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RE: Residential Design Discussions

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Let me be clear...I don't disagree that there are flaws in the code
development process, many of which I probably don't see since I don't do
much residential construction (the concept of engineering residential
light framed construction in my neck of the woods is completely foreign).
And as I have said, it is entirely possible that SEAOC could be doing much
more to fix the Rho problem.  But, the fact remains that SEAOC does NOT
establish nor are they in a possible to make changes to the California
Building Code...that is in hands of some entity of the California State
government.  Thus, while the SEAOC Seismology committee may have
originally created the problem to begin with by the introduction of the
Rho factor, their ability to now fix the problem is rather is
now in the hands of the state government.

As Thomas Hunt pointed out, there are opportunities to change the
California Building Code, but as his message highlights, the "weirdness"
of government is a factor (that is the only what that I could explain
changing things in chapter 16A but not 16).  Also, you have been given a
lead by Fred Turner that could provide an opportunity for you to try and
get the change made.  I would encourge you to keep in touch with Fred to
find out when the commission meets so that you can write to them and
express your concerns about the Rho factor.


Ypsilanti, MI

On Thu, 26 Sep 2002, Dennis Wish wrote:

> 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:
> Dennis S. Wish, PE

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