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Re: structures & ethics

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See my <brief> comments below.
James Cohen, PE
James Cohen Consulting, PC
----- Original Message -----
From: S. Gordin
Sent: Monday, November 22, 2004 12:40 PM
Subject: structures & ethics

...After all, the building may be OK solely by the fact of it existing like that for about 30 years, right? ...
No, the building may not be OK. It is unlikely that a full design load was ever realized, even over 30 years. General deterioration over time could further excacerbate any deficiencies.
If I am right in my assumptions - how that could happen (don't answer that)?
Is there sheathing which could be acting compositely with the overall structure? Are there interior finishes which could be acting similarly? Have you checked your analysis using hand calculations to confirm analysis results?
If I am wrong in my assumptions - what am I missing?
The strength of the wood and existing dead loads may differ from your assumptions. The best way to establish strength would be through material sampling and testing. Have you used actual measured dead loads?
What should I do within the limitations of common sense, structural analysis, and professional ethics? 
Notify the client and, if necessary, local officials. At worst, if the building is not safe it will need to be repaired/strengthened/etc or else be unoccupied. The issue of inadequate load capacity should not, however, be left unresolved.