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RE: Static vs. Simplified Static design

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I too have given up trying to change the engineering community overnight.
With that said, you can't ignore that technology has created an avenue for
communication. At one time I was accused of not wanting to participate in
Committee work because I only wanted to create an online "Virtual"
Committee. It seems that others knew my intentions better than I and were
convinced that I only wanted to use this exciting new medium of
communication to prevent others from traveling and socializing. As our
technology evolves, my ideas became more feasible (even this list exceeded
15,000 subscribers and changed from a California based List to an
International one - thanks to the support of Bill Lees who was president of
SEAOSC at the time). In other words, the List became a platform for
discussion that is accessible to committee members who, for the most part,
have access if not the knowledge, to retrieve our comments. Unfortunately,
those who could change the path of codes lurked in the background and, until
Rawn Nelson posted as a legitimate board member of SEAOC his reply to an
e-mail on the 97 UBC we were told that the committee chairs had neither the
time nor the knowledge to download and review our comments.

Still, the truth is that they were listening and they understood our
positions in discussion. This led to my invitation to participate in the
Round Table discussion on the 97 UBC changes at the 1999 SEAOC Convention in
Santa Barbara. I was also invited to the cocktail party prior to the dinner
where the preverbal baton was passed from John Tripp to Ron Hamburger - the
new SEAOC President.  The Seismology Committee was adamant to stay allusive
to the professional community and rather than have us submit questions to
them for responses to help those of us who had roadblocks understanding the
intent and origins of some code changes, they established difficult
guidelines of posting our questions and imposed a six month turn-around time
for responses. Redundancy in questions was ignored as were most of the
questions it seems.

Later, as I mentioned in my past post, the state Seismology Committee gave
even a moments notice to profiting from our questions. To this date, nothing
of substance has changed - they know the discussions we have on this list
and if they don't they certainly can retrieve them from the archives or
write to one of the more vocal members of our list to see if the discussions
were kept (yes I archive some of them that interest me). So let me ask how
you can respect a professional organization that has so little respect of
their members in professional practice. If their purpose is to assist us in
the intent and use of the code, they why don't these same members
acknowledge our concerns and address them without pressure from vocal

Policy changes don't protect the engineering community from frivolous
lawsuits. SEA's position paper on various issues related to light framing is
of little legal value when challenged. We deserve (I demand) to have a code
with less ambiguity and more translational logic so that we know how to
design more than a simple and regular commercial structure. Don't forget the
tools and information that member of our professional community (and those
of us who have worked for hundreds of hours creating tools for their use)
simply to allow those on the Seismology Committee to see the problems
associated to practical application of full compliance methods in wood

The Seismology Committee, evidently, included light-framing as a last moment
decision. This is an argument I've stated often because of the simple fact
that the full-compliance methods are an impractical solution that disregards
both economics of the design and the dynamics of future change expected by
change of ownership. I've met with many different people who had aspirations
to do more with the wood committee and walked away without instituting
anything greater than an opinion. Bill Nelson was the first; I had many
discussion with him subsequent to the adoption of the code and his work with
Doug Thompson on the ICBO Seismic Design Manual Volume II. Tom Van Dorff
even made a trip out to La Quinta (his firm also does plan check for the
city out here) to walk the many conventional construction examples that
exist in this city as he was not originally convinced that the problem was
as wide spread as I claimed. Mel Green called me when he took the reigns and
he never followed up on his initial call. 

Then there was the first large seminar in City of Industry around 1999 where
the author of the 10/Lw factor stood up to admit that the values were chosen
arbitrarily based on typical masonry and concrete shearwall design. 10/Lw
was not unreasonable for these materials, but rare to find on a custom home
with windows in each room doors entering these rooms. So we established that
this was the first impractical values as it applies to light-framing.

Later, we rectified the penalty for the use of cantilevered columns by
restricting R of 2.2 only in the line of resistance. However, this was the
opinion of the Seismology Committee and was not a revision to the 97 UBC and
therefore no protection against potential litigation. This was a rush to
judgment as the penalty was an emergency measure by the City of Los Angeles
after the collapse of the Northridge Meadows apartment. The truth was that
the Meadows was not supported laterally by cantilevered columns at the
front, but by gravity load columns only - it was a soft-story and the damage
could not be attributed to stiffness failure in the columns.

Next came the work that was done by Gary Searer, SE (least we forget the
hundreds of hours he spent) to present examples to the Seismology Committee
on the errors that resulted in the code on the calculation for the
redundancy factor Rho. Once again, this was summarily dismissed with little
thanks from the Seismology Committee.  About the same time, S. K. Ghosh
decided, that the calculations for Rho based on the 10/Lw be left in the
code to (and I paraphrase) "force" engineers to comply with more
conservative values in light of the damage seen subsequent to Northridge. As
I recall, and excuse me if I am wrong, but this even inflamed you to respond
strongly to Professor Ghosh. I believe your comments were something to the
effect that we were old enough to make your own professional decisions.

Unless the respect for light-framing is of little concern to the majority of
Seismology Members who never design wood structures (and I know this is not
the case with Richard Hess) then point out to me where the Professionals who
are suppose to represent the engineering community are using the resources
available to them to gain an education on the practical application of
light-framed methodology from the hundreds of small office practitioners on
this List. It's easier for them to request copies of the posts from Shafat
than it is for someone near the Arizona border in a sole-proprietorship
business to attend weekly or monthly meetings.

I am sorry to be so long winded with this, but I think it is important not
to forget the historic efforts that led up to today's discussion. I found
conditions impossible, not simply due to the politics and petty power
struggles, but the inability to think it feasible to take a step backward in
code development and look rationally at what we need to change to achieve a
decent code. I don't need Richard Hess or Rick Drake reminding me to
participate when this List is so accessible and not restricted by distance.
If time is money, then my time is equal to any of those on the committees
and what is lacking is respect for the working man.

Let me clarify one point - all is not equal when it comes to methodology.
The code works fine for Masonry, Concrete and Steel. These have evolved
rationally and the adoption of the 97 UBC simply incorporated changes for
these materials due to knowledge of weaknesses learned from FEMA documents.
However, the light framing methodology is a major change in Chapter 16 as
wood was rarely considered by the power practitioners who have the time to
volunteer for board work and committee work. Still, if the dollar buys the
right to bitch, then the dues we wasted on support for a professional
community that promised to serve its professional community had the tables

With gas at $2.50 a gallon (+/-) in California, can these committees
continue to spend as they have to evolve codes or must they consider more
rational means of communication to enhance their performance?  Light framing
concern is a result of the high cost associated to damages more than an
interest in by professionals to design wood structures. Granted, few like
me, choose this material because we understand it. Yet when the code
changed, our understanding of the performance of wood was challenged and our
learning curve cost us a great deal in time and money to come up to speed.
The politics between the NAHB, the AIA and the BIA continue to segregate the
engineering community by preventing any real change for the good of the
building owner. You can't improve structural engineering by patching and
painting - this code was a start, but I'm tired of waiting for Seismology
members and those on the new ICC committees to awaken to the world of

Take it for what its worth, but I simply don't have the respect that you
have (and I once had) for those who participate today. Maybe its age, or
possibly the fluctuating Dow Jones Average (Stan) - but for what it's worth
I feel let down by a profession that should be working to provide
practitioners with tools not obstacles.

Enough - I'll let it go as I should have once I got my answer to the initial
questions (or did I?).


Dennis S. Wish, PE

California Professional Engineer

Structural Engineering Consultant



-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Allen, S.E. [mailto:T.W.Allen(--nospam--at)] 
Sent: Thursday, July 15, 2004 4:28 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: RE: Static vs. Simplified Static design

Dennis –

Me? Statesman? You’ve got to be kidding! I guess I’m going to have to read
my drafts more carefully to avoid giving that impression in the future :o).

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