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RE: Two conditions in residential construction

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Steven,
I think the key is that you must care enough about the quality of the
work you do to take the time to participate on this forum. The one fact
that I tried to make clear is that although I have my concerns with the
prescriptive methods, the key to most of the important issues are the
qualifications and the interest in the builder to make a product that
will perform well. 
In the same sense, the complexities of the current codes are, in my
opinion, a "cop-out" which is used to compensate for what we can't
change - the control over the quality of the building product. 
The lobby from both sides is simply too strong and continue to pull in
opposite directions. Furthermore, the interest of most engineers does
not lie in light frame wood construction.
I've no doubt that the quality of your product from your involvement  in
the profession yields a product that performs better than most.

Regards,
Dennis S. Wish, PE
California Professional Engineer
Administrator - The Structuralist.Net
Website: 
http://www.structuralist.net
 
Professional Forum: 
http://www.structuralist.net/cgi-local/yabb/YaBB.cgi
 
Public Forum on Housing: 
http://www.structuralist.net/cgi-local/yabb2/YaBB.cgi
 


-----Original Message-----
From: Steven A. [mailto:cratylus(--nospam--at)earthlink.net] 
Sent: Friday, December 07, 2001 10:52 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: Re: Two conditions in residential construction

Dennis,

I appreciate greatly your comments and insight. I am sorry if the
question
appeared 'loaded'.
Personally, as a building contractor, I have built a great deal under
these
provisions; I have been fortunate in that my customers have been content
with the product, despite many limitations.

Steven A.
Los Angeles



Dennis Wish wrote:

> Steven,
>
> You asked me a loaded question. You have described the Conventional
> Construction provisions of the Uniform Building Code and the
conditions
> in which homes are allowed to be constructed without conforming to
> full-compliance provisions using either an architect or engineer. As
> long as these guidelines are met and the other provisions of the code
> that need to be tested (geometric irregularity, shear path
discontinuity
> etc.) then there is no argument that the builder has the legal right
to
> construct the home - even in seismic zone 4 - to these provisions.
>
> But there are issues which the law can not cover. Individual greed or
> misuse of the law is not illegal and the law has not business
> interpreting the intentions of the builder. However, this should not
> allow the public to be taken advantaged of and sold a product without
> disclosing the expected differences in performance separate
Prescriptive
> construction from Full-compliance engineering.
>
> Furthermore, a law should not be so full of loopholes as to invite
abuse
> that prevents the public from taking measures to protect the largest
> investment they will ever make.
>
> Ignorance:
>
> The building department, building industry associations, architectural
> and engineering organizations do nothing to educate the public as to
the
> differences in performance expected of homes built to Prescriptive or
> full-compliance methods. A building permit, in the eyes of the public,
> validates construction and implies that the performance expectation of
> each home is comparable. In truth, we know this is not factual -
adding
> mechanical connectors, plywood, straps or evaluating the load path of
> the shear transferred through horizontal and vertical diaphragms will
> result in difference level of performance - more or less damage.
>
> The law does not require the homeowner to be made aware of this fact
and
> allows the builder to make advertising claims that stretch the truth
and
> fortify the claims of equality.
>
> Workmanship:
>
> The code that requires compliance to prescriptive measures implies
that
> the builder (framer or owner-builder) has read and understand the
> provisions. I have yet to meet a framer or General Contractor who has
> read this section of the code or who has the ability to interpret the
> code rhetoric? The legal wording is even more difficult for a
layperson.
> Some building departments invest in writing a graphical interpretation
> such as the City of Los Angeles Type V sheet.
> I contend that while the code provides a prescriptive method it does
> little to enforce the ability of the owner or builder to understand
the
> provisions. Furthermore, if you design a method of construction
> intending to reduce the degree of protection that is placed in a
> building, the building official should be responsible to take
additional
> precautions to ensure that there is adequate compliance during
> construction. I have not seen this occur in my area where the majority
> of homes are constructed by prescriptive standards (check out the
> Structuralist Hall of Shame for examples).
>
> I don't think it is too much to ask that if  you allow a less
> restrictive construction method to replace an engineered solution that
> you require a greater degree of skill by the person assembling the
> system than you would in a more conservative design.
>
> The line of distinction:
>
> The biggest complaint that I have stems from what has historically
been
> allowed in building codes. When a professional engineer or architect
is
> not used, the provisions are generally more restrictive rather than
> less. If you allow Prescriptive Construction then the baseline for
> compliance should be the same as the minimum level resulting from
> full-compliance to the code. This should be especially true in regions
> of high risk.
>
> Allowances:
> Finally, it comes down to who is building to lesser standards. In my
> opinion, if the owner of the home who intends to live in it rather
than
> sell it as an investment should be allowed to determine the level of
> performance with Prescriptive construction offering the least
> protection. Conversely, the Insurance companies should be allowed to
> charge rates that are based on the historic performance of building
> designed to either prescriptive methods or to full-compliance.
> Construction defects should not be excluded from claims because the
> damage has resulting from inadequate workmanship or non-compliance to
> detailing has not occurred at the time the claim was filed. Codes are
> intended to mitigate hazards and this is an anticipation of damage
based
> on historic recorded performance of homes with defective workmanship.
> For those who have not heard - Aas vs. William Lyon's was upheld by
the
> California Supreme court last December (2000) in favor of the
Contractor
> as the courts claimed the defect in workmanship and non-compliance to
> code had not resulted in damage or injury and therefore could not be
> claimed against the developer. This ruling denigrated the intent of
the
> code to prevent major structural damage or loss of life. I understand
> that new legislation was in the works to overturn or compensate for
this
> ruling, but until it is done, the homeowner is at the greatest
liability
> because they must disclose the code deficiencies but have no claim
> against the builder.
>
> Bottom Line,
>
> The solution is to disallow prescriptive methods in high risk zones
> unless chosen by the owner who intends to live in the house for at
least
> a long enough period of time as to show that the home was not
> constructed to sell. In this case, the method of construction should
> become part of public record (disclosure) and the Insurance company
and
> mortgage lender should be able to set fees (insurance premiums or
> mortgage interest) based on the anticipated level of damage judged
from
> historic performance records (such as the Northridge earthquake).
Homes
> which are retrofit with mechanical connectors should be rewarded by a
> reduction in premiums.
>
> The minimum level of prescriptive design should be equal to or greater
> than the minimum level of a fully compliance engineered solution.
>
> Structural systems of a residence should not be constructed by an
> inexperienced owner or builder. It should only be intrusted to a
framer
> who is certified by education and on-site testing of his or her
ability
> to perform the work and to interpret the code.
>
> It is my understanding the NAHB has started Framer Certification
> programs and some of the large builders are participating. My concern
is
> that to the best of my knowledge, large developments are not
> prescriptively constructed by designed by Architects or Engineers. The
> Conventional or Prescriptive portion of the code occurs in projects
that
> were originally intended to be Owner/builder projects but have been
> allowed for builders or developers of less than 10 homes per year
(such
> as exists in areas such as mine where over 90% of the 3000 homes
> constructed in our neighborhood are designed and constructed by
> prescriptive means.
>
> Certification must be required of builders in the private sector who
are
> constructing small projects rather than large tracts. This will
> discourage anyone who can swing a hammer from taking the title of
Framer
> and being entrusted to construct a load path without the close
scrutiny
> of a well trained building inspector (the only source of field
> inspection).
>
> Finally, the method and expected performance level of prescriptively
> built homes must become public record and disclosed to the homebuyer.
> This is the only way for the homebuyer to drive the market and demand
> better quality. Until this happens, the public will remain in the dark
> about the differences in construction quality (unless they log on to
the
> Structuralist.Net website).
>
> Since it was a loaded question, it deserved a fully loaded answer.
Sorry
> to be so verbose - but most of you expect it of me!
>
> Dennis S. Wish, PE
> California Professional Engineer
> Administrator - The Structuralist.Net
> Website:
> http://www.structuralist.net
>
>
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