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RE: IBC "Oops" (Was Residential Design Discussion)

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With all due respect, you have always taken the position of defending
SEAOC when committee's (especially the Seismology Committee) is targeted
or criticized by an engineer on this List. The short of it is that they
deserve the criticism as they failed to correct a terrible wrong that
has a negative impact on both the housing industry and the professionals
who design residential and low-rise light-framed structures (including
Condominimums, residential hotels, apartment buildings and more). 
Rick, Fluor does very little in residential design and I doubt that you
fully understand the impact that the Seismology Committees lackadaisical
attitute toward wood design has cost the industry. They take
responsibility as they initiated the guidelines that became code which
when adopted by the then ICBO membership within each state and then
local jurisdiction becomes law. Those who have the power to create codes
that legally bind the hands of the designers and create incentives to
violate the law or to design to lower standards that are
counter-productive to a post-Northridge philosophy of performance
building expected by the insurance companies that have backed out of
California leaving the state liable for damages through their free-plan
The sad fact is that if the system to overturn or reverse a defective
code is contingent upon those who did not work on the development of the
initial code, but who have voting power and obvious financial stake in
the process, then the system is defective and needs to be changed.
What the Seismology Committee has said is (and I am paraphrasing
previous postings or comments from their minutes and responses to the

1. S.K. Ghosh disagrees with reducing Rho in residential construction
and/or all of the valid work presented by Gary Searer, SE simply because
an inflated Rho "forces" engineers to design properly. Do we really need
a 50% penalty because SEA or one member believes engineers are incapable
of determining what we are licensed to provide as our own professional

2. There are no more UBC code cycles or revisions since UBC has changed
over to IBC and therefore this bad incorporation within the code that
negatively affects residential design while it may be adequate for
concrete, steel and masonry can not be changed.
3. Why should the Seismology Committee waste their valuable time (I'm
paraphrasing of course) to change the code when the results are
obviously conservative and do not produce a threat of underdesigning
structures? (Gee - now we can design residential structures over
open-front buildings by the use of rotational design because the code
states we can).

Rick, the BSSC is not doing anything more in the design of residential
structures to protect construction or design in regions of high risk.
Although this might just end my term as a volunteer with BSSC's TS-7
Sub-committee; I joined at the request of others who told me I had no
right to criticize unless I was willing to volunteer. I've been an
active participant in SEA for nearly twenty years - I don't think you
would disagree with me on this fact. I did not want to yield to the
criticism and at the suggestion of Scott Maxwell (who produced a
constructive criticism as viewed from an outsider of California) and
signed up nearly three years ago as a non-voting member. I'm sorry to
say that I have had next to nothing constructive to offer as this is a
work in progress - already matured and awaiting minor corrections for
submital to be adopted. There is no desire to stop it and the committee
is limited to who and how many members can participate. 

Members don't debate or communicate with one another on the issues
unless they happen to know one another and initate the call or e-mail.
After offering the committee free access to a private list (only
available to the TS-7 sub-committee members), I was severely chastised
by Phil Line, the chairman at the time who warned members not to use my
service, warned me to present my questions to him, and told me that BSSC
did not approve the list and had plans of their own to create a
discussion forum or listservice. There has been no discussion forum or
list created by BSSC since this happened nearly three years ago. Maybe
the direction can change now that Steve Pryor is chair. About three
years ago while visiting Simpson Strong-tie, I had a long discussion
with Steve who seemed to be in agreement with some of my suggestions or
opinions. I'm not trying to lock Steve in, but he was much more
aggressive about trying to institute change for the better back then and
I hope he does in the future.

In short - any law that is created where the original writers, knowing
that the process to correct mistakes is much more difficult that taking
appropriate time to discuss and evaluate the course of their actions
should be held responsible when they fail to work vehemently on paths to
correct their errors. If the system is so rigid that it will not allow
corrections of initial work, then the system should be changed.

At this point, the members of SEA are NOT designing in full-compliance
with the code when residential structures are discussed. The fear is
that while sufficient professionals can testify as to the inadequacy of
the code on this type of design, a single member of the Seismology
Committee who also testifies as an expert against the engineer who has
chosen another path of design can nail him and cause him or her great
financial hardship. Don't think it does not happen as it happens all the
time and many of you make a living finding faults with the work of
others knowing full-well that the system contains more flaws than the
opposing engineer.

Members of SEAOC or any chapter that designs residential structures -
including multi-family units such as apartments and condominimums - in a
high risk region is better off sending their dues to a combined legal
fund in order to attach the change of the laws through the courts. 

Volunteers are the backbone of any committee or code producing system.
However, a volunteer who does not seriously consider the impact of his
or her work on the practical application of the code in ALL materials
and areas of design is a liability to the profession and not of value in
my opinion.

Dennis S. Wish, PE

Join the residential Listservice of the Structuralist.Net where we will
discuss these issues with the intent to produce valid change and
alternatives as well as to discuss how to interpret and address design

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick.Drake(--nospam--at) [mailto:Rick.Drake(--nospam--at)] 
Sent: Friday, September 27, 2002 7:25 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: IBC "Oops" (Was Residential Design Discussion)

There have been several recent criticism (from the usual people) of the
efforts of the SEAOC Seismology Committee.  I believe this is unfair.

Yes, the SEAOC Seismology Committee initiated the  #$*&*  rho factor.
Yes, it has some problems.  Yes they are aware of it.  The problem that
they have is after they provided input to what is now the 1997 UBC, they
were told that there were to be no supplements to it, because of the
2000 IBC. From that point on, the SEAOC Seismology Committee focused on
"getting it right" for the IBC.  Of course, they were assuming that the
2000 IBC would be adopted by the State of California.  And who could
anticipate that politics that resulted in the creation of NFPA 5000.

The reality of today's Structural Codes is that the SEAOC Seismology
Committee cannot work directly with the ICBO for input to the UBC.
Those days have been gone since 1997.  The process is now much more
cumbersome, and time consuming.  Structural Provisions in the 2003 IBC
and the 2002 NFPA 5000 are based on the 2000 NEHRP Provisions.  SEAOC
input must go through the many BSSC Subcommittees that are responsible
for the NEHRP Provisions.  The SEAOC Seismology Committee (and former
members) has either members or corresponding members on most of these
committees, positioned to input and participate in the process.  SEAOC
and its four regional entities get 5 votes in the NEHRP Process, a
significant factor in the process.

By the way, many of the changes to the California Building Code that
have been recently discussed have been initiated by the efforts of the
SEAOC Seismology Committee.

The SEAOC Seismology Committee members (present, past, and future)
volunteer their time to participate in the code writing process.  Did
you know that all of the members of the State Seismology Committee are
members of and appointed by their local SEAOC chapters?  did you know
that they all are designated as SEAOC representative to at least one
industry committee, such as AISC, ACI, NEHRP, etc.  That means that each
member of the SEAOC State Seismology Committee is committed to
participate on at least 3 committees.  Unless you have volunteered for
such an effort, you have no idea how much of their personal time (not
company time as some assume) is spent reading research reports, reading
code proposals, and discussing the many different viewpoints on the
issues.  Even though you don't agree with everything they do, they do
not deserve the personal attacks that some list server participants
direct at them.

Please continue to identify problems with the current codes as written.
Please continue to offer constructive suggestions on how to remedy the
situation.  This listserver is a valuable resource for identifying
improvements to all of the codes.  But please, provide your input
without personal attacks on your fellow Structural Engineers.


Rick Drake, SE
Fluor Daniel, Aliso Viejo, CA

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