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Re: Building Codes/US Supreme Court

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My friend, it seems that we will ultimately have to agree to disagree on
this!  <grin>

Having worked directly for ACI, I am much more familiar with all the
various "things" that the organization does and in general where the money
comes from to support those various things.  The first thing that I would
comment on is that an organization like ACI does not "benefit" from any of
the things that it does...its members and non-members "benefit"
(admittedly most times at some minimal cost) from those things.  ACI does
not offer publications for its own benefit.  It offers publication for you
and I to make use of when we need to design things made of concrete.  And
there are MANY of those publications that if forced to "support"
themselves with only their own sales (i.e. bring in enough revenue to pay
for the costs associated with producing it) would no longer be available
because they don't sell enough copies to support their production even
though the volunteers that produce them don't get reimbursed for anything
(the volunteers only "pay" at ACI is that they get a free copy of the
document that they worked upon).  And while in theory, things like
seminars would be a great why to help subsidize those "weaker" documents,
seminars are not the great revenue stream that you might think.  What you
have to realize is that the ACI 318 code is by far one of the major
sources of revenue for ACI.  If you eliminate that revenue stream, then
ACI would have to do some MAJOR changes.

Don't get me wrong...could there be changes to the process to lower costs?
Definitely.  Could there be changes in the "paradigm" such as having
states directly pay for the cost of producing some that they then enact
into law or have everyone be more like AISC in that those that benefit
from the use of the particular material or system pay for the production
of the methods to design them (i.e. trade organizations pump more $$$ into
the system)? Definitely.  But the real question becomes, at what price do
the changes come?  So you switch to a process that results in less cost to
produce (i.e. maybe you force the committee to type everything into and do
the final layout and proofing of their own documents rather than having
paid staff do it), but then you get some nasty side effects (i.e. now that
the volunteers that don't get paid and actually pay their own travel
expenses for a meeting or two a year and already donate SIGNIFICANT
amounts of time have to actually spend MORE time, maybe many of those
volunteers reach a point where they can no longer contribute anymore
because the time demands are too much).  In otherwords, as Greg said be
very careful for what you ask just might get it and amazingly
enough the grass may not be that greener on the other side.

Now you might argue that "hey, then we just don't need those less popular
documents and other services that need to be subsizdized".  Maybe.  But
then maybe two weeks after ACI kills some minor, less popular committee
report on some little used, lesser know concrete issue, you get a project
where lo and behold you have to deal with the little used, lesser know
concrete issue.  So you go out looking for some document to help you deal
with that issue.  Guess be SOL.  If it was still "acceptable"
to have more popular documents subsidize the less popular documents, then
you would still have a document that might be of some significant help.
But, we started this premise with the idea that it was not acceptable to
subsidize so no such document exists any longer.  AND keep in mind the the
efforts committees of those lees "popular" concrete issues go a HUGE way
to supporting what the more "popular" committees (i.e. ACI 318) do.  The
many documents and the committees that produce them that are in the MCP
are also used many times as the basis for what eventually gets in to
something like ACI 318.  Those committees are some times referred to a
"feeders" for ACI 318.

Now you do point out that the material standards (i.e. ACI 318, the
MSJC, AISC specs, etc) that are referenced in the model buildings codes
are not effected by this ruling.  That seems to be the impression that I
get as well, but I am not completely sure.  The article that Christopher
tried to post the link to (I eventually found it) did mention something
about referenced standards not being included, but the legal speak left me
wondering to what extent that is true.  It is possible that those are
meant to be mainly things like ASTM specifications the describe materials
or test procedures, but not referenced standards like ACI 318, etc.  What
you have to realize is that ACI 318 is not just a methodolgy that you and
I may or may not is law when reference by a model building code
that is adopted at the local building code.  Thus, functionally, the
provisions in ACI 318 (or AISC ASD or LRFD spec, etc) work exactly the
same as something printed directly in the 2000 IBC document...that is it
is now law and you MUST design you concrete structure per the provisions
in the ACI 318.  This is important because even if the current ruling is
somehow determined to not apply to them, it is not a far stretch to later
have someone come back and try to say that it should have and eventually
actually have it apply to things like ACI 318.

The end result is that you must realize (as you state) that it costs money
to produce the model building codes and their referenced documents that
eventually become law.  Under "normal" circumstances the governments who
adopts make those laws would be the ones who are doing the development and
thus paying for the development (i.e. the pay of legislators and their
staff, the pay of government employees in the various goverment
departments, the cost to rent, heat, cool, power the buildings in which at
this developing goes on, etc).  In this case, right now the government
gets a GREAT deal.  Some private group develops these nice model building
codes on the private groups own tab that then the government waives a
magic wand over and "poof" that model building code now becomes law and
the government spend very little to do so.  But that private group(s) DID
spend some sigficant money and expect that they are at least able to
recoup their costs, rightly so.  And the method right now for recouping
their costs is that they then sell what they produced and someone else
(admittedly at the private group's urging) made into law.

The end result is that I will spew the cliche that "nothing is ever free".
So, while I agree that if this ruling makes it so that you and I can make
copies of model building codes (and maybe some of the referenced
standards) with having to pay money to those that produced them, there
will be no the less some "cost" that you and I and others will have to
shoulder in the future.  It just becomes a question of what is that cost
and will we later feel that it is too much.


Ypsilanti, MI

On Thu, 27 Feb 2003, Dennis Wish wrote:

> I would have to disagree with Scott on this as the majority of codes are
> developed by volunteers who have other resources. There is no question
> that there is some overhead involved, but I believe that this can be
> recouped through various different programs including seminars and the
> sale of commentaries and other drafts of code intent.
> I believe that the most important benefit of the Supreme Court ruling
> (the link I have does not entirely work even if I were to cut and paste
> the "3c1" that occurs on a separate line) is that professionals would
> have the appropriate resources in hand to design structures properly.
> The downside is in the interpretation of the code, but then again, it is
> the responsibility of our code creation bodies to write code that
> clearly can be interpreted and acted upon.
> The publication of the 1997 (or was it the 94) UBC was, it seems, the
> only code publication in the United States that removed a section of
> design methodology from various sources such as AITC, AISC, ACI, MIA and
> other organizations that actually contained design methodology. There is
> little possibility of loss of income as the law does not appear to be
> saying that the material methodology must accompany the code. The law
> does, however, cover the protection of sections such as Chapter 16 of
> the UBC and prescriptive methods published in the code that directly
> provide methodology.
> In the mean time, the AISC section properties appear to be protected
> (correct Charlie?) and the ACI code not directly published by ICBO or
> ICC appears to be protected - so that the work of non-profit
> organizations whose design methods which are not directly published as
> code and codified into law appear to have a market that is not affected.
> The private sector acting as volunteers for organizations who assemble
> and publish code are not likely to be affected unless they are
> subsidized by larger organizations (such as AF&PA or large firms who
> have a vested interest). This may be a good thing as it promotes those
> outside of major metropolitan areas who have been excluded from code
> development by the lack of ability to attend a face to face meeting to
> become more involved in code development.
> Case in point, it would give the practioneers of light framing an
> opportunity to solve the problems that alienate full-compliance design
> from those organizations that use their political clout to codify
> conventional or prescriptive construction.
> Like most things that don't go in favor of large non-profit associations
> who benefit from the publication and distribution of codes - there is a
> definite "threat" that everything will become worse or bad if the funds
> are not collected to support the future existence of those
> organizations. As noted above, ICBO is the only organization to have a
> history of design methods in the code that were published separately
> such as those in the AISC, ACI, MIA and AITC manuals where were removed
> in the 94 code so as to promote more income to each of these
> organizations. I don't see this as changing because of the Supreme Court
> Decision. As Charlie Carter and Scott Maxwell accurately pointed out,
> the professionals who are applying the code are the winners in this
> decision as it provides them at least the partial tools they need to
> meet the end needs - to design structures properly. ICC could produce
> ambiguous codes to create a market for interpretative commentaries, but
> they already do this and this is why there is so many questions on
> light-framing that are yet unresolved.
> Respectfully,
> Dennis S. Wish, PE
> California Professional Engineer
> Structural Engineering Consultant
> The Structuralist.Net

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