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If so many agree, why remain apathetic - Code Discussion

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I had not checked my e-mail in a few days (at least the seaint.org list). I suppose that I have almost lost interest in my profession due to the seeming attacks against small practitioners in the form of “improve the code and damn construction quality” ideology of the professional code committees. I certainly did not expect near 100% agreement with me on my last rant. So this leads me to my next question;

 

If you believe that the code creation process is flawed or that that the professional associates and supporting industries are maintaining a code publication schedule that results only in a market for those who wish to sell books or hold seminars to explain in the most trivial means a complicated method, then why do you continue to support the profession rather than take a proactive if not anarchistic approach to changing our profession (now for a deep breath).  Seriously, I stood on principle after the debacle in 2000 over the codification of the 97 UBC along with the internal censorship of  the SEAINT Online paper publication I wrote and SEAOSC distributed in 9 states by simply resigning from SEA? Organizations such as this are, in my best days, very worthwhile when they represent their members and serve to improve the quality of construction rather than finding a new and convoluted means to solve the same problems we were doing in one line calculations for years.

 

Seriously, as practitioners we made mistakes.  For years we designed plywood shear walls based on an aspect ratio of height to width rather than addressing actual deflection and it seems that we have inordinately paid the price many times over while the code creative committees of our profession continually put out “drek” (junk for those of you not of the Jewish faith) creating a vacuum for prescriptive codes to take over as most of us lost in the rhetoric lose design work on residential and low-rise wood framed structures. These structures represent almost 90% of all buildings erected in the United States and are the source of income for most sole proprietorships or small offices. Yes, we diversify and write insurance reports, act as expert witnesses, repair damaged and non-compliant buildings, but while the housing industry is in a downward spiral why are we not becoming more active as an independent group to force the code creation process back on track?

 

Years ago I believed the chasm between Architects / NAHB and Engineers was so wide that the differences could not be resolved politically. There is a need for prescriptive design, but as we learn more about wind and seismic, it seems the prescriptive methods won’t cut it – yet this is what is allowed in the IRC and what we must compete with in the layperson world of our clients and hungry developers.

 

This list (which I lay claim to creating with Shafat Qazi and the support of SEAOSC) has close to 15,000 members worldwide and certainly the power in dues paid to the associations to make a difference. If the money dries up so does the work of the committees.  Let me make this perfectly clear. I am not in favor of bringing SEA or ASCE or any other group down, I am in favor of reminding them forcefully how things were done before the computer age when SEA in California was still small and growing and ethics allowed SEA to place their members first. Now the members are nothing more than a source of revenue to pay for dues, seminars, publications etc. In 2000+ when we argued the 97 code, we discovered that this list was able to hit an end of the road block wall that it could not pass. The list is a bitching post where members can work off frustration. We do serve the needs of peer-to-peer help and this is a value we should not discount, but my goal to the creation of the list was to allow for all members to be able to speak and be heard as a serious voice. This is not happening and possibly won’t. After the SEAOSC board hears of this message, I may be history – but at least it is off my chest.

 

If the code is imperfect we have an ethical obligation to change our profession rather than leave it to the few Sheppard’s leading the lambs to slaughter. If you are interested, write me privately and I will start an online petition which can be our voice by those not on the list who still have a voice in SEA. Next year, Michael Cochran, SE takes over as president of SEAoSC and as a former member I look forward to this change. Not only do I highly respect Michael as a friend and professional peer, but the current board president leaves much to be desired by means of compromise or working with the members for meaningful change. I believe Michael is more empathetic to the needs of the members as was his father Brian Cochran when I was just a young new active member of various committees.

 

Don’t give in – become an active voice in change and it may just spread into an international effort.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Dennis S. Wish

 

Dennis S. Wish, PE

California Professional Engineer (C-41250)

Structural Engineering

54625 Avenida Bermudas

La Quinta, CA. 92253

 

Phone: 760.564.0884 (phone, fax and messages)

dennis.wish(--nospam--at)verizon.net