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The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day (with apologies to Bill O'Reilly) - Epilogue

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I have resolution to my “problem” and I thought I would share it with the list.


At the conclusion of the conversation with the plan checker, I said that I would probably go over his head because it did not seem that we would be able to come to a reasonable compromise. He understood that and wasn’t offended (which was not my intent).


I finally had the opportunity to talk with his boss, the principal at the engineering firm who is contracted to perform plan check services for the building department to which I’ve submitted my original engineering. As most of those who know me pretty well already know, my tact and diplomacy skills are not as polished as I would like them to be. Additionally, for some reason, those skills go into hiding whenever I get aggravated. Anyway, I made the effort to explain that I didn’t have a “problem” with the person plan checking my engineering. Instead, we had an “unresolved disagreement”. I told him that I’m quite aware that he has probably instructed his staff to perform a strict and literal interpretation of the code and all I wanted to do is to find out if there was some way he could inject a little engineering judgment, common sense, more liberal interpretation or some other means to resolve this issue. He seemed willing to consider it and mentioned he did in fact have some latitude for such an interpretation. He asked me to compile my argument with the reasons why the particular code section should/could be considered not applicable. I wrote a little over a page making the following points:


  1. The loads are small (axial Pu ~0.5k where 0.10f’cAg ~ 50k)
  2. The section is not a compression-controlled section as demonstrated by the column interaction curve I created for this section and therefore the minimum 1% steel required for compression members (section 1910.9.1) is not warranted.
  3. The section is not a column as defined by CBC section 1902 (height-to-least-lateral dimension of 3).


I also sent him my original calculations and cut sheets on the light standard with fixture to frame the problem in proper context. My total submittal to him was 11 pages.


After about an hour, he called me and he said that he would accept my argument. He said that his only requirement would be to specify the length of the anchor bolts on the footing detail instead of merely stating “anchor bolts by others”. That also eliminated the other plan check correct to calculate the adequacy of the anchor bolts since he did this to justify his decision.


I’m not that familiar with the IBC (I guess that will have to change pretty soon), but it would be nice if there was some sort of “out” for structural elements such as these (flag pole footings specifically) where axial loads are present but very small (I like the 0.10f’cAg criteria). I understand the 1% criteria, but that is for “real” columns and makes sense to me. I just think there should be something where elements like this do not have to comply with 1910.9.1. Additionally, CBC section 1809.5.2.2 should be looked at to see if there should be a similar exception.




T. William (Bill) Allen, S.E.


Consulting Structural Engineers


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