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Re: 3000 psi concrete and special inspection

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Fellow Structural Engineers,

Another facet to the debate about Code clarity and Code enforceability, is why, as licensed professionals, our professional judgment is often overruled by the plans reviewer or inspector. In many cases, they are not licensed engineers, and in some cases are uneducated in the principals of engineering.

I generally tend to agree with Dennis, that the Code should be 100% clear and consistent. But if it were, there would be little need to have the protections provided by the licensed engineer requirement on construction projects. It is generally recognized that someone with the educational background and experience required for a license needs to direct the project, just for the reason that there are many unique and ambiguous design decisions that need to be made correctly to protect the public. Ambiguity in the code gives engineers the flexibility to employ more efficient, creative, and in some cases safer solutions.

However, this situation can be a burden when the jurisdiction takes a hard line or ridiculous interpretation of the Code. Unfortunately, our professional engineering judgment, which has been officially recognized by the granting of our license, is trumped by the jurisdiction which holds the power of the occupancy permit.

Acie might be right, we are in danger of designing buildings as lawyers, not as engineers. Am I just old-fashioned, or do other list members see a problem with this situation?

Dmitri Wright, PE
Portland, OR

We have been turned into jail house lawyers instead of
engineers.  I was under the impression engineers used there experience and
education to make decisions on how to build structures.  Looking for
clarification between "footing" and "foundation" for a element designed with
2500 or 3000 psi concrete is very sad to me. - Acie Chance

But the code is ambiguous, and somebody needs to interpret it.  We are
just trying to do that.
At the same time, the interpretation of the code by SEOR is not
necessarily accepted by the jurisdiction.  I have a case where, in spite
of the clear-cut technical proof, and the supporting opinion by APA,
this one big city just pushed its own weird, CYA interpretation of the
code, unjustifiably costing my client $$$ (literally, hundreds of
thousands). - Vyacheslav "Steve" Gordin, PhD

We who practice light framing understand when it is appropriate to fully
comply with the code and where the requirements of the code are simply
unreasonable. As a contract plan checker, I have yet to have a
residential structure (including multi-residential structures) submitted
based on full compliance to the 97 UBC. Furthermore, this also accounts
for the change in opinion by SEAOC as to what should or should not be
designed to full-compliance. - Dennis S. Wish, PE

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