The Good in New Jersey
As a frequent reader of your publication, I was a bit
surprised at the article regarding the New Jersey Commission of
Investigation report "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" (In the
News, 5/05). Although scandal sells, fair and balanced
reporting is often a more effective way of presenting the
The selection of quotes printed from the
commission's report gives a slanted view of the overall success
of the code-enforcement process in the state of New Jersey. The
code officials that I represent are some of the best trained
and most well-respected professionals in the U.S.
Unfortunately, as the SCI report contends, there were a limited
number of code officials identified during the course of the
two-year investigation who had violated the state's high
standards regarding conflicts of interest and ethics. Those
individuals have been dealt with, and in some cases their
licenses have been revoked. In one instance, the nature of the
violation was the result of a construction department accepting
a tray of bagels from a builder as a thank-you for assistance
with a project.
As with any industry, there are some individuals who operate
outside the law. The actions of those individuals make better
press than the daily actions of the thousands of hard-working
and dedicated officials who work throughout the state in order
to ensure the safety and security of our residents.
As one of the individuals asked to appear before the
commission to offer testimony, I was pleased to see that many
of the suggestions that our association made for industry-wide
reform were incorporated within the report's final
recommendations. Do changes need to be made? Yes. Currently
there are a number of proposed changes to the regulations that
will result in tighter controls over the construction industry,
and the inspection and permitting process as well. Together,
the contractors and building departments will continue to make
New Jersey one of the safest and most well-built places to
Stephen D. Jones
President, Building Officials Association of New Jersey
Snow-Covered Vent Pipes
After reading the article "Carbon Monoxide Death Spurs New
Look at Old Problem" (In the News, 4/05), I felt I had to
comment on the importance of having a CO detector. I live in a
condo complex and we just had an instance this past winter
where people were overcome by this deadly, odorless menace.
Fortunately, they are fine; however, it was a wake-up call for
all of us in our complex.
This problem occurred when the outside vent was covered by snow
that had fallen off the newly installed metal roof, causing gas
to back up inside. As a result, our heating system vents had to
be relocated; some were routed up through the roof and some
were located higher on the wall.
We have an older system that had a recall that had never been
addressed — a PVC vent pipe known to crack under high
heat. Nothing was ever sent to us as the owners of the system,
and the problem was never taken care of. We learned about it
when a serviceman found a cracked part and shut down the
burner, refusing to turn it back on until the vent was
replaced. Our furnace has been fixed and I've also installed a
CO detector nearby. CO detectors should be a priority just like
smoke detectors; hopefully the national building codes will
address this soon.
Still Confused About The Safety
Regarding Rick Barta's thoughtful observation on overbuilding
(Letters, 4/05) and Joe Loferski and Frank Woeste's response,
I'm a little confused. Apparently the authors believe
contractors should overbuild by 250 percent the numbers in the
code. The code specifies 200 pounds in any direction on a
handrail, and the authors are urging us to build for a
500-pound load. Logically, this means we should design our
floors for 100 pounds per square foot, and our snow loads for
75 or 100 psf vs. 30 or 40 psf.
Why do you feel compelled to multiply the code-designated 200
pounds for handrails by 2.5, but not to multiply the
code-designated 40 pounds per square foot for floor joists by
anything? I am unfamiliar with a code that calls for 11-psf
floor joists and notes that we should multiply that by 3.75.
This to me is the question Mr. Barta was asking. If the code is
inadequate at 200 pounds, then your beef is with the engineers
who advised the writing of the code. Overbuilding a floor by 25
percent makes for a nice, stiff floor; overbuilding by 250
percent does not sound rational to me.
Frank Woeste, P.E., responds: The safety
factor is applied not to the design load, but to the lumber and
connections. The safety factor ensures that when loaded, every
piece of lumber and every connection (except for a very small
percentage) will be able to carry the full design load. Because
of the variability in lumber and connections made in the field,
most connections and pieces of lumber, when tested, are
actually around 2.5 times as strong as they need to be. But
occasional pieces of lumber and some connections are not as
strong, and that is what the testing is for — to make
sure that the weakest pieces of lumber in a given grade and the
weakest connection will still carry the necessary loads.
If, for example, you wanted to prove that a new residential
floor-joist product meets building-code provisions, the new
joist product would need to carry, on average, a uniform load
of 2.5 x 50 psf (40-psf live load plus 10-psf dead load)
— or 125 psf total. If you were to test a truckload of
ordinary stress-graded 2x10s available in a lumberyard, the
average failure load would be about 3 times the design value of
40-psf live load plus 10 psf dead load, or about 150 psf.
The lumber industry has tested its joist products for decades,
and hundreds of research publications show that the safety
factor for the average tested strength value is around 3.0
— or higher. Deck posts are not exempt from the typical
safety factors used for decades in structural applications. The
use of significant safety factors in structural engineering
explains why buildings rarely if ever collapse.
Last year, I finished construction on a home where we installed
a Siemens surge arrestor in each distribution panel. When the
indicator lights on one of the units didn't work properly, I
mailed the unit to Siemens, along with a brief note and a copy
of my purchase receipt. I just received from Siemens a check
for the full amount I had paid for this replacement surge
protector. Companies like this should be commended when they
stand by their products.
Ponce Inlet, Fla.
We inadvertently ran the wrong photo with our description of
KitchenAid's Double-Drawer refrigerator in the June Kitchen
& Bath section. Here's the correct photo.