
standards perform adequately, the "where are the bodies" viewpoint.   I was
simply pointing out that many of the perceived lower standards in
residential construction are the result of lower permissible standards in
the code.

Personally, I feel that engineers who believe plancheck is intended to catch
their mistakes or errors are foolishly mistaken.  As professionals, we
either practice in a competent ethical manner or not.  After all, it is my
name on the drawings and my responsibility to ensure correct load paths,
constructible details, comprehensive and consistent construction documents,
etc.  Getting through plancheck should be merely a formality, as it is
intended to be.  The "more thorough review" you refer to should be conducted
in-house, where it belongs.  And one good structural observation by the
responsible engineer is better than a dozen additional inspections from the
local inspector.

Maybe that is why our office has such a hard time being competitive :-)

Paul Feather

----- Original Message -----
From: "Haan, Scott M." <HaanSM(--nospam--at)>
To: <seaint(--nospam--at)>
Sent: Thursday, April 05, 2001 8:00 AM
Subject: RE: Building Standards, Aase ruling

> It is easy to point the finger at building departments for not doing a
> thorough enough plan check or not doing thorough enough inspections or
> holding residential structures to lower standards. If local designers
> screamed that they want more review and inspections and that they want
> residential structures to be held to the same standards as commercial
> structures then it might happen.
> I have said it before the bureaucrats have no sway over the politicians
> the developers-contractors do.  It is the "golden rule".  If engineers
> like local enforcement they can write letters to politicians and
> and such, then be on local code amendment committees, and testify at
> building board meetings, ect...  This might win the accolade of peers but
> will not get much buisness from the local chapter of AHBA.
> When engineers want to get business from residential contractors it seems
> be a good marketing tool to publicly bash building departments at every
> possible oppurtunity. If you don't believe it, try it sometime.
> Scott M Haan  P.E.
> Plan Review Engineer
> Building Safety Division,
> Development Services Department,
> Municipality of Anchorage
> phone: 907-343-8183   fax: 907-249-7399
> mailto:haansm(--nospam--at)
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Paul Feather [SMTP:pfeather(--nospam--at)]
> > Sent: Wednesday, April 04, 2001 11:11 AM
> > To: seaint(--nospam--at)
> > Subject: Re: Building Standards, Aase ruling
> >
> > I can't speak for all, but we use the same approach and standards on all
> > projects, commercial or custom residential.  My residential experience
> > all fairly high end (6k to 20k sq. ft.), I have never worked on tracts,
> > townhomes, etc.
> >
> > I think one part of your perception that commercial structures are held
> > a
> > higher standard is that in the code (UBC) they are.  There are all kinds
> > of
> > exceptions and reduced requirements for residential R-3 construction, in
> > virtually every section of the code, not to mention the conventional
> > construction provisions for wood framed structures (i.e. residential).
> >
> > It is not that we the engineering community hold these structures to a
> > lower
> > standard, but the governing bodies hold these structures to a lower
> > standard.  I can see where there would be a tremendous amount of
> > resistance
> > by the builders and developers of large residential projects towards any
> > attempt by the design professional to ignore the exceptions and require
> > higher standards.  The requests for substitutions and changes would
> > bury you, or the cost would be so much higher that the GC / Developer
> > might
> > find paying someone else to design to the permissible lower standards is
> > more cost effective and remove you from the project.
> >
> > The same thing occurs on commercial structures in limited instances.
> > truss substitutions come to mind.  I have even had P/T parking
> > where a precast outfit will bid the project including re-engineering the
> > whole thing with the claim that the overall cost will be competitive.
> > fact that you may, as I do, prefer cast in place P/T to precast as a
> > superior building system will have very little effect on the final
> > if indeed the precast outfit provides lower numbers.
> >
> > As a side note, I am frequently astonished at the absurd approach to
> > analysis that many GC's use.  The cost will compare element to element,
> > but
> > completely neglect additional labor and components that may be required
> > other trades as a result of a cost savings on this one...  The educated
> > contractor that looks at overall systems costs is not the rule in my
> > experience, particularly in lowrise industrial / commercial development.
> >
> > As my college professor used to say, the principle of conservation of
> > grief
> > is as immutable as conservation of energy.
> >
> > Paul Feather