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I love it!!!! Not only is the story great - but I think I attended (as a
speaker) the same seminar - although I'm sure every code seminar from
the adoption of the 97 UBC to the present was attended by the same
building officials hoping to obtain the same answers and leaving feeling
that if they had to pay out of pocket, they would ask for their money
The seminar I attended was sponsored by SEAOSC and intended to break the
news gently (at the expense of those who attended) that LRFD (or is it
LFRD) would be added in the next code cycle. I was there to give a brief
lecture explaining how we could all use spreadsheets to create our own
design tools - but little did I realize that we all needed to understand
the intent of the code designers. It appears that the Seismology
Committee took their cue from the Microsoft school of software coding as
they decided not to release the source code (AKA flow or logic charting
of the code evolution). Fortunately, they were willing to take our
specific questions, which were to be submitted in writing to the
Seismology Committee (duplicate questions were not allowed) who would
formulate (or maybe postulate) a response which would be returned to the
professional community in an expedient six months or less. 
I found the minutes on line for the discussion as to how the questions
would be handled. A website was set up and only questions submitted to
the website would be responded to (or as the minutes indicated,
purposely not responded to). One fellow suggested that possibly SEAOC
could benefit from answering these questions by selling the answers or
charging the professional community an hourly rate to provide a
So, let's take a poll - it has been over two years since the
codification of the 97 UBC and we have a response on cantilevered
columns (although no formal code changes), an opinion that all of the
work Gary Searer did to discredit Rho (the Redundancy and Reliability
value for those who might have forgotten) would be ignored as it yielded
conservative values and who really cared what the public had to pay for
(yes I'm paraphrasing and being sarcastic at the same time). 
There are three programs available to the general public for design -
Woodworks, Keylat and Dave Merrick and my spreadsheet - Multi-Lat. None
of these have reached a consensus that has led to a professional
standard of practice as to how to deal with skewed shearwalls in
flexible diaphragm analysis, or how to deal with the opinions suggested
on Rho (from a liability point of view). HOWEVER, I think the issue
related to cantilevered columns is pretty well answered. 
I do think that a few really sharp building officials have taken issues
well in hand and suggested an alternative method of design that yielded
conservative results but is surprisingly similar to the Simplified
Static Principles indicated in the code.

So how are my peers designing? I put the question to many - most small
firms and many large firms (including some with representation on the
Seismology Committee. As it turns out, they are designing very much the
same way as I am doing - Simplified Static Design. In most cases it is
very easy to justify away any irregularities by finding lines of shear
close enough to be considered in the same line and ignoring other
obvious irregularities. This means that we simply ignore rigid diaphragm
design and stick with the conventional (sorry, wrong term) flexible
diaphragm analysis.

I've yet to meet one engineer who will design full compliance for a
complicated custom home to include rigid diaphragm analysis. It ain't
worth it. If you do try to combine the methods (flexible and rigid) for
an envelope solution, you wind up so overly conservative that if I were
the developer who hired me, I would be seeking to simplify the design of
my custom home and go with the prescriptive design method. Let's face
it, I can make more money doing this as a builder. 

SEA has been around for over 50-years. In that time, engineers who
volunteered and worked to establish an organizations that would
represent the needs of its members and work to uphold the safety of the
public who enter our buildings. At some point in SEA's history, we
gained an advantage in government and became a political power that
shaped the direction and evolution of codes. 

In my opinion, SEA lost their way in the last ten years or so. They no
longer represent engineers; instead they use the political strength that
was built upon the backs of their predecessors and the complacency of
the members who blindly pay dues without considering how their money is
being used. I know I am going to be spammed by those who are believe
that this form of communication would not be possible without the
support of SEAOSC and our dues. However, as one who helped build this
infrastructure, I am very disappointed that it is prevented from
reaching its full potential by preventing the discussions to go only so
far as to become a bit*hing session and nothing more. 
My personal opinion is that our dues are the only source of power we
have to voice our concerns. Past experience has shown that we are
ignored. It isn't a question of winning or losing - after two or three
years working with a flawed code, the flaws remain. The only way to
practice without personal liability is to practice to a standard that
has been established through the profession as a standard of
professional practice. This has not happened and with the exception of
minor compromises - not of which is sufficient to define a standard of

The bottom line is that programmers can not write code without
specifically laid out paths of logic. Unless the confusion that prevents
Keymark, AF&PA or even us little guys from completing our tools is
resolved, the tools (programs) will never be completed - certainly not
before LFRD is added into the equation.

Whoops! There I go again - tripping over that damn soapbox.

Dennis S. Wish, PE
California Professional Engineer
Administrator - The Structuralist.Net
Professional Forum:

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