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RE: H3LP REQUESTED: Paper on "Structural Design for Residential: A Comparative Study"

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Here in the land of the Governator, where we're still working with the 1997 UBC, residential structures are governed by "conventional construction" (prescriptive) provisions, which is where all building officials begin.  The Code REQUIRES that anything falling outside the specific allowances for prescriptive work be ENGINEERED.  For example, there is a whole section on irregularities that will kick a residence into the arena of engineered design and, according to California State law, requires an engineer's stamp and signature.
The sticking point is that it is the building official's responsibility to REQUEST an engineered design when the Code requires it ... this does not always happen.  Most residences are drawn by non-licensed professionals -- some of them are pretty good, others are not.  I enjoy the challenge that residential construction brings -- sometimes they are more challenging than commercial projects.  If you're interested, I presented a paper at the 2002 SEAOC Convention entitled "Making Responsible Decisions Regarding Conventional Construction and Engineered Design for Wood-Framed Structures" and I can send a copy to you, FWIW (please contact me privately).
Hope that helps,
Dave K. Adams, S.E.
Lane Engineers, Inc.
979 N. Blackstone Street
Tulare, CA 93274
PH:  (559) 688-5263
FAX: (559) 688-8893
-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Polhemus [mailto:bill(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Monday, July 26, 2004 7:33 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: H3LP REQUESTED: Paper on "Structural Design for Residential: A Comparative Study"

…or words to that effect. I just came up with the working title two seconds ago.


I’ve been thinking about this for some time. Perhaps the most valuable lessons I’ve gleaned from participation here on SEAINT is the insights into how residential structures are designed more “seriously” on the West Coast compared to here on the “Third Coast.” It’s intriguing to an even larger extent because I understand that for residential structures, and probably “light commercial” low-rise construction as well, wind tends to govern the lateral design.


Wind is something we have a heckuva lot of here on the Texas Gulf coast. Compare, if you will, the design wind speed for Southern California with that of those states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. I’m sure you see what I’ve getting at.


Yet we do not require structural design for residential construction here in Texas, owing mainly to the fact that we have no code enforcement except in municipalities, and counties are specifically prohibited from adopting building codes and enacting code enforcement requirements. This is a political situation entirely: The homebuilding industry here has convinced the legislature that to allow wholesale building code enforcement would make homes unaffordable to a large number of people.


I could present the political arguments pro and con, ad infinitum, but that’s not my object. My object, rather, is to compare the practices of structural design in, say, California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Arizona, say, with those of Texas, and ultimately, to show a glaring disparity.


Further studies could be made (perhaps “Part 2”, etc.) of comparative property damage costs that can be inferred to stem from this difference in approach. I have no axe to grind; I’m simply interested to know why we do (or don’t do) what we do (or don’t do) when it comes to structural design for residential construction.


What I’d like is some input from anyone who does structural design for residential, wherever you might be (I specifically mention the West coast but I wouldn’t confine my discussion to there). I’d appreciate this very much.