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RE: Residential Plan Drawings

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Joe
We have a plan checker who is no a licensed engineer, but he does know his
section 2320 of the UBC like the back of his hand. The problem stems from
those areas that I might not agree with him about. Inasmuch as I am on the
appeals board of the city I have to recluse myself if the project is taken
to the board.
Instead of accepting the professional judgment of a licensed engineer, the
plan checker will seek the advice of other technicians from adjacent cities
who generally know as much as he does about the full-compliance section of
the code.
The problem is the Rhetoric and references within the IRC or the UBC Section
2320. If you wish to do some engineering that is not justified in the code
(I wanted to eliminate braced panels that did not have holddowns in lieu of
adding Hardy Frames that provided many times greater resistance to lateral
forces) and because it was not specifically stated in the code or
referenced, it was not allowed. Instead, I removed the Hardy Frames and
obtained the permit. During construction, we added the Hardy Frames in
addition to the braced frames which was an acceptable solution to the city.

I understand the frustration. There was a time when any structure could not
be built until it met at least the minimum compliance to what is Chapter 16
of the current UBC. In other words it had to meet the minimum compliance of
an engineered design. This is no longer the case as the IRC has been
expanded in scope to multi-story residential buildings. However, the problem
is not with the code, but with the lobby of politically strong groups that
support prescriptive construction such as the National Association of Home
Builders, the Building Industry Association, The American Institute of
Architects and even HUD (who benefits from the work of NAHB). 

So rather than attempt to change the thinking of the BSSC TS-7 group as to
the potential performance negatives of prescriptively built homes in high
risk regions, the Engineering community working on codes rolled over and
played dead.

I remember at the 1999 SEAOC Convention in Santa Barbara, Andy Adelman, the
building official in the City of Los Angeles, stood up and almost begged for
support of the professional community to revise the code (full compliance)
because it created a benefit to developers of smaller homes who wanted an
excuse to avoid engineered homes and who profited more by this choice. Andy
said that the City of Los Angeles would not accept prescriptively design
homes but I don't know if he could legally do this or if his claim held up.
I do know that those who live in my area about 150 miles east of Los Angeles
are complacent about earthquakes since this area has not shaken since 1940
Imperial earthquake. Landers was too far to really shake things up here and
because of this, there is a strong coalition among builders of non-tract
developments to seek prescriptively built homes over engineered products.
The cost of homes contains a great profit margin, but the additional 1%
added to provide better performance in a residence is fought by the local
developers who use threats to go the local city council and present their
case or take their developments to another city. Unfortunately when you are
a smallish city (less than 30,000) these threats work and the building
official tends to back down.

So what do we do:
The first thing we should do is require that the method of construction (and
design) be recorded on the application for permit.
If there is an engineer or record, his name and address should be on the
same application for permit as it is (or was) in the City of Los Angeles.
Home owners should be given brief pamphlets that explain the difference in
design and the potential differences in performance and how it may affect
the owners out-of-pocket cost for repair.

If we can't change the code then our responsibility is to educate and inform
the public.


Dennis S. Wish, PE


California Professional Engineer

Structural Engineering Consultant

dennis.wish(--nospam--at)verizon.net

http://www.structuralist.net

 

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-----Original Message-----
From: Joe Grill [mailto:jgrill(--nospam--at)swiaz.com] 
Sent: Thursday, October 28, 2004 3:23 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: RE: Residential Plan Drawings

I used to work in an area of the country where even residential structures
were fully designed.  In the last year I have moved to an area where that
isn't so.  Many architects (and "designers") don't want a fully engineered
project and the plan reviewers for the most part don't require it. Since the
higher priority to the architects is getting the building permit and not a
fully engineered structure many times they will take their plans to the
reviewers and then only ask that the reviewer's comments be taken care of.
Now I know that is crazy as h***, but that is the way it's been done here
for a long time, and changing the established attitudes just doesn't happen
over night.  The plan reviewers are not engineers and not architects so they
let many residential projects go through by the conventional provisions even
if the project may not conform to the requirements of conventional
construction provisions.  My biggest gripe with the codes relating to the
conventional provisions is an extreme lack of clarity as to what can be
constructed using the provisions.  For instance, in a non-seismic area what
is considered (by the code) an unusually shaped structure?  By the way, I
have the same complaint with the ASCE wind provisions.  No definition of
unusual.

The bottom line is in some locations you have to be willing to do what Jim
is suggesting (at least while you try to educate, a very slow process) or
you will starve out very quickly, because "Brand X" engineering will do it.

Joseph R. Grill, PE

-----Original Message-----
From: Ben Yousefi [mailto:ben-yousefi(--nospam--at)ci.santa-monica.ca.us] 
Sent: Thursday, October 28, 2004 3:39 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: Re: Residential Plan Drawings

Although conceptually allowed by the code (2308.4 of 2003 IBC) designing
portions of building while the rest is conventional construction is a
slippery slope. Differentiating the scope of work that you are responsible
for, and the remaining portions becomes a challenging task, which from a
legal standpoint may be difficult to defend. 

We normally don't see a mixture of design, it's either conventional or
engineered.

Ben Yousefi, SE
Santa Monica, CA

>>> wilson engineers(--nospam--at)yahoo.com 10/28/04 12:41PM >>>
I am curious what level of effort you feel necessary when preparing and/or
reviewing residential design plans.  This is a new topic of conversation in
these parts where the international codes are just coming into effect.
 
As mentioned here before, the IRC falls short in prescribing a lot of
structural information.  Once an EOR touches a set of plans, do they become
resonsible for filling in ALL of the missing details?  Being new to this
game, I am worried that I am not doing that.  But if I detail things like
soil compaction %, special rebar details and nail patterns in typical
framing conditions, builders are going to think I'm crazy.  And inspectors
are going to have a feast on the contractors who don't comply.
 
It seems like there should be a middle of the road.  Can an engineer
legitimately design the portions of the structure that really need it, such
as load carrying components and roof beams, and leave it at that?  Is it
okay to add a general note on the drawings that says something like "Areas
of work not specifically addressed on these plans must meet (prescriptive)
requirements of the current IRC and requirements of the local building
official."
 
I appreciate that those of you in seismic and high wind country have to go
the extra mile, but in this neck of the woods, these details seem overkill.
And who is going to pay several thousand dollars to have all of this work
done?
 
Opinions and experiences greatly appreciated.
 
Thanks,
Jim Wilson
Stroudsburg, PA

		
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