Letters – 2008-03-01

Letters to the editor.

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff March 1, 2008

Mentoring works

Regarding your articles on mentoring in the February issue ( CSE 02/08), I spent 16 years at Jaros Baum & Bolles and 18 years at Flack + Kurtz. During most of those years, I gathered the young draftsmen and designers in a conference room for one hour a week and taught them the HVAC basics.

This went on despite the reluctant agreement of top management. But it was obvious to me that without this training these young engineers would not be fully useful to the firm.

I am glad to know that there are a great many engineers working in New York who received their basic training from me.

George Rainer , PEIrvington, N.Y.

Fire safety in tall buildings

“Rethinking high-rise egress” ( CSE 01/08, page 32) was very interesting, but somehow left out one very important resource: In 2005 the International Code Council appointed an Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism-Resistant Buildings to deal with the code recommendations in the World Trade Center (WTC) NIST study, and to research and recommend regulatory changes to the I-codes that support the objective of terrorism resistance. That group has been meeting for 2.5 years to develop appropriate changes to the model codes in light of the WTC tragedy. The committee has been and remains extremely sensitive to avoiding broad-brush prescriptive solutions that will result in overdesign of non-high threat structures. We have a number of code change proposals in upcoming ICC hearings which, hopefully, will shape the debate on this subject. As chairman of the committee, I welcome CSE ‘s reporting on our activities. I am, frankly, shocked by the lackluster regulatory response to date given what we already know about signature building vulnerability.

Gary Lewis Chief Inspector City of Summit, N.J.

Emergency and fire protection personnel with continuous and accurate communication should be permitted to access the safety and operability of designated elevators and all available equipment as necessary. On-site professional personnel should be charged, trained, and authorized to “designate equipment” and “deputize equipment” based on risk versus benefit and not cost/benefit. In a timely manner, risk and potential benefits must be professionally evaluated. Fire protection systems personnel can address and enhance proper evaluation of emergency scope, abatement, rescue, or other emergency purposes. With the increased availability of unrestricted communication, professional assistance is available within ipod, text, or voice reach.

Low risk elevators are not the only available equipment that will provide essential and safe two-way transportation in a timely manner for emergency search and rescue purposes without interfering with other available and designated one-way emergency occupant egress.

Eliminate codes and legal restrictions that prohibit or restrict safety personnel, actions of professional and trained personnel at the scene or available to the personnel at the scene.

But to revise safety codes and laws will not be the full fix. There should be a law. Safety engineers cannot afford a copy of the codes. No company has the latest revised copies of all the codes including proposed and pending revisions. Make a copy of safety codes available to the public on the Internet at an affordable cost.

Who owns safety codes? Why are safety codes so expensive? Why should safety codes be unavailable to the average Joe? Why can’t code owners see the potential profit, oversight, improvement, and public appreciation from open source codes? Why can’t code owners see the public threat posed by closed door regulations and codes. The profit motive alone should launch all code owners into high gear. Public safety, public law, professional awareness, and private acceptance will continue to suffer until restrictions are lifted from code availability.

Put copies of codes on the Internet at affordable prices and on CD at reasonable prices. Universities should require code compliance for graduation rather than hidden courses in the safety engineering catalog. Freshman classes should be subjected to safety awareness. High schools should require “code confidence” for graduation.

Codes must be expanded to include but not be limited to homeland security. Affordable Internet and CD distribution of codes will take care of the details.

Harry Clift via the Internet


Send your letters to Michael Ivanovich, editor-in-chief, Consulting-Specifying Engineer , 2000 Clearwater Drive, Oak Brook, IL 60523, or via e-mail to michael.ivanovich@reedbusiness.com .

Letters should be no longer than 200 words, and may be edited for space, style, spelling, and grammar.