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RE: Offensive language Re: IBC Special inspection for Slab-on-Grade supporting HVAC unit.

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-----Original Message-----
From: Robert Kazanjy [mailto:rkazanjy(--nospam--at)gmail.com] 
Sent: Saturday, May 28, 2005 1:25 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: Offensive language Re: IBC Special inspection for Slab-on-Grade
supporting HVAC unit.

...way too focused on finding (in the wrong spec) something to hang his
hat on; the typical refuge of the code monkeys who seem to predominate
in the CE/SE world.

-----/Original Message-----

This brings up a thought.

I have noticed that the engineers who really seem to "count" tend to go
their own way. They see the design codes for what they are: the result
of consensus that cannot possibly cover every situation.

An engineer of this kind--you will typically see them publishing books,
design guides, etc.--looks at the real world first, and then the code.
Most of the rest of us try to bend reality to match some paragraph or
other of the code. We don't feel confident that we really understand
what we're doing on our own merits, and we need to lean on some
perceived authority like a design code.

I recall years ago as a grad student, taking a class in "advanced
concrete design" from a professor who for many years chaired the ACI
committee on design of elevated floor slabs. At one point, when we were
discussing design of two-way slabs, he was holding forth on the transfer
of moments from slabs to supporting columns.

He turned our attention to the provisions of what is today ACI 318-02
Sec. 11.12.6 on transfer of moment through eccentricity of shear. He
pointed to Eq. 13-1 (I don't remember if this is the same now as it was
twenty years ago; we were using ACI 318-83 IIRC) and asked "why is this
true?"

The handful of us grad students in the class sort of stared into space.
For myself, I was trying to tie this in with some principle of physics
or other--and failing utterly to do so. After a few moments, he said
"give up? The reason this is so is because 'majority rules.'"

Seeing the perplexed looks on our faces, he smiled. "I don't think this
is right. When I design I do [blahblahblah] (he lost me at that point).
I don't subscribe to this, but the committee voted by a narrow margin to
adopt this equation so there it is. But I don't use it for my designs."

Now, I'm not suggesting that design codes are worthless, of course not.
But that incident was the first time that it dawned on me that a design
code like ACI 318 was NOT transmitted from God to Man through the
intercession of some holy prophet, like Moses coming down from the
mountain with the tablets in one hand and the ACI Manual of Concrete
Practice in the other.

Rather, they are developed by people just like us on this list,
engineers who fuss and argue and disagree over things, and finally
decide by committee vote how something ought to be done.

Thus, when any of us tries to rely solely on what we read (and think we
understand, whether we do or not) from a design code as the basis for
what we are trying to accomplish, we're doing ourselves and our clients
or employers a disservice.

What's the answer? Well, it's not to stop work and never do anything
that we don't fully understand. The answer is, I think, to SEEK TO
UNDERSTAND.

I may never be as competent in design of concrete SOGs as Boyd Ringo,
but I can read his words on the matter, and try to gain an understanding
of the material, and proceed on the basis of a (hopefully) enlightened
understanding of what I'm trying to accomplish.


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