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Was: Use of Collar Ties..... Thank You NOW: Who pays to explain the mystery?

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There should always be a reasonable fee for services rendered. There are two
issues at stake here:
This was an evaluation of a mixed system - prescriptive and engineered that
required a valid opinion more so than justification that is supported by
numbers. Conventional Construction can't be justified by analysis. As others
pointed out, it is possibly dangerous to mix engineered solutions with
prescriptive methods and this may be true, but at times such as this, there
is no "reasonable" choice. The majority of time spent on the List was for
personal satisfaction with the decision made - in other words, making me
feel comfortable that I made the right choices. I don't feel that the client
is financially responsible for this.

Similarly, there are new code methods that must be assimilated and for which
we, as professionals serving the public, must develop an understanding that
leads to intuitive reasoning as to how the structure performs. The study we
do provides a fuller understanding between numbers and what they represent
in performance. Who pays for this learning process? I don't feel that this
is the clients responsibility yet we go through this learning process
(albeit not as intensive as we have when the 97 UBC was adopted) each time a
code change occurs. This becomes our responsibility.

What irks me is that each time a code change occurs or methodologies are
changed, a financial market is born that seeks revenues from the
professionals responsible for compliance of the code. I'm not irked when a
code change is reasonable or necessary to protect lives or improve the
performance of a structure. I'm irked when there is insufficient
justification for the changes. However, I am over to top when the code is
written without clarity and when the educational process to understand and
adopt the change can only be done at a cost above the that paid for the
published code.

We used to be able to call ICBO for a code clarification and the only cost
was our long distance carrier. Not anymore! As of January 1, 1999 ICBO
launch its new Code Opinion Service which provides the engineer with an
interpretation of the code in writing for a fee. They publish a CD of
published opinions (only $189.00 if you are a member) and will answer
non-technical questions by phone at no additional cost. However, technical
questions "referred to staff engineer/architect" will be charged at $125.00
per hour plus tax in some states.

If you think it is unreasonable to charge the professional community for
what should be included in any code - clear and concise interpretation of
the code intent and language, consider this;

The SEAOC Seismology Committee was preparing to launch a website at the end
of 1999 to help field questions from the engineering community on
interpretation of the 97 UBC issues that were so fiercely questioned after
codification the previous July. I reviewed the minutes for the December
1999, February and April 2000 meetings and discovered that a few members
considered the SEAOC Website as a great revenue producing service and
suggested that since ICBO was charging to answer technical questions that
the SEAOC Seismology Committee might do the same. Fortunately, the
suggestion was not pursued. BTW, the minutes for this meeting are available
online, however I had to search Google to find them. If anyone is
interested, I can post the minutes on the Structuralist.Net to support my
observations here.

This really upset me when I read the comments. Not only was the Seismology
Committee choosing only specific questions to answer and essentially
ignoring those that did not have a clear consensus among other
associations - they would purposely avoid questions in which SEAOC differed
in their publications from other associations whose work had become part of
the 97 UBC provisions. In other words - avoid the conflicts. Not only was
the Seismology Committee being selective of the questions, they would
respond in three months and would provide no additional follow-up.

Personally, I think all members can benefit from reviewing minutes. I do
commend the Seismology Committee as the minutes for these three meetings
were very inclusive and complete - even if rather damning in the eyes of
frustrated engineers.

So here we have a trend - create ambiguous codes and make a market charging
the practitioner to explain or clarify the intent of the code. Stop me if I
am wrong, but isn't this just a bit exploitive of the members whose dues pay
the cost of these meeting and who expect more for their membership fee than
a free blue book, newsletter and members registry? Should members of SEAOC
and other SEA chapters (including NCSEA) expect something like a clearly
written code that includes logical paths to solutions so that those
purchasing the code can interpret the intent without having to buy
additional documents?

Seems like the Listservice and various online chat groups including the ICBO
chat forums are helping to provide free interpretation and maybe this is why
it is difficult to get associations to participate on Lists - it cuts into
their revenue when they attempt to clarify what should be clear from the

Now before I get spammed, let me say that there are many subscribers and
participants who do their share to explain the code intent. Scott Maxwell
(ACI but speaking on his own), John Rose (APA), Charlie Carter (AISC), Buddy
Showalter (AF&PA /AWC), and many others who I have failed to mention. These
are the people that participate and help make Lists a success. So why is it
deemed necessary for SEAOC, who are the primary authors of the Seismic
section of the code, to feel a need to charge their members additionally for
what in most of our minds is a responsibility from the start - to publish a
clearly written code where the intent is equally clear.

Application of the code in situations which are deviate from typically
tradition require some interpretation and a professional opinion. I do
understand justification to change for an opinion that may be used as a
legal document should it ever be tested. However, there is, in my opinion, a
big difference.

This brings me back to my original point. The cost of education for a new
code belongs to me and should not be passed along to my clients unless I
amortize it far enough ahead over the number of clients I expect in the next
few years of the code life. However, when the code writers confuse the
intent with ambiguous or poorly thought out ideas and then have the gall to
charge members for an explanation riddled with similar loopholes - I draw
the line. This seems to be the path that we are on and in my opinion, it is

Sorry, there I go again. On my soap box.

Before leaving, let me ask this - We have discussed full-compliant design
for Light-framed wood construction. How many of you are able to circumvent
the semi-rigid design requirements and substitute in the more traditional
Simplified Static Design?  I know that I have started to do this as it is
the most rational of methods albeit excessively conservative without
historic evidence that it should be.

Dennis S. Wish, PE
The Structuralist Administrator for:
AEC-Residential Listservice
(208) 361-5447 E-Fax

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