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So What About This SEI Thing?

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Just got a couple of publications from ASCE: SEI/ASCE 30-00 "Guideline
for Condition Assessment of the Building Envelope," and SEI/ASCE 11-99
"Guideline for Structural Condition Assessment of Existing Buildings."

This isn't intended to be a review of those publications as I have but
perused them briefly as yet.

However, I have to admit a tentative approval of the fact that SEI/ASCE
seems to actually be doing something to advance the art of structural
engineering practice. Of course, I have been long aware of ASCE 7, but
that involved "taking over" the earlier ANSI standard, and I wasn't
really aware how much SEI had put into even the advancements contained
in that publication. I pay only cursory attention to seismic issues
being on the third coast, but the wind engineering has been appreciated.
But the wind engineering has been ongoing long before SEI was in existence.

However, the "condition assessment" publications look to have been
initiated by SEI/ASCE, and that is impressive. We are sorely in need of
structural engineering standards treating important topics beyond the
scope of the typical model building code (particularly now when the
codes invariably reference outside standards--and on the topic of
existing structures the model codes are all but silent; load testing of
existing structures is pretty much the extent of it.

These guidelines represent the consensus of the profession on these
topics, at least on the face of it (okay, I realize they actually
represent the consensus of those who took the time to serve on the
committees, or to render comments during the "public" review phase), and
they will carry great weight for those of us who have to write
convincing reports. And now that I am aware of their existence I will be
sure to participate in future when it is time to review the next editions.

All this by way of saying that I have not been a big fan of ASCE. I
consider that organization to cater to the public works/beltway bandit
crowd, and their legislative positions ("we gotta get ours") have mostly
been in diametric opposition to my own political philosophy ("Founding
Fathers Still Spinning In Graves; Film at Eleven!")

But given the lack of a strident voice in our own profession, maybe I
would be hasty in dismissing SEI outright.

I have continued to pay the ASCE dues over the years, and gotten little
(to my way of thinking) in return other than discounted publications. I
don't attend the local meetings because I simply can't develop
sufficient interest in the discussion of the  latest dredging efforts in
the Houston ship channel or a lecture entitled "The Sanitary Sewer
Outfall and You". And I don't know that our local ASCE branch/chapter
(can't ever remember the nomenclature) has an active structural
component since a few years ago when I was nominally involved with the
local committee.

But I can't say that, OTOH, I am all that enthralled with our local SEA,
with respect. They seem to be geared toward those who are "cogs in the
machine" of the larger structural design firms, and don't know what the
heck to do with a small-timer like myself. Again, NOT a criticism of
SEA; they have the right to cater to the majority, but it doesn't end up
doing much for me that I can see.

So maybe I ought to give SEI/ASCE another look. I'm paying the dues and
I've bought the books, so that's some contribution. But I would like to
do more time-wise. I've always had a difficult time committing time to
efforts that in the end don't accomplish all that much (again, WITH
RESPECT; this is my personal opinion only and is not meant to denigrate
the efforts of those who DO find working in these organizations to be
worthwhile).

Any comments regarding SEI/ASCE are welcome.


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