Code Complexities

As chair of the Masonry Standards Joint Committee and a long-time ENR subscriber, I read with interest your article on building codes, "Structural Engineers Labor to Unravel Mysteries of Building Codes" (ENR 7/18 p. 26). On behalf of MSJC, which updates its Code and Specification at 3-year intervals and whose latest edition was published in 2005, I appreciate your assessment that we present relatively few difficulties for practicing designers.

We continue to work hard on user-friendliness in a context of technical excellence, on the simplified design procedures that you advocate and on dialog to establish a code-development cycle whose length addresses development as well as assimilation of new knowledge.

I would like to add one clarification to your article. MSJC is not sponsored by the Masonry Institute of America, a well-regarded masonry promotion organization in Los Angeles whose members contribute technically to MSJC. MSJC is sponsored jointly by The Masonry Society, the American Concrete Institute, and the American Society of Civil Engineers. ENR readers interested in learning more about MSJC are invited to explore our Website (, and attend our next meeting, Oct. 16-18, in Cincinnati, Ohio.

After reading your article "Structural Engineers Labor to Unravel Mysteries of Building Codes," I am reminded of the dedication in the front of Professor T. Y. Lin’s book, Prestressed Concrete Structures. It reads, "To engineers who, rather than blindly following the codes of practice, seek to apply the laws of nature."

T. Y., one of the great structural engineers of the 20th Century, was my friend, as well as former employer, and he always stressed that no matter how complicated a structure was, we should "keep it simple," meainging our approach and analysis. It appears that those that write the codes have lost that basic concept.


Toward Reason

Your articles on the NIST investigation are serving to succinctly underline the facts in this issue (ENR 7/4 p. 10). If we’re fortunate, the public will begin to listen to logic.

Unfortunately, the "if it bleeds, it leads" success formula in mass media means that overheated rhetoric on life safety, and societal hand-wringing over "what we might have done" will nearly always overcome the more staid and boring facts. It is too pat to blame the media. If people didn’t enjoy being scared to death, the prophets of doom would go out of business and ENR would be more widely read than Time magazine.

Thanks for the voice of reason.