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RE: IBC 1617.6.2 & IBC 1617.6.3--1997 UBC 2320.2 & 1605.2 - how to tell if your plan reviewer is really looking at the plans

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Not even the members of the Seismology Committee agree on interpretation
so how can we expect to put the responsibility on the Building Official.
If any thing, this is the reason why they can make a decision and not
worry - they have no liability in the issue (we covered this one in a
number of threads within the last three years). The only individual with
liability is the EOR. The BO can recommend compliance to a lesser code
standard (by mistake) and continue to do so ("Just find and engineer
willing to put his stamp on your design and we will accept it") without
taking any responsibility for it.

How many times has a potential new client arrived with a set of plans
and stated; "The local building department gave me your name. They told
me you needed to review the plan, stamp it and write them a letter." Of
course, the plan is non-conforming prescriptive design, or a set of
plans purchased from some magazine, or in need of a full engineering
compliance that the technician just happened to forget to explain to the
owner. It's easier to let them walk out and found out the hard reality
from us. Most of the time, it's like trying to break the news that their
beloved pet died - at first they don't believe it and then they get
angry at us for creating a market just to get our share of the cost of
building their home.

Sorry if this sounds tough, but I wrote a letter of demand to a client
whose architect hired me after getting my "estimate" for services. The
architect told me to bill the owner and stupidly, I did. I then received
the following note with partial payment:

"I was told by <architect> that the fee for your services would be
$1,500.00. You told <architect>, also, that this would be a "slam-dunk"
and would only take a few days. It took months and, as a result, we are
having many problems and are incurring many extra costs because we are
behind schedule. I am enclosing check # <no.> for $1,500.00 and consider
that payment in full."

My side:

Architect delivered a set of plans showing a remodel to two rooms of a
home with no existing framing plans of the building. I gave an estimate
and later found out that the scope of work included areas not indicated
on the plan. I discussed it during the second visit with the Architect
and told him I would cap my fee's at $2,000.00. The final cost billed to
the owners was $1,875.00 and the owner is refusing to pay the last

My point of all of this is that there is no money being spent to educate
the public as to what the engineer does. At the most, we stamp off the
architects plans and the additional cost of construction (hidden in our
design) is due to our delays.

Barry, I agree that this exchange of discussion is helpful, but none
when it dies right here. Here the next code will not change the
impracticality of full-compliance designs (as I noted in my last post)
and the lobby is so strong on IRC prescriptive methods that the
engineering community remains blind to the incentive it creates for
builders who wish to profit as much as possible by eliminating
unnecessary (unless your in a high risk area) hardware.

The 2003 IRC still does not come up to a minimum standard equal to the
minimum engineered solution - which, BTW, will add LRFD to the present
complicated ASD design. On top of this, where are the tools smaller
offices need to make our jobs profitable?

As far as find the drafts, I don't know if they are posted but you might
check the BSSC (Building Seismic Safety Council) TS-7 committee website.
I'm a corresponding member but have not had much to offer since it is
like I describe - virtually set in stone with very little that can be
done to stop or change it and certainly not reverse the direction of
design methods in future versions.

Does SEAOC Seismology Committee care - of course not. They have more
important issues to worry about and as they stated in reply to Gary
Searers tribulations regarding the Rho factor (tons of proof that it is
not accurate), they responded by stating that the results are
conservative and as such they are not likely to do anything to change

With the exception of those Building Departments in large metro areas
such as L.A. City and County, the outlaying areas are not taking as
strict an interpretation. Mostly because the technicians are either not
in-house and are consultants and most of them have no more education or
experience in the matter than we do.

If anyone wants to do more - then help me with the Structuralist.Net as
this is one of the goals and I have created a public website (that is
also being rewritten) to help educated those who come to the site by
giving them advice or information relative to the code in their area.
Any professional willing to offer advice or who wish to post articles
(including Architects, Builders, Engineers, Building Officials,
Designers etc) whose concern is to provide a quality product with less
restrictive codes AND who understand who really benefits from
Conventional Construction - please let me know. Your contribution will
be gladly posted.

Dennis S. Wish, PE
California Professional Engineer
The Structuralist.Net Information Infrastructure

-----Original Message-----
From: Barry Welliver [mailto:barrywelliver2(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Monday, February 11, 2002 4:38 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: RE: IBC 1617.6.2 & IBC 1617.6.3--1997 UBC 2320.2 & 1605.2 - how
to tell if your plan reviewer is really looking at the plans

I applaud this type of discussion because it shows how necessary it is
becoming to interject the "engineering" point of view. We have a new
International flavor to our building codes and it will take some years
get it right.

For the immediate future however there is a complicating issue that
all grown to dislike...liability. We tripped over this with
diaphragms and certain motivated professionals helped to grind out a
solution. We'll need to do this with the IBC/IRC if we hope to avoid

I happen to think that the IBC is a worthwhile effort. It presently has
of warts (well, maybe not lots) and will take cool heads to bang out a
solution. I don't think that this will be a smooth road to travel
For most of us it's going to take a lot of relearning and a motivation
make it right for reasons beyond just our own points of view.

Dennis, you mention the next cycle of the IBC which is 2003 and how it
address some of Scotts issues. Can we air some of those here such that
can vicariously participate in the process? I believe the code change
process could use as much input from engineers at this point as from

Lastly, I concur with the perceived conclusion that the Building
are being put in a very awkward position. They will need encouragement
whatever help available to make this work. We are asking too much if we
expect the BO to have instant fluent understanding. Indeed, enforcement
the code is a balance of legal prescriptions against logical
interpretations. In the absence of a wealth of consensus, it is still

Barry H. Welliver

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