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Code Committees
2

Code Committees

Code Committees

(OP)
Does anyone here serve on any code committees or attend public discussions?

I have some interest and like the idea of serving/shaping in what capacity I can, but have concerns about the amount of time required, the chance of having too many cooks in the kitchen to be heard, or simply not knowing nearly enough to be useful.

Would love to hear some thoughts, thanks.

RE: Code Committees

I've certainly never been on one.....but I've known several who are on ACI's (voting) committees. Basically you had better be a heavyweight. We are talking PhD level people.....not to mention what they had done outside of the classroom. W. Gene Corley (whom I didn't know, but he is a good example) was on the ACI 318 committee and he had a PhD and was maybe the best practicing forensics structural engineer in the field. (In addition, he was a SE and a member of Illinois SE board.)

That's the caliber of people we are talking about here.

RE: Code Committees

I've been on API (not ACI) committees. Anybody can attend and give input at their standards meetings.

Other standards developing organizations (ASME, ASTM, ACI, etc.) have their own processes. I suggest contacting the responsible staff member or chair for the committees that interest you to get more information.

RE: Code Committees

I've never been on one, but I knew some people who were. WARose is right for the big committees, like ACI 318 have heavy hitters with PhDs and are power users. But there's a lot of committees (I'm thinking ACI only) that are more mundane. They need smart people, but not highly credentialed. They mostly need engineers who will put in the time and expense to attend meeting and do editing and research on a topic. Is your company going to pay you for this? With travel?
As an example, ACI 506R, Shotcrete, hasn't been updated since 2005. I'm sure ACI would love to get a group together and freshen it up. There might be a group meeting on it today for all I know. But it's working.

RE: Code Committees

I sit on the Sabs committee for the structural, geotechnical and loading design standards.

It does take up time, however the pace is relatively slow as many people on the committee have other commitments.

Not sure how it would be in other counties though.

RE: Code Committees

(OP)

Quote (WARose)

Basically you had better be a heavyweight.
There's certainly plenty of committees that require the best, but there's also ones that I hear about that ask engineers to come give input. It's a spectrum on which any engineer can provide value. I would love to sit in on or meet some of the members of the BSD ACI and AISC committees.

Quote (Celt83)

ACI allows you to join a few committees as a non-voting member as part of your annual dues, has been a great learning experience for me.
Good to hear, I will look into that.

Quote (jmec87)

I've been on API (not ACI) committees.
Do you still do it? Has it been worth it or tiresome?

Quote (JedClampett)

Is your company going to pay you for this? With travel?
Definitely not, but I would consider it, for now, as an enjoyable new hobby that connects you to engineers across the country, provides a bigger perspective on the profession, and allows diving into some interesting things.

Quote (Monhanlal0488)

I sit on the Sabs committee for the structural, geotechnical and loading design standards.
Would you do it again at that point in your life?

RE: Code Committees

Quote (JedClampett)

WARose is right for the big committees, like ACI 318 have heavy hitters with PhDs and are power users. But there's a lot of committees (I'm thinking ACI only) that are more mundane. They need smart people, but not highly credentialed. They mostly need engineers who will put in the time and expense to attend meeting and do editing and research on a topic.

This is mostly correct. 318 tend to be heavy hitters, though not always. ACI (both 318 and overall) is beginning to recognize the need to include people who are not academics or very high end designers in their discussions. So they've started adding contractors and product manufacturers and designers from all walks of life instead of just having the high-rise and/or high-seismic guys and gals dominate everything. Another one that might be more the regular designer's speed is 301, Specifications for Concrete.

You usually need to get invited to be on either one of those committees though. Just like anywhere else, you start smaller and work your way up. The smaller committees are usually less time intensive and easier to get your foot in the door. Just apply, commit to calling in to the meetings and showing up at the conventions, and try to participate and be useful. Also just like anywhere else, there's a lot of people who join a committee to get their name on the book or get a line in their resume and then never actually do anything and often don't even show up or call in to meetings. Just being an active participant on some of these committees will be way more valuable to them than being some genius in the field.

RE: Code Committees

It also takes a lot of confidence. Will you fight the other members (not actually fight, I don't thinkmachinegun), to convince them? I've been doing this a long time, but know I don't know a lot, so I'm likely to fade into the background.
But I'm sure the debate is important, even if you lose.

RE: Code Committees

(OP)
I understand and appreciate the importance of debate. Confidence is often not correlated with knowledge and experience.

RE: Code Committees

Kissymoose -

I've never been an official member of a committee. But, I spent 10+ years attending various AISC committee meetings. So, I have a pretty good idea of what happens during these types of meetings. Or, at least how AISC does them. My thoughts on the process / experience:
1) I think you'll find a variety of people participating in the process. Academics, non-engineering industry members, and engineers. All bring good information and knowledge to the process.
2) I'd say it's a pretty even split among the three types. However, my tendency is to say that engineers are still somewhat under represented.... In that the engineers who are there tend to be the "elite" ones. The ones with PhD's, the ones who are leading the companies, but not doing much engineering on a day to day basis. The committees have some "self awareness" on this subject, so they do value the perspective of people of others with different experiences.
3) I found the whole process very educational and fulfilling. It's tough at first because you don't really know anyone. So, you really have to be out-going to try to make connections and network.
4) I would recommend taking a few years to really become a part of the process before officially serving on a committee. That way, you're familiar with the whole process before you're responsible for the process.
5) What's the time commitment? It depends on how seriously you take it.
a) For AISC the committee meetings happened twice a year and went for approximately 3 days each time. So, I traveled to Chicago twice a year. Depending on the schedule of the various meetings I might be there the full three days, or I might be there less.
b) If you're an actual committee member, there are some votes and communication that happen between meetings. But, most official business is conducted at the meetings themselves.
c) I spent a lot of time on "home work" both before and after the meetings. Reading through the information that would be discussed during the meetings, reading engineering Journal articles to get better up to speed on changes that were being discussed. Researching / learning about topics I didn't fully understand that were previously discussed.
d) There are times when they look for people to do genuine "work" for the committee. That can be pretty time consuming, but the ones doing it are usually volunteers. So, if you're doing it then it should be something you're really familiar with and can advance without too much trouble. If not, don't volunteer.


PS: That's some moniker (kissymoose), is there a story behind it?

RE: Code Committees

Quote (kissymoose)


Do you still do it? Has it been worth it or tiresome?
Both. I've learned a lot about the reasoning behind the code requirements and the intent of the requirement. I also get to influence the requirements that will be coming. At the same time, it can be frustrating - change is often slow and sometimes not in the desired direction. I'm glad that I've been involved and continue to be involved.

Quote (kissymoose)

Quote (JedClampett)
Is your company going to pay you for this? With travel?
Definitely not, but I would consider it, for now, as an enjoyable new hobby that connects you to engineers across the country, provides a bigger perspective on the profession, and allows diving into some interesting things.
I would be hesitant to get involved without my company's support. If you point out the benefits to your company, they may be willing to support you. Benefits to your company can include awareness of upcoming code changes before they are published and influencing code changes in a way that is beneficial for them (or minimizing negative changes). Benefits for you (which also benefit your company) can include professional development, PDH (some jurisdictions allow you to count code committee time towards your PDH requirement), and having a change from your regular work.

RE: Code Committees

Note: The company I worked for did pay me for my time and travel for the years I attended the AISC committee meetings. But, that was largely because that company wanted representation at the meetings. It benefited them to be ahead of the ball with various code changes.

I would still be attending the meetings (possibly on my own dime) if not for some personal issues that have occurred over the last couple of years (issues with aging parents and such).

RE: Code Committees

I see responses indicating significant PhD involvement- That is part of the reason our codes have become very complicated.
Practicing engineers have been very busy, and hence, have not had much participation in code writing as the PhDs. PhD's are very smart people, but have little regard for project budgets and practicality. As an example, the wind code in the 1988 UBC was 2.5 pages long- and I suspect the end answers are within 10-20% of what we get now.

We need more involvement from people in the trenches. I know two such people, and it does take a considerable amount of their time.

RE: Code Committees

I have been a member of both ACI and ASTM committees. Still a voting member of ASTM committees. They are not pretty. If you're fully invested, it takes a lot of time (annual meetings, standards review, proposal voting, etc.). You can elect to only involve yourself in the voting side...skipping the annual meetings and blood and guts discussions that go on. I don't have time for that anymore.

On the positive side, there is always a need for balance on the committees. The contractors and suppliers are heavily supported by their employers to be involved and vote their self-serving interests. Many committees are stacked with such even though the parent organization attempts to achieve balance.

Join. Participate....it's the only sword we have to fight the self-serving contractor/supplier contingent with little or no technical objectivity.

RE: Code Committees

Here's a question:
  • It seems like the committee members are often called upon to teach seminars on the codes they helped write. Nothing wrong with that.
  • As such, they're obviously paid for time and travel. For instance, ACI charges about $400(?) per attendee for their ACI 318 seminars and I assume a good portion of that goes to the instruction costs (also room, lunch, materials, etc.).
  • If your company reimbursed you to be on the committee, what's the arrangement? Do you take the day(s) off and bank the money? Or does your company pay you for that day and you give them the instructor's fee.
There was a guy in our company who taught ACI Seminars. Yet we paid to attend the same seminar (maybe not the one he taught, but a different session). It seemed a bit weird. He could of taught the same seminar internally, but I assume ACI wouldn't allow that.

RE: Code Committees

Quote (jmec87)

Benefits to your company can include awareness of upcoming code changes before they are published and influencing code changes in a way that is beneficial for them (or minimizing negative changes).

I'll also add that it can add some weight behind your credentials, both in getting your foot in the door and for getting higher fees. Similar to giving talks, writing articles, etc., a lot of clients are looking for people who provide 'thought leadership'. Maybe your run of the mill owners, architects, and contractors don't really care. But many do and are willing to pay a little bit extra for the implied higher quality. Right or wrong, you'd generally expect the chances of an ACI 318 member and those working underneath them to misinterpret a part of ACI 318 to be lower than your average engineer.

RE: Code Committees

@kissymoose

I still sit on the committee.

Apart from the fact that I am am able to have input for the various codes, it is also a good networking opportunity.
Since I am also one of the few people on the committee who is not an academic (having a doctorate and being affiliated with a university and/or research institution)and due to this I believe that I have made certain aspects in the codes easier as I understand the struggles some engineers have using them.

I've got to meet and build personal relationships with various experts in our country and I feel that it has helped in my work life.

RE: Code Committees

(OP)

Quote (JoshPlumSE)

I spent a lot of time on "home work" both before and after the meetings. Reading through the information that would be discussed during the meetings, reading engineering Journal articles to get better up to speed on changes that were being discussed. Researching / learning about topics I didn't fully understand that were previously discussed.
Are attendees involved in the conversation, speaking up or providing feedback during the meetings?

Quote (JoshPlumSE)

That's some moniker (kissymoose), is there a story behind it?
Nope, I just laugh when I see it. Goes well with the atmosphere of technical debate.

Quote (jmec87)

Benefits for you (which also benefit your company) can include professional development, PDH (some jurisdictions allow you to count code committee time towards your PDH requirement), and having a change from your regular work.
Those are certainly appealing.

Quote (hawkaz)

I know two such people, and it does take a considerable amount of their time.
How much time are you thinking? JoshPlumSE's experience with AISC makes it seems not too intense, provided you can always put more time in if desired.

Quote (Ron)

The contractors and suppliers are heavily supported by their employers to be involved and vote their self-serving interests.
There is something a bit angering about this, but the profession definitely benefits from manufacturers providing free technical resources and guides (eg hilti profis, simpson...everything). I vaguely remember conversations about this before, can you recall any examples of how such "lobbying" has gone wrong?

Quote (MrHershey)

Right or wrong, you'd generally expect the chances of an ACI 318 member and those working underneath them to misinterpret a part of ACI 318 to be lower than your average engineer.
I can appreciate this. Having some designation beyond the PE license to help differentiate engineers is something I can get behind, because, as discussed many times here, clients rarely tell good engineering from bad engineering.

Quote (JedClampett)

Do you take the day(s) off and bank the money? Or does your company pay you for that day and you give them the instructor's fee.
I would think as long as the situation is communicated to the parties involved, it doesn't matter how it ends up. I may be a bit salty about them taking a fee for teaching a class and would probably prefer to just not get paid for the time I took.

Quote (Mohanlal0488)

I still sit on the committee.
Was it competitive, difficult, to obtain a seat? and would you want more practicing engineers and less academics on the committee still?

RE: Code Committees

Actually, now that I think about it, I have heard of at least one bigwig on the ACI 318 voting committee who doesn't have a PhD. That would be Harry Gleich. I've never met him but he's kind of a local heavyweight and a legend in the precast biz. (I think he's still the head honcho at Metromont.)

RE: Code Committees

Quote:

Are attendees involved in the conversation, speaking up or providing feedback during the meetings?

I can only speak about the process at AISC. But, the guests (like myself) were definitely involved in the conversations and feedback. I would HOPE that other organizations drafting design codes would be similar. One of the rules of the process is to allow public discussion / feedback. Technically, they could suppress this and only allow it at a late stage. However, that would go against the spirit of the process.

Now, it depends on the committee, the number of attendees, the quality of the discussion, how long the agenda is and such. But, generally there is enough time to give discussion on any item that's deemed important by an attendee.

Worst case (in my experience) is you might be asked to table the discussion until other agenda items are covered, or you might be asked to introduce it as new business that could be then discussed at the next meeting.

RE: Code Committees

Note: I should point out that I've been in a couple of meetings where we were discussing feedback from the "public review" period. And, this feedback is usually taken pretty seriously.

RE: Code Committees

@kissymoose

No, it was not difficult to get a seat.

To be honest in South Africa there are not many people interested in sitting on such committees, maybe the trend is different in other countries.

I was actually asked to join after numerous emails which I sent to the publishers with regards to queries and issues I found in a specific code of practice. The emails eventually went to the champion of the committee, who later asked if I would like to join. The queries and issues were actually found to be mistakes and typos in the new edition of the code.

To be honest I think it is good for practicing engineers to sit on these committees, one of my big reasons is that there are many engineers out there who are not very competent and relay heavily on software and further more lack the basic understanding of requirements in codes and design work. To give an example I met a senior engineer (+20 years of experience) in course I attended, he complained about solving a quadratic equation stipulated in the code (for the compressive strength of an unequal angle), stating that it was too difficult to use and solve... Personally I think it pathetic, but it's the opinions of these types of people who also influence the codes and actually restrict it's growth. It is a topic that comes up in many meetings, the complaint that engineers find things to mathematical or complex to use.

Being a practicing engineer also allows you to voice the opinions of many of your colleagues and assist in growing and shaping codes. Obviously this works as a negative if you have the mentality of the gentleman I described.

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