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Cob RE: CodesBob Bolles bbolles at cts.com
Mon Dec 8 18:19:33 PST 1997
Hi John You wrote: > Well, I'm glad to hear that some people have had good experiences with building > officials. I guess I don't personally know anyone who has had much but > grief...even with "conventional" stick 'n rock boxes. I am aware that our > other methods aren't "prohibited," but as the code excerpt you inserted above > says, it's up to the building officials to "allow" what isn't prohibited, which > means they can very effectively "prohibit" it at will. As far as engineer > and/or architect stamps, it's an option if one can find a competent engineer > and/or architect who is willing to do so and can afford the additional cost. I'm not sure that not having a bad experience is the same as having a good one.;-) In the thirty + years that I have been building, which has included a goodly share of ""conventional" stick 'n rock boxes", I have had my share of run-ins with Building Officials. Only one of those was a pig-headed jerk that loved the position of power he had, and was beyond reason. Some were ignorant, but in most issues, we were able to resolve the disagreements. In the mid to late 80s, here in Southern California, we were in a major building boom. The reputation of the building department was that they were a collective gaggle of rectal orifices. ;-) Truth be known, there was so much shoddy work going on that "Contractors" tried to hide, that the assumption of the inspectors was that everyone was hiding something. The end result was similar to a hangover - there is a direct correlation between the number of drinks and the degree of the headache. Don't get me wrong, I'm not particularly a fan of the building department, but in this case, I think they are getting a "bum rap". The code that I quoted (which is just one of several addressing the same issue) says it is"...not intended to limit the appropriate use of materials....." as long as they "....are at least equivalent of that prescribed in this code in suitability, quality, strength, effectiveness, fire-resistance, dimensional stability, safety and sanitation." I submit that these are not arbitrary decisions. It is up to us (collectively) to establish the structural merits of these various materials. In Canada, the CMHC worked with various individuals to test certain aspects of Straw Bale construction (and I'd guess others). Two universities that I am aware of, at which graduate work produced structural testing, are Cal Poly, San Luis Obisbo, and University of Arizona at Tucson. Other tests were sponsored by Straw Bale Associations and BRAN, the Bale Research Advisory Network. All of that takes time and money, as-well-as a commitment by folks, like ourselves, who would like to use alternative materials. Like it, or not, before we can legally build with Cob, we have a lot to demonstrate about it's structural merits. It's a long road we are on, with a little bit of historical precedence behind us, and a lot of hard work ahead. Even with Straw Bale, there is still a lot of over-building and Architect/Engineer mandated involvement, even though they are becoming less of a unique event. But each one gets easier. I would highly recommend David Eisenberg's "Straw Bale Construction and the Building Codes" in which he deals with code issues (and officials) that would be applicable for Cob as well. Regards Bob
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