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RE: Plan Check from a plan reviewer

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Title: Plan Check from a plan reviewer


I think you made my point in a previous post. Virtually everyone uses the excuse that engineers are needed in regions of high risk to earthquakes. However, the majority of light framing is controlled by wind. This being the case,  and the rhetoric of the code requiring an engineer or architect when there is a plan irregularity, engineered designs are rarely considered unless the location is subject to seismic activity. How can we ignore wind as much as we do? I can understand this rationale when the home is constructed with brick veneer (most Chicagoland homes are wood frame bearing walls with brick veneer). Outside of major metro areas and in seismic regions, brick is not as commonly used as stucco or siding. However, does this minimize the damage in a high wind event? In this case, what is needed to change this ideology that homes (or any light-framing less than three stories) are an ordinance that is performance based?

In California, it seems that the Insurance industry is driving the home design market and it also seems that they are at odds with the BIA and NAHB as the residential codes stay unchallenged.

For those that have brought this up in the past, this is not an issue of life safety that I am talking about. I will conceded the issue that conventionally framed homes will (based on what we know today) protect life safety, but the average cost of a home in California is rising close to (and may have exceeded) $300,000.00 (based on ½ of the sales below $300,000.00 and ½ of the sales above – not an averaging of the prices). This means that in California, the out-of-pocket responsibility of the homeowner before the insurance company (the state plan) pays out one cent is 15% of this figure or $45,000.00. Few middle class families can afford to add a second to their mortgage for $45,000.00 after purchasing a home that was designed prescriptively without any disclosure required by the state as to the design methodology.

I suspect that property values proportional to income rises at the same rate of inflation across the United States. In this case, if the deductible is the same, then the burden upon the homebuyer or the owner who has no idea that his home was constructed by a first time GC or a developer who passed his GC test that does not qualify him or her in understanding construction framing quality.

Maybe this will change – not to create a market to line our pockets but because more than 90% of all buildings constructed are residential and the financial burden on the homeowner or buyer is excessive compared to their ability to afford the repairs and the lack of disclosure in all states.

Remember one thing – homebuyers believe that once a permit is issued, all buildings are constructed to the same standards. We have done nothing to educate them otherwise.



-----Original Message-----
From: Schwan, Martin K. [mailto:SchwanMK(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Thursday, October 16, 2003 10:12 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Plan Check from a plan reviewer


I would like to add my 2 cents…

I work for a municipality and review residential and small commercial projects.  (I am not an engineer)  Engineers are not required to do residential design in our jurisdiction unless it is 3 stories or more or maybe because of a plot note.  Consequently, designers have the majority of the residential market because they will cost less then an engineer.  Basically I have two problems: 1) there is no certification requirement for designers and just because you go out and buy a design program doesn’t mean you are qualified to perform calculations. 2) engineers who do residential are getting paid like a designer and are less responsive to review comments because they do not want to spend any more time on it.  (Gerard, I would never ask for new calcs because the length of the shear wall was different unless the nailing had to be revised)

  Please note details are not just for review but also for the builder and the inspector.  90% of our problems occur in the field.  We do not ask inspectors to do plan check but they should be able to verify load path details for example and if it’s not on the drawings, how do you expect the builder to build it the way it was designed. 

  Additionally, the plan review is not just a structural calculation check.  There are many occasions where architectural requirements are incorrect or are missing.  These include things we assume are standard…stair rise and run, guard heights, egress windows, elevation of appliances in the garage, tempered glazing, ventilation and so on.