Tag Archives: RDP

My Response: Why We Need Building Codes

My Response: Why We Need Building Codes

As promised, here is my response to the Coeur d’Alene Press article of December 5, 2017 (exactly as I wrote in the comments portion following the newspaper article regarding adoption of building codes):

I will first qualify myself – I attended the University of Idaho in architecture. I was a manager or owner in the prefabricated wood truss business for over 20 years. I’ve been a registered general contractor in four states, In 1987 I joined ICBO (they write the Codes) as well as ASAE (American Society of Agricultural Engineers) and was a sitting member on the committees which established the huge majority of the structural design criteria for post frame (pole) buildings. I have had the privilege of being involved in the structural design of nearly 20,000 buildings in every U.S. state. I am a contributing writer for Rural Builder magazine.

In my humble opinion – anyone who wants to “run bare” without Building Code minimum standards being applied to their new structures is out of their freaking mind.

The Building Codes are designed specifically to protect the safety and lives of those who occupy (or are in the vicinity of) structures. The Code requirements are ‘minimum’ standards, which are just scraping by – however something is better than nothing. For residential occupancies, the risk (under Code) is a once in every 50 year probability of the design loads for a given home to be exceeded! And yet there are some who would do away with even this minimal amount of protection.

I am not at all an advocate of governmental intervention, however only a fool acts as their own engineer. I deal, on a daily basis, with challenges posed from new building owners who have had under designed buildings constructed in jurisdictions which do not require structural plan reviews.

Mr. Tyler’s concern about homes having been built on unstable ground is not the fault of the Code, but the fault of the agencies which issued the permits. A geotechnical study should be done for the proposed site of any new structure – this allows the RDP (Registered Design Professional – architect or engineer) who designs the structure to have adequate information to be able to properly address foundation challenges, before they become foundation issues. The Code does not mandate engineered soils reports.

As to length of warranty provided by builders – an educated new building owner will look for a builder who offers an extended warranty. This, again, is not a function of the Code.

Having accurate information about snow loads is crucial to proper structural design. The 2015 edition of Ground Snow Loads for Idaho was produced by the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Idaho. Based upon 31 more years of snowfall study than the previously used document – it appears Ground Snow Loads in Kootenai County should range from 43 to 100 psf (pounds per square foot) depending upon one’s location within the county.

Several factors go into calculation of Ps (sloped roof snow load) from Pg (ground snow load) including exposure to wind, is structure heated or not, importance of building, slope of roof and roofing material. In many instances the calculated Ps load is going to be higher than the currently accepted 40 psf. Will this add to construction costs? Yes. Will it help prevent failures and possible loss of life? Yes.

What is the value of even a single life?

Rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water, my advice is to require every single building to be designed per current Code to include plans which are sealed by a Registered Design Professional.

 

Overhead Door Columns in Pole Barn Enclosure

No Columns for Overhead Doors

There are a few clients out there who leave parts of one or more walls open, with the idea of enclosing them at a later date. Most often this is done with the idea of being able to save money, however it is not always much of a money saver, especially if done wrong.

Here is just one example of why fully enclosed is a bargain compared to three sided: http://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2014/03/three-sided-building/.

Reader NATHAN from MOUNT VERNON writes:

“I have an existing pole building that is 36 by 36 (12′ spacing on all columns) and is 16′ at the front, 20 at the next column back, 16 again at the second column and 12 at the rear of the structure. It is only sided on two sides (back 12′ wall and one side). I’m looking at finishing the building out with three 14ft doors on the front, but no columns were installed for this purpose. The concrete poured for the existing columns will prevent me from having proper footing if I put in new columns as in a new build. Can I bolt the new columns to the existing ones (Blocking and 5/8’s galvanized threaded rod) and have the bottom in a post base of suitable size and strength. As there is no concrete floor in the structure at this point I was also thinking of increasing the slap thickness in these areas and adding rebar. Your help is greatly appreciated Nathan.”

Nathan happens to be in a part of the country which requires Building Permits for most everything. At some point in time he is going to have to have a Registered Design Professional involved (RDP – architect or engineer) as his Building Official is going to want to see an engineer’s seal on the plans for the remodel.

There are numerous possibilities the RDP may take for a design solution. To keep in mind, these columns will be supporting no roof load, so it is merely a case of having them be adequate in size to resist wind loads, as well as the door itself.

While Nathan’s idea probably works, it might be easiest to mount the columns needed for the overhead doors into appropriately designed column brackets: http://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/01/concrete-brackets/. A header can be run from one roof supporting column to the next to stabilize the top of the columns.

Before getting into a situation such as Nathan’s, research all of the options available. You might be able to enclose the building fully for little or no extra investment. As another alternative, financing is available which (with moderately reasonable credit) could allow some or all of your new building to be funded from a third party source with affordable monthly payments.

Check into your financing options today: http://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/financing/

 

ASCE Changes in 2017

ASCE/SEI 7 Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures

The times, they keep a changing, and as they do Building Codes and Building Design becomes increasingly more complex. My long time readers have read my preaching about why all buildings should be designed by Registered Design Professionals (RDP – architects or engineers) to insure new construction meets with the requirements and provisions of the Code.

The 2016 edition of ASCE Minimum Design Loads and Associated Criteria for Buildings and Other Structures will be available in early 2017. This edition provides the most up-to-date and coordinated loading standard for structural design. Also with improved coordination and routine updates, ASCE 7-16 includes many significant changes.

New seismic maps reflect the updated National Seismic Hazard Maps, including requirements for the region surrounding Las Vegas, Nevada, to address local concerns. The basis for the increase was developed and supported by the State of Nevada Geologist’s office.

New wind speed maps which result in reduced wind speeds for much of the country and clarify the special wind study zones, including new maps for Hawaii. Also new maps for Risk Category IV separate from Category III.

In my humble opinion, the wind speeds expressed in ASCE 7-10 were at times unrealistically high in comparison to actual historical measures. This resulted, in some cases, in added expense to new building owners – which they were not given a choice in accepting or declining.

New regional snow data generated by state Structural Engineers Associations in Colorado, Oregon, New Hampshire, Washington and other mountainous states, which is now directly referenced and eliminates many, older site-specific Case Study zones.

New provisions for performance fire design.

An entirely new chapter with tsunami design provisions, which is important to west coast states, Alaska and Hawaii.

Full coordination with referenced material standards within ASCE 7-16, to ensure they are the same as those which will be referenced by the upcoming 2018 International Codes.

Consistent with revisions to all editions of the ASCE 7 standard, some of the revisions will cause increases and some will cause decreases in the cost of construction for an overall project. In fact, the variability of the impacts on construction resulting from different hazards may be compounding or may negate the effects. The cost impact for each significant change to ASCE 7-16 has been considered.

Please keep in mind, all versions of ASCE 7 and the International Building Codes are establishing minimum requirements for structural design. It is this author’s recommendation to always err on the side of caution when selecting criteria for climactic loading. Often increases can be made in design loadings with little or no cost to the overall building project. Those contemplating a new post frame building are best to inquire as to the extra investment (if any) to design for greater loads.

How Should I Do Knee Braces?

Welcome to Ask the Pole Barn Guru – where you can ask questions about building topics, with answers posted on Mondays.  With many questions to answer, please be patient to watch for yours to come up on a future Monday segment.  If you want a quick answer, please be sure to answer with a “reply-able” email address.

Email all questions to: PoleBarnGuru@HansenPoleBuildings.com

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Do you guys have any ideas or pictures on how one might want to finish off a pole building with knee braces? Thanks, GARY

DEAR GARY: Thank you very much for your question.

Our designs do not utilize knee braces, you can read why not here: http://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/01/post-frame-construction-knee-braces/

Your question is probably best addressed to the RDP (Registered Design Professional – engineer or architect) who originally designed the building, as they may have one or more of these issues with knee braces:

Not designed to support dead loads such as framing being placed between them to support a finished angled ceiling; having too much flexibility to support gypsum wallboard without cracking it; if adding a fairly rigid covering (such as OSB or plywood) making the assembly too stiff for the trusses to carry the imposed loads.

If you can stand the look – I’d suggest staining or painting the knee braces, as you will not negatively impact the structure.

Mike the Pole Barn Guru
DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Hello! What is a walk door? PAUL

DEAR PAUL: Also known as an entry or man door (or being politically correct a “person door”), is a pre-hung, hinged door allowing for access into or egress from a building by means of turning a lockset or pushing a “panic bar”. Most popular size is 36 inches in width by 6’8” in height. 48 inch and double doors offering a 72 inch width are also available as standard sizes.

Mike the Pole Barn Guru

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I used too many screws in my siding on my Hansen Pole Barn. I need more to finish. Where can I purchase 1000 pearl gray 12x 1.5 screws? Dave

DEAR DAVE: It does happen every once in a while, however using too many is structurally better than not enough. Please contact Justine@HansenPoleBuildings.com and she will get your extra screws on the way!

Mike the Pole Barn Guru

Storage in Trusses

Welcome to Ask the Pole Barn Guru – where you can ask questions about building topics, with answers posted on Mondays.  With many questions to answer, please be patient to watch for yours to come up on a future Monday or Saturday segment.  If you want a quick answer, please be sure to answer with a “reply-able” email address.

Email all questions to: PoleBarnGuru@HansenPoleBuildings.com

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: My shop is in a 30×40 pole barn. I would like to put storage up in the trusses, and have some of the shelves that hang from the ceiling also (really there is no ceiling right now, just the trusses and roof). The trusses span the 30ft and I am worried about putting too much weight on them. I really would rather not have any supports in the middle of my floor…I was wondering if I could just sister up to the truss with some 2x6s or bigger to strengthen them…or should I just limit my upper storage? ONLY IN OHIO

DEAR ONLY: Unless specifically ordered for light storage loading, pole building trusses are rarely constructed so as to support any weight from their bottom chords other than limited electrical and lighting.

As you are considering “beefing up” the existing trusses, you should consult with the company which manufactured the trusses. There is typically a stamp on every truss with the truss company’s name on it. For a nominal fee, they can usually provide an engineered “repair” to upgrade your trusses.

In the event the truss company cannot be located, a Registered Design Professional (RDP – engineer or architect) should be hired to design a repair for you.

Only with one of these two solutions would I be able to recommend placing anything for storage in the truss system.

An alternative may be to build a raised “loft” floor in the building, at the level of, but not supported by the trusses. Again, this is a design best accomplished by a RDP.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Hello, I am contractor assembling one of your pole building kit packages.
Would you send me details for flashing the building please?
Need:
-Corner flashing.
-End capping the cut ends at top.
-Where do the corrugated foam strips reside?
-Roof panel overhang on the sides and ends.
-Door trim flashing

Thank you, WISHING IN WASHINGTON

DEAR WISHING: All of these are covered in depth in the Hansen Buildings Construction Guide which was provided to your client after purchase. If your client has not shared it with you, you should ask him for the big white binder which was sent to him. Every piece of trim has a diagram showing what it is along with the code used by the steel company. Detailed drawings show where each piece goes on the building.

Dear Pole Barn Guru: How to Replace a Sliding Door with an Overhead

New!  The Pole Barn Guru’s mailbox is overflowing with questions.  Due to high demand, he is answering questions on Saturdays as well as Mondays.

Welcome to Ask the Pole Barn Guru – where you can ask questions about building topics, with answers posted on Mondays.  With many questions to answer, please be patient to watch for yours to come up on a future Monday or Saturday segment.  If you want a quick answer, please be sure to answer with a “reply-able” email address.

Email all questions to: PoleBarnGuru@HansenPoleBuildings.com

 

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Have pole barn with sliding doors which are being wedged with weather changes. Looking for overhead door option for door that is 16′ wide and 12′ tall. Do you provide these and conversion labor to install? LOOKING IN LEBANON

DEAR LOOKING: Switching from sliding doors to an overhead door is going to pose a massive challenge to do correctly. This, in itself, is reason enough to spend the generally few dollars up front to use a sectional steel overhead door.

To begin with, the openings are not framed to the same size. It is easier to frame smaller than have to try to hack out and replace one or more columns. This will probably entail framing down to a finished hole 13’10” in width and 10’11” in height (measured from the top of the concrete floor) and installing a 14’ x 11’ residential overhead door. In order to get things looking right from the outside. All of the steel on this wall should be replaced, to give uniform color and no splices.

We can certainly provide a wall’s worth of steel siding, color matched powder coated screws, the appropriate steel trims, the overhead door and hardware to hang it. We are not contractors in any state, so we do not and cannot provide any labor to install.

You may want to look at what the real problem is – sounds like you have frost heaving, which is pushing the ground, or concrete, up at the location of the door. Just switching doors is not going to take away the problem.

If heave is the root cause of the problem, then remedial action can be taken by installing a French drain along the side of the building in front of the door. The sliding doors can also be taken off, and their overall height shortened enough to keep them from binding when the heave occurs.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: How do I calculate what size of purlin I need based on my snow load, and the bay spacing of my pole barn? Thanks. CURIOUS IN CULDESAC

 

DEAR CURIOUS: From the ground, a roof purlin looks pretty simple – it is usually a piece of 2x material, fastened on top of or attached to the side of rafters or roof trusses. Roof sheathing (typically OSB – oriented strand board, plywood, or steel roofing) is then attached to the top of the purlins.

Purlins are not simple at all. They must carry all applied dead loads, live loads from snow as well as wind loads. They need to be checked for the ability to withstand bending forces (both compressive and from uplift), to not have too much deflection and be adequately attached at each end.

In snow country, purlins near the roof peak need to be checked for the added drift loads which are applied.

I could spend several thousand words and numerous pages to teach you how to be able to properly calculate the purlins for your individual case, however it is far more information than the average person wants to, or is able to, absorb.

The best recommendation – hire a registered design professional (RDP – architect or engineer) who has the ability to run the calculations to adequate design your purlins based upon the climactic (wind and snow) loads being imposed upon them at your building site. Or better yet, order a complete pole building kit package which has been designed by an RDP.

Engineer Designed Pole Buildings

Thanks to a High School Student

My eldest step-son Jake, started a Facebook Group for students where he taught Physics at Lenore City in Tennessee. One of his students shared this with the group:

Three professionals, a mathematician, a physicist and an engineer, took their final test for their job. The sole question in the exam was “how much is one plus one”.

The mathematician asked the receptionist for a ream of paper, two hours later, he said: I have proven it’s a natural number.

The physicist, after checking parallax error and quantum tables said: it’s between 1.9999999999, and 2.0000000001

The engineer quickly said: oh! It’s easy! It’s two,…. no, better make it three, just to be safe.

While the average citizen probably does not think about it, they walk or drive by engineer designed structures every day. Why is it not a thought? Because engineered buildings rarely, if ever, fall down.

Engineers SealIn the post frame building industry, Hansen Buildings deals with Registered Professional Engineers pretty much every day.  It is thanks to years of schooling, field experience, and real life design work these design professionals perform which makes our pole buildings as safe as they are.

In my mind, if a design error is going to be made, let’s have it made on the side of caution.

Today’s Building Codes are not quite like the earliest of codes.

Building codes have a long history. What is generally accepted as the first building code was in the Code of Hammurabi which specified:

If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then the builder shall be put to death.

If it kills the son of the owner, the son of the builder shall be put to death.

If it kills a slave of the owner, then he shall pay, slave for slave, to the owner of the house.

If it ruins goods, he shall make compensation for all which has been ruined, and inasmuch as he did not construct properly this house which he built and it fell, he shall re-erect the house from his own means.

If a builder builds a house for someone, even though he has not yet completed it; if then the walls seem toppling, the builder must make the walls solid from his own means.

Even though we are not using the Code of Hammurabi today, most engineers (fortunately) treat their structural design work as if their lives depended upon it. I would not think of constructing any type of building – without a Professional Engineer having his/her seal of approval on it.  Cost of the engineer’s stamp? Minimal compared to the value of my wife, children and others who are in and out of my pole buildings on a daily basis.

 

Can a Building Official Legally Change Engineered Building Plans?

I will preface my answer with the statement I have used more than once: “If anyone, including any building department plan checker, field inspector, other official, or a contractor, makes any changes or deviations from provided engineered building plans my advice is to obtain a signed statement to the effect they have now become “designer of record”. In effect, they have assumed all liability for the building’s structural design.”

pole-barn-plansWith this said, here is where things get dicey. Always pick the battles. Some requests by Building Officials are so minor, it is not worth getting into a fight over. The risk is always in putting forth a challenge, which might raise the ire of the plans checker or inspector. More often than not, a change asked for by the Building Department is a preference item only, which has no code to back it up.

If he wasn’t a building official, it wouldn’t really matter much whether he gets rankled or not. If he was a supplier or subcontractor, fine, take the risk; if he can’t handle it, hire a new one. But you can’t hire new building officials. Get on the wrong side with one and run the risk of installing yourself on the person’s or jurisdiction’s blacklist. Navigating the regulatory quagmire is hard enough without painting a sign on your forehead which says “I am a jerk.”

Trust me on this one – getting into the jerk line at the Building Department is tantamount to waterboarding. Life…will….become….miserable.

I have heard of projects where during construction the engineer of record got calls from the contractor asking for interpretations to the cryptic red marks all over the structural plans. This is alarming because engineers do not release construction plans with red marks on them. If corrections are to be made, engineers make them in the office and reissue the plans. What has happened is an overzealous plans examiner took it upon himself to change the engineered plans via red marks and then issue the plans for construction without bothering to ask or tell the engineer!

In changing the engineer’s design, the Building Department superseded the actual registered engineer as the engineer of record and assumed all sorts of liability. If their risk manager ever got wind of this, heads would roll. And roll they should.

Oftentimes, engineers do nothing about this, especially if it is near an Act of Congress to obtain a building permit in the particular jurisdiction. Sadly sometimes the only way to obtain a permit is via the building department redoing the design and assuming the liability. Raising a stink could cause long delays in the issuance of a permit.

Before questioning the Building Official, weigh the costs. If the building inspector is a reasonable person, ask the question. If, on the other hand, the inspector is seemingly “out to get you”, maybe let the issue pass and then at the end of the project bring it up to his superior.

If you are a Building Official and reading this, please do give me feedback on “smoothing the road”. Trust me; I am on your side. My goal is always the same: To provide adequate support and education to clients to assist them in getting a well-designed pole building which is safe, sound…and built to code.

Engineer – It Ain’t Amtrack

I once heard an anecdotal story about a man who had a choice to stand in one of two lines – for brains, or trains. He had always wanted to be an engineer, so he picked the line for trains….

OK, so it wasn’t necessarily funny.

If you’ve ever been involved with a commercial building, it was probably designed by a Registered Design Professional (an RDP – an architect or engineer). Ordered prefabricated wood roof trusses? Again, they were probably manufactured from designs created by a registered professional engineer (P.E.) or a structural engineer (S.E.).

In reality, virtually any structure was either designed by an RDP, or should have been.

Most architects subcontract the structural portion of their designs to an engineer. Engineers specialize in their ability to “run the numbers” to prove on paper why things will or will not perform in the real world.

An engineer is responsible for the analysis and design of the structure or framing system of a building or building component. While doing the building’s structural design, the engineer will take safety and performance into consideration.  For performance or serviceability this is the design for vibrations from machinery, floor vibration or deflection which could cause discomfort, or even building deflection or sway.  The occupants of a building might feel uncomfortable if the building sways or moves too much, especially on the upper stories.

An engineer’s qualifications can be verified.  The easiest thing to do is to check if the engineer has either a Professional Engineer (PE) license in civil engineering or their Structural Engineer (SE) license in the state which the project is being built.  Some states don’t offer a SE license so this is why there is a difference in the title.  While there is a nationally recognized test for engineers, there is no general licensing, it is state specific and each state has their own requirements to obtain and maintain registration.

Okay, so this is a general definition of the responsibilities of an engineer, how does it pertain to post frame buildings?  Pole buildings, for engineers, involve the same responsibilities and analysis as any other structure, but it all pertains to one specific material.  Very few RDPs are familiar with post frame construction and design pole buildings on a regular basis. If hiring an engineer to design a pole barn, look for one with extensive experience – hundreds of post frame buildings designed, not just five or ten.

Be wary of anyone (builder or company) who says “I’ve done pole buildings for 10 years,” but has no engineering background nor degree.  Does this mean he can verify the design he uses will be safe? Is it economical in design or did he just put a lot of lumber into it, many dollars of it which does nothing for the building and a lot for depleting your funds?  Does it have verifiable calculations to prove it will stand the test of time and nature?  Or does it mean buildings have been built over ten years and fortunately none of them have fallen down – yet?  Companies which supply complete pole building kit packages have ongoing relationships or employ engineers who have the expertise it takes to design safe and economical structures, which will perform admirably for generations.  Don’t be caught “un-insured”.  Make sure your building has an engineer’s stamp of approval on your building plans.