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RE: Residential Design Discussions

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Scott,
Gerard is probably mentioning some of the facts I wrote him last night.
If you recall, the Seismology Committee decided that they would respond
to the questions of the professional community only if the questions
were submitted to a web site that was to be specifically set up for
receiving questions (I imagine it was a form based instant message
system). The did not want redundant messages and promised only to
respond to the questions formally after discussing the questions in the
Committee meeting. It was expected that it would take from four to six
months to get a response since the committee met only once a month?

I read the minutes to the meetings that occurred during this period of
time. I would say that they were posted honestly (although they are no
longer available) but the conversation reported was rather damaging.
There was one suggestion that SEAOC might consider charging a fee to
answer the questions posted but it was considered inappropriate at the
time and suggested that the idea be tabled until some future date. 

After six months, not one of the questions with the exception of the
issues related to cantilvered columns and opinions on Rho - none of
which would do any good against an expert witness who is judging the
quality of the work against full-compliance requirements.

The Seismology Committee was inadequate in meeting the needs of the
membership of SEAOC and have consistently proceeded in seismic code
design for wood frame structures without consideration of the majority
of those members who make their living and the greater number, like me,
who are no longer members. The number of engineers who design wood
structures and residential is much larger than the members of the large
firms that have the financial resources to populate the committees such
as the seismology committee are willing to admit. 

So, what are you fine professionals to do when you can't earn enough to
pay for the additional design time and don't have adequate tools to do
the job in a reasonable period of time (assuming full-compliance). In my
area, one company was recently shut down after complaints were filed
with BORPELS. The company was owned by non-professionals. They hired an
Architect and placed him in an office on the Mexico / California border.
The company produced trusses and decided to go after the design /
construction business. The hired an engineering firm (qualified from
what I was able to ascertain, but without adequate knowledge of the
local codes - 97 UBC) in Mexico City to design the buildings. They were
paid a rate less than 25% of what was charged in the US. The Architect
was paid a flat monthly rate to review and stamp the truss calculations,
the structural analysis and the cad drawings that were produced by a
small designer who had little or no education in architecture (designers
can be first time drafters to unlicensed architects). The package was
intended to be an assembly line product using generic details and
drawings that were packaged like truss calculations. The company
underbid every engineer in the area to get the job knowing that there
was no way we could compete in compliance to the new code when this firm
had 75% of our fees to play with and still profit.

Clients did not know or care - a permit is a permit and they believe
everything is constructed to the same quality not realizing that the
lack of adequate detailing will cost them more in construction changes
and fees.

So what are you willing to do to stop unfair competition. This firm was
stopped because they did not have an engineer as a principle in the
company and could not advertise their services as engineering company. 

Again, I ask - what are you going to do when the Seismology Committee
and the BSSC is not interested in backwards steps to re-evaluate the
effects of the code on residential construction. For much of the United
States, it does not matter - conventional construction is adequate.
However, where the risk is high, we should be doing more to tighten up
the conventional codes by raising the baseline in their code and also
lowering the baseline in full-complianc engineering to be more
reasonable for residential structures.

Join our residential Listservice where we can work together and lobby in
numbers for change:
http://64.119.172.143/mailman/listinfo/residential_structuralist.net

Dennis S. Wish, PE

-----Original Message-----
From: Gerard Madden, PE [mailto:gmadden(--nospam--at)attbi.com] 
Sent: Thursday, September 26, 2002 12:56 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: RE: Residential Design Discussions


Scott,

I have the meeting minutes from Seismology committee meetings, they have
definitely looked at it and know it needs changing, but they are either
Unable or unwilling to REMOVE it from the code, let alone cap 10/lw<=1.
Some want significant change, some want no change. Unfortunately, I
don't think they post the meeting minutes anymore for us to see. It has
been 5 years that this has been in the code, and 2 years since Gary
Searer's paper was delivered.

I think they are unwilling to touch it because those that created it
didn't think it through enough as Gary Searer proved. Too much emphasis
is given to RHO when determining seismic forces. The IBC has made slight
improvements to the RHO, but here in CA, we can't use it yet nor does
there seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel saying we will ever.

Rho should not have ever been introduced into the code, let alone have
the potential to raise design forced by 50% because I have a short
shearwall yet I could have a mass irregularity or soft story and just do
a dynamic analysis and not be subject to the penalty.

It is an idea with definite merit and I'm sure developed with the best
intentions, but I am sure it was a mistake to put it in the 97 UBC.

-gerard
Santa Clara, CA
 


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