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RE: Tales of Terror #1: Architects doing engineering

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Chuck:

My experience has been that unless buildings structurally designed by
architects have the ability to levitate, then it would have been better
if an engineer was involved.  Working at a building department we
periodically see architects that try to save a buck by acting as their
own engineer.  Maybe some architects are great structural engineers and
many architects have a good understanding of the overall concepts of a
structural system, but my experience is that those aren't the ones
trying to practice outside their area of expertise.

For projects not exempt from our practice of engineering statute I refer
offending architects to the state licensing investigator and tell the
offender that if they say ok and don't fine you then I will accept your
work.  Projects exempt from the practice of engineering state licensing
laws, but are complicated enough to require an engineered design, pose a
conundrum: as a building official you cannot tell someone that they are
incompetent and most architects acting outside of their area of
expertise [as a structural engineer] lack the technical competence to
realize that they are incompetent.  Incompetent people don't know it.

Respectfully,
Scott Haan
Deputy Building Official

-----Original Message-----
From: chuck utzman [mailto:chuckuc(--nospam--at)pacbell.net] 
Sent: Thursday, July 01, 2004 8:05 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: Re: Tales of Terror #1: Architects doing engineering


Dennis-
I thought I'd probably get a rise out of you on this :o)

I guess the bottom line is that it doesn't really matter how the 
"analysis" is performed as long as the resulting construction is 
adequate to meet the code required loads.  If you model your beam on 
infinitely stiff  supports, the middle one gets more load.  If you hung 
it on 3 rubber bands they would each  carry equal loads.  For typical 
wood framed residential construction I think we're a lot closer to the 
second model than the first.  Testing & the plain language of the code 
confirm this to my satisfaction (up to aspect ratios of 1:6 per Ed 
Diekmann IIRC) .

It's true that "I've been doing  it this way for xx years" & "27 out of 
27 engineers are ignoring the code" might be an adequate defense--as 
long as a rigorous analysis doesn't show that the structure fails to 
meet the code requirements.  Most of the time I just bump up the load 
20% & don't worry about it.  If I think it's important enough I run 
Woodwork's Shearwall program. Keylat is too much work.

The reason engineers ignore the code is that the plan checkers let 
them.  City employees enjoy sovereign immunity.  Do you?  If the local 
jurisdiction has legally adopted  some exception, you are covered. If 
they haven't, it seems like you are obligated to enforce the  UBC as 
written.

As practicing engineers we've all made our individual peace with 
flexible/rigid diaphragm issue.  I confess that it amuses me to 
occasionally revisit the matter because I'm convinced I'm correct (even 
though I'm an M.E./C.E. instead of a real C.E. :o)  I'd hate to see a 
friend get into trouble because he has recently chosen to become a 
windmill operator instead of merely tilting at them as a hobby.

Your friend,
Chuck Utzman, P.E.

P.S. The conference was the 98SEWC  in  S.F. & I may have the 
proceedings on a CD.  The testing was at the U. of Texas IIRC. I know it

wasn't Ficcadente.  Those tests & my discussions with Ed Diekmann, Dan 
Dolan, & Kelly Cobeen about the matter was plenty enough to convince me,

YMMV

>  
>



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