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RE: deck collapse

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Since it appears that this guy was REALLY on a canoe trip (image the
absolute nerve of someone...taking a vacation at the time when there is a
problem with one of his properties...I guess no one any where should ever
again take a vacation), I would think that at least some of the negative
comments should be regretted.  While the guy may still end up being
"sleazy", we should at least have been professional enough to reserve that
opinion until we get some real facts to that effect.

As a member of the structural engineering community, I would believe that
we should have more potential concern over the following statement that
was in the Chicago Tribuine article than worrying about calling someone
sleazy just because we think that said person was not really on a canoe
trip.

The statement of concern:

"Elliot Dudnik, a University of Illinois at Chicago architecture
professor, was hired to examine the debris. Dudnik declined to comment
Wednesday, citing the probable litigation in the case. Georges said the
professor found the 2-by-8-inch joists were inadequate to the task of
supporting the required 100 pounds per square foot on an 11-foot-wide
deck."

While it is certainly possible that Professor Dudnik is experienced in
structural matters (there are architects that actually specialize in
structural matters and are just as qualified and experience, if not more
so, than many structural engineers), it does raise the question as to why
a structural engineer was not hired for this work...especially in a state
with an SE Practice Act (although there is a little loop hole that
essentially allows architects, but not PEs, to practice structural
engineering).

Now, while I certainly don't know enough of the specifics of this
particular deck (i.e. joist spacing, grade of wood or species of wood,
etc.) to determine if 2x8s were OK or not, I can still opine
that a such broad statement (as it appears above although Prof's opinion
may not have been full explained or quoted) may be a little
imprecise/accurate.  Unless my calcs are wrong, an 11-foot span 2x8 joist
spaced at 1 foot on center would result in a bending stress of about 1450
psi and about 1950 psi if spaced at 16 inches on center.  It is certainly
possible to achieve such an allowable stress with at least Southern Pine,
as well as other species.  Where the definite "sticky" part is to do so
would typically require either Select Structural or at least No. 1 grade
lumber.  It would certainly be debatable as to whether or not a deck
builder (according to the Tribuine article the impression is given
that the deck was "designed" by the owners deck builder not an
engineer...don't know for sure since they don't come right out and
say that) would use such material without being told to do so by an
engineer or so.  But, then I don't know all the facts so the statement
could be 100% accurate or complete wrong...just have to wait and see when
more information becomes available.

HTH,

Scott
Ypsilanti, MI



On Thu, 3 Jul 2003, Hewitt, Chris wrote:

> The owner returned from his canoe trip this morning and issued a statement.
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Scott Maxwell [mailto:smaxwell(--nospam--at)engin.umich.edu]
> Sent: Wednesday, July 02, 2003 10:56 PM
> To: ?
> Subject: RE: deck collapse
>
>
> Maybe the owner is really on a canoe trip.  While it is certainly possible
> that the owner is just hiding and avoiding any potential responsibility, I
> do recall something in this country about innocent until proven guilty
> (although we seem to be less inclined in that direction in the currently
> environment).
>
> HTH,
>
> Scott
> Ypsilanti, MI
>
>
> On Wed, 2 Jul 2003, Christopher Wright wrote:
>
> > >Believe it or not, there is a group of victim's families that believes
> this.
> > >They claim that the steel was hauled away "fast" to eliminate "the
> > >evidence".
> > If it were an attempt to eliminate evidence, it wouldn't be the first
> > time that ever happened. It also wouldn't be the first time that someone
> > figured he was avoiding a lawsuit by disposing of the remains, whether or
> > not he believed he was at fault. And it wouldn't be the first time that
> > someone figured all those remains were just bad for business or attracted
> > 'the wrong sort.' I see it all the time in mechanical failures. In fact
> > what they're really doing is playing into plaintiff counsel's hands
> >
> > You also see a fair amount of 'clean-ups' arising out of ignorance of
> > what's to be learned from such a failure or simply not wanting to think
> > about unpleasant things. The fact that the owner is 'on a canoe trip'
> > really is pretty sleazy. People like that are just asking for trouble,
> > and I don't care much if that's what they get. Moreover, if the story
> > about not having a permit to build the deck is true, the owner needs to
> > be brought up short. My own theory is that litigation is fuelled every
> > bit as much by arrogant defendants looking to evade responsibility as by
> > greedy plaintiffs looking to cash in an momentarty stupidity.
> >
> > Christopher Wright P.E.    |"They couldn't hit an elephant at
> > chrisw(--nospam--at)skypoint.com        | this distance"   (last words of Gen.
> > ___________________________| John Sedgwick, Spotsylvania 1864)
> > http://www.skypoint.com/~chrisw
> >
> >
> >
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