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Re: Codes Online (Non-structural)

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On 22 Nov 2004, at 1:27, Scott Maxwell wrote:

> What you won't get is the codes for free.  Contrary to popular belief, it
> costs money to produce those codes.  Even if government entities took over
> the effort, it would still not be free.  It might seem free, but we would
> still pay for them in the form of fees (i.e. PE license fees, building
> permit fees, etc) or taxes.  This stuff does not magically appear out of
> thin air.
> Regards,
> Scott
> Adrian, MI

And from the point of view of a citizen, I would like all laws to which
I am subject to be free for my enlightenment. I should be able to
freely access all laws for which I may be held accountable.   If we
charge people to access the law, then we are essentially 
discriminating against those who can not afford the cost to obtain 
the law.  

We often hear that ignorance of the law is no excuse from the 
law's penalties if the law is violated.  Therefore, we, as citizens,
must have access to the current law, so that we may be less
ignorant of the law and its penalties.

Recently, the method of codifying by reference has created an even
greater problem.  People must now purchase more than one
code book to cover the varieties of code that may be encountered
in building a residence that is more than just a rectangular box.

I realize that in many areas, most building inspectors have got
little engineering background and are likely to do what they've
been trained by their predecessor to do.  And they may or
may not be motivated to learn about how the code came into
being and the discussions that lead to the inception of a particular
section of code.  Because of this condition, many citizens have
got little help from the local building department that administers
their building project. 

As an example, a local municipality was recently trying to
enforce a new portion of code that has been adopted by reference
in the IBC.  The local government entity didn't have a copy of that
referenced section of code.  The local libraries didn't have a copy
of the code, so I got it on inter-library loan at the state law library,
who also didn't have a copy of the state mandated code.  The
referenced section of code wasn't very clear and referenced another
book that was unavailable, even through inter-library loan.  And
for just under $200 I could purchase this book, educate myself
and then the local building department on the nuances of this
section of code that they were trying to enforce.  But why should
I have to do all of this for a law to which I must abide.

As engineers we likely have already got the referenced code 
books, at least those that we use frequently, and are
not as concerned with the cost of acquiring them, since we
would likely purchase them anyway if they were not codified
by reference.  But for John Q. Citizen who wants to build a house,
a barn, or a small shop for his new fledgling business, he may
have to purchase a few code books to get him through the 
process without being totally ignorant of the law.

We might say, "Hire an expert."  It doesn't make good sense
to not hire an attorney when facing even minor legal challenges
or to not hire an engineer when building something of significant
size of where life safety of many people are invovled.  But, why
should the system be so complex and the laws be written in
such a way as to almost prevent someone from doing something

Why should the law not be freely available to all who must
comply with that law?

<stepping off soap-box>

Take care,
Lloyd Pack, PE

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