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Re: American "Imperialism"

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Re: American "Imperialism"

I read with interest the posts on this thread.
I am normally content to lurk on this list but am
occasionally tempted to peep out from the shadows. 
I last wrote to the list in response to Dennis Wish on
the subject of outsourcing.

Here are some thoughts on American codes (on Steel
only) from a fellow structural engineer from India,
who has been involved with structural steel design and
detailing for 30  years.

I have had the privilege of working with the codes of
practice of three countries.

>From 1974 to 1980, I did my all my designs per Soviet
specifications for heavy Industrial structures of a
steel plant which was being designed with Soviet
collaboration.
For the next twenty years I worked per Indian code
specifications (IS 800)
I have dabbled with the British Code and have had to
look it up occasionally.
Now, for the past four years I have been totally
involved with detailing of steel structures to AISC
specifications.

I have no hesitation in saying that, as far as
structural steel is concerned there is nothing to
match the publications of the AISC.

The AISC specifications are the most detailed and 
well researched.
They are updated in a timely fashion, presented in a
convenient and easily understood format, and have
minimum ambiguities.
The sheer volume of the supporting literature made
available by the AISC is impressive.
They also publish a most readable magazine (Modern
Steel construction).
Their support in the form of replies to queries sent
to them is unmatched anywhere.

The Aisc publications, (Ninth Edition, or the green
book as it is affectionately referred to in our 
circles, the LRFD third edition, and companion
publications like Engineering for Steel construction,
etc) occupy the pride of place in my bookshelf. I am
eagerly waiting for the ASD-LRFD combined manual
expected in 2005.

Equipped with these manuals, I have hardly experienced
the need to refer to some popular text books which
also adorn my book shelf (like Salmon and Johnson, and
the classical texts like Lothers, Gaylord and Gaylord.
The only text which I wanted to have and missing from
my shelf is the one by Blodgett but I have access to
it in a local library)


Here is a bit of steel structural history from India
for those interested.

Before independence, (1947) Indian structural
engineers used British codes and imperial units and
continued to use it till 1956 when the first edition
of our Indian Standard (IS 800) for design of steel
structures was published. This was for all practical
purposes a copy of the British code with imperial
units yielding place to metric units.

The first revision of this code was in 1962 and it had
been sufficiently "Indianised".
Thereafter everyone seems to have gone to sleep and
this 1962 edition continued to hold sway till 1984
when the next revision was published. We thought LRFD
would be introduced in 1984. It wasn't. ASD still
continues today. LRFD is mouthed by the academicians
who keep threatening the students to take it seriously
as they would have to start using it as soon as they
came out of the colleges. That day has not yet dawned
and an entire generation has lived with this threat.
There is progress.
The next revision is due "any day" now.  It used to be
"any year" some time back.

In comparison to the detailed American Specification,
the Indian code is less stringent, and conveniently
for some of us, delightfully more ambiguous in some
parts. I still remember the stormy debates we used to
have while interpreting some of its more inconvenient
stipulations. Those with legal talent used the
loopholes skillfully to the delight of the paying
customer and the annoyance of the approving authority.
The Indian code has one undeniable merit. It is lean
and mean and can be read through with a fraction of
the effort needed to digest the AISC specs, weighs
only a fraction and so can be easily carried around,(
I could boast of the ability to carry it around inside
my head those days).
It could also be photocopied more easily for those who
hate to pay the Government anything more than the
compulsory income taxes.

Steel is not the material of choice in India and is
used mostly by the Railways and in Industrial
structures. Concrete is generally preferred by the
middle-class and the rich. The poor make do with mud
and thatch. Wood is almost never used for
construction. So the volume of construction in steel
is negligible compared to USA. 

The kind of sponsorship that the AISC enjoys in USA
was not available to the steel construction Industry
in India. Only recently INSDAG, (INstitute for Steel
Development & Growth) was set up in Calcutta and this
organization has a long way to go before it can catch
up with the AISC.  I doubt if it is funded as well as
the AISC is and I don't see any likelihood in the near
future.

The Australians have their own AISC (read "Australian"
for American).  The British had Constrado Publications
which I found quite useful. I am unable to comment on
the Japanese, German and the French codes. They
probably have excellent codes but they are out of
bounds for us due to language barriers.

I am forced to conclude that there is nothing to match
the quality and depth of literature put out by the
AISC in USA.

So I am hardly surprised by the dominance of these
publications.
If this is "imperialism", I for one am not
complaining.

The only irritant we overseas engineers experience is
in the multitude of codes you have.
BOCA, UBC, and various state codes make it
inconvenient.
In India, the whole country of 1000 million people,
uses just one code.
In India, we don't have a system that requires a PE to
stamp the designs.
We don't have debates on the legality or ethics of
some one doing the design and another vetting or
approving it, either in the same office or remotely.
We don't split hairs on what "direct supervision"
means.
Those of us who work to American specifications, are
compelled to put up with your infernal imperial units.
When will you fall in line with the rest of the world?
Or are you expecting all of us to revert to Imperial ?
Now, that would be real IMPERIALISM!!

Am American structural engineer once sought my help in
doing a small structural design for a Church sponsored
organization in India. I think he was doing a free
service. He wanted a copy of the properties of Indian
steel sections and the code.
I sent him a list of the sections and told him not to
bother with the list but instead look at a few steel
"I" shaped sections that were available and which I
had clearly marked for his convenience. He did not
have more than 10 sections to choose from.  That made
his task  a lot easier. (Though the books and tables
list several hundred sections, only a fraction are
actually rolled and available).

I made it even easier for him by asking him not to
bother to read the Indian code and instead follow the
AISC specs, assume A36 steel,  and merely change the
units to metric. Any design that satisfied AISC would
have been okay or even over-safe per Indian code
specifications. I merely vetted his loads particularly
the wind load he was using. He was thrilled when I
told him snow was unknown over most of India and he
needn't bother with it. He was further aided in his
design when I told him he could specify field welding
liberally. Fabrication of steel structures in India is
mostly done in outdoor yards near the project site and
not in shops as in USA. Bolting using black bolts is
commonly used and merely serve to hold the pieces
together to facilitate welding. Welded connections are
preferred. The cost of field labor is not an issue
here. Labor is cheap and plentiful.

I trust this stray post from me on the "Imperialism"
of American codes and the digressions will be of some
interest to at least to some of you and that Gail will
find no irritating errors in my spelling and in my 
usage of the language. I now go back to the shadows to
lurk (till next time!)

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and greetings from
India.

G Vishwanath
Bangalore, India

("Vish", on the steel-detail(--nospam--at)yahoogroups.com e mail
discussion list)



		
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