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Re: Codes

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As Jason pointed out, for us (structural engineers) there should not be
too much of a difference between the IBC and the NFPA.  The NFPA has a
stated policy (at least stated to me by one of their staff) that they will
only adopt national standards by reference for use in the structural
portion of the NFPA 5000.  This means ASCE 7 for loads, ACI 318 for
concrete, AISC LRFD and ASD and seismic provisions for steel, the MSJC
(ACI 530 et all) for masonry, the NDS for wood, etc.  While the IBC still
does do some minor modifications to the referenced standards, they are
moving toward doing the same thing (the biggest thing not referenced in
the 2000 IBC was the load section, especially the seismic portion...I
think this has changed some in the 2003 edition, but I am not completely
sure since I have not seen it yet).

The end result is that the structural provisions in both the IBC and NFPA
5000 should be virtually the same.  To some degree, those of in non-UBC
country have been used to this for awhile as the SBC and the BOCA code
made extensive use of the "reference" approach and based their loading
chapters nominally off of ASCE 7 and the NEHRP seismic provisions.  It has
been the UBC that traditionally has kind of "gone its own way".  It
traditionally reprinted (with permission) with some minor (and major at
times) modifications the various material standards such as ACI 318 and
AISC's specs.  Without a doubt there was time when major modifications
needed to be done to the ACI 318 concrete provisions because ACI 318 did
not really do much seismically until relatively recent versions.  But,
that has changed.

I will certainly not deny that the reason for the continued existance of
two model building codes is money and politics.  But, it appears that by
and large, the existance of two model building codes should not effect
structural engineers too terribly much.  In fact, if things do go to the
full extent of the direction they are currently heading, then the only
structural stuff in either the IBC and NFPA 5000 will little one liners
that say "for loading requirements see ASCE 7-xx", "for structural
concrete requirements see ACI 318-xx", etc., meaning that to some degree
there could be little need for SEs to purchase the actual IBC or NFPA

And as Jason pointed out, NCSEA (working in conjunction with SEI and CASE)
have their "eye on the ball".  There are NCSEA representatives on both the
IBC and NFPA 5000 structural provisions committee.  The biggest thing to
keep an eye on is that the IBC process still has public hearings where
member organizations can be presented with proposed modifications to that
adopted/referenced standards that were previous voted down by those
reference standards committees or never brought to those committees.  And
those proposed modifications can get adopted by the members of the ICC
(thus, BOCA, SBBCI, and ICBO), which then will cause the IBC to be
different that what is in the NFPA structural provisions.

And as to standing up and telling the legislators, I believe the SEAOC did
that in California and got trumped by the unions etc.  If I recall
correctly, the last interation of discussions of changing the state code
for California (about a year or so ago) had SEAOC and SEAOC seismology
recommend to the state legislature that California adopt the IBC.  This
was also the position of the portions of the state government that deals
with the code enforcement process (department of the state architect??
maybe).  But the state legislature elected to stick with the 97 UBC for
another three years, with the possible intent of then going to the NFPA
5000 (which was not available then but would be at the next go around).
The rumor was this was due to plumber union pressure.


Ypsilanti, MI

On Tue, 29 Jul 2003, Jim Persing wrote:

> I just finished reading the ASCE Practice Periodical (Aug. 2003) article on
> NFPA 5000 and it got me to wondering - again, when are we, as structural
> engineers, going to stand up and tell our legislators what we want for a
> code.  We just seem to be sitting back waiting for the plumbers and fire
> chiefs to have their way with the codes and then we'll complain to no end on
> this list why we have to deal with 2 codes that are entirely different.  And
> with one that probably won't even work because its never been tried (we're
> all going to be beta testers for the NFPA).
> I have been using building codes for 35 years and have lived and breathed
> the UBC for all of that time.  I really don't know why I would want to
> switch.  Even with all of its flaws I think it has served us well.  The IBC
> is a very good compilation of the three model codes and was put together by
> people who have been writing building codes forever.  We - the architectural
> and structural community - have wanted a single code for years.  Now that
> that is within our grasp we are standing by and watching the whiney plumbers
> and fire chiefs, with all of their powerful union money, grab our code from
> us.
> I have probably not used any of the NFPA codes for more that just a few
> times.  But the NFPA tells me that they have been in the code business for
> 100 years.  Well, why did it take them 97 years to decide to have a building
> code?  It's all about money and power and their lack of desire to work with
> anybody else to accomplish something for the good of the design community.
> And who's going to run our building departments?  Fireman and plumbers?
> When was the last time that you saw a fire chief get interested in the
> results of a concrete cylinder test?  Or who cared about bolt inspections or
> weld tests?
> I don't know where anybody else is on this but I want to see one code that I
> have to work with and understand in depth in order to provide my client with
> the best design possible.  If I have to juggle codes, plan review comments,
> inspection criteria, new code sections, different update seminars, etc, then
> I cannot perform the best for any one project.
> When are we going to tell our structural engineers associations, ASCE, AISC,
> ACI, ACEC, NSPE et all, that we want the IBC.  We are so good at the
> technical end of our work that we won't step up and face the matters that
> really count.
> Rant over (or maybe just beginning)
> Jim Persing, PE, SE
> Washington, California, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Arizona, Alaska & Hawaii

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