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RE: Simplified Seismic Design Trends

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I would argue a little caution.  In general, "simplified" design
procedures tend to mean that more generalized engineering assumptions need
to be made which tends tends to result in more conservative designs (good
from an engineering point of view).  While this is potentially good from
an engineering point of view from both cost/time and potentially safety
(assuming some of those "generalized engineering assumptions" don't
include anything that would result in unsafe assumptions), it typically
means that construction costs will be higher as typically more
"conservative" designs tend to result in things like more material and
other construction related costs.  And like it or not, constructions costs
tend to be MUCH more significant than design costs...from the point of
view of the client who is paying both costs.

Thus, the question becomes one of can you justify the cost to your client
to build the project WHILE also justifying the your cost to produce the
design.  You might save TONS of time with a more simplified design but end
up producing designs that cost significantly more to construct.  Thus,
while you might be able to lower cost of design services to the client
(or just increase your profit without lower the client's cost), clients
may ultimately pass you by to go with someone who charges them a little
more (or the same amount) to get a design that costs significantly less to

The point is that simplified design, while nice and desirable for many
reasons (less engineering time involved, less likely for
misinterpretations/mistakes to be made, etc), also has some downsides
that you need to be aware of.


Ypsilanti, MI

On Mon, 12 May 2003, Jim Persing wrote:

> Barry, I totally agree with you.  And ditto for wind.  The more simplified
> provisions should be the code and what we have now should be in an appendix
> for use by those who can justify the expense for their larger projects.
> We should be spending more time designing structures and less time
> calculating loads.
> Jim Persing, PE
>   -----Original Message-----
>   From: Barry H. Welliver [mailto:barrywelliver2(--nospam--at)]
>   Sent: Saturday, May 10, 2003 6:28 AM
>   To: Seaint Listserv
>   Subject: Simplified Seismic Design Trends
>   I'm looking for some help in identifying any movements or trends to
> support a simplification in seismic design. I recognize that we have efforts
> to that effect in the building code (and they are greatly appreciated by
> small budgeted projects) and am interested in both participating and
> encouraging these endeavors.
>   While one mans simple is another's complex, it does seem to me that the
> trend in code making is a both/and mentality. It's wonderful that we have
> both researchers and practitioners hammering out rules, but I fear we've
> lost the ability to distill what we know and focus on getting the most for
> our design dollars. Perhaps I've developed this sinking feeling based on
> comparisons between my practice 20+ years ago and today. I've been (and
> continue to be) an ardent supporter of EQ code evolution and think for the
> most part the directions have been justified. I get frustrated however by
> the quickly adopted provisions which get universally applied to general
> building design and then get massaged with additional formulation and
> exceptions. (EOR = End of Rant)
>   Of late I've been coming back to the thought... if Einstein can boil
> science down to E=mc2, then surely mere structural engineers can aim toward
> M=wl2/8.
>   Your comments and suggestions would be appreciated.
>   Barry H. Welliver

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