I really appreciate the your careful and reasonable approach to an issue the construction industry must face, hopefully sooner than later. This idea might make an interesting panel discussion at the CSI Conference.
Again thanks for your response.
Robert - Thanks for reading the article and for posting a comment here on the blog. Such things are always very appreciated. Your questions is a very intriguing one. I suppose it can be looked at from a couple of different standpoints.
From a standard of care standpoint, the design professional is expected to exercise the same level of skill, care, and professional judgement as other design professionals working in a similar capacity in the same discipline in the same geographic location as the project. Because standard of care cases typically turn on the testimony of expert witnesses, the outcome may well hinge on whether the expert witnesses in a given case believe the design professional should have designed to the code or other relevant design standard, or to something higher. If the typical practice has generally been to design to the building code, then the outcome of a standard of care case might well go in that direction. Of course, it is difficult to opine on a hypothetical situation.
From a practical standpoint and the standpoint of meeting the client's expectations, the matter may, perhaps, be somewhat different. I suppose a prudent design consultant faced with the situation you describe should probably discuss with their client whether or not the project should be designed to the required minimum (such as merely complying with the code or other applicable design standard) or whether to design to a higher standard. Consulting with one's client on such questions strikes me as appropriate because designing to a higher standard means spending more of the project owner's money, so the owner and client (if other than the project owner) should be party to the decision as to whether or not to design to a higher standard.
If the decision is made to design to a higher standard, then the question arises as to just how far beyond the required minimum the design should be. The answer could be something as simple as an arbitrary factor of safety or based on some type of analysis of available climate and environmental data and attempting to extrapolate a meaningful conclusion from it. Exactly how that could or should be done will probably depend on the project, the types of climatological and environmental data considered, design alternatives, the project owner's economics, and possibly other considerations as well. Again, with a hypothetical, it is difficult to attempt to provide a specific answer.
While I am probably not qualified to opine much on how or whether building code requirements might need to be updated because of climate change in certain areas, as a civil engineer, I have certainly had to face similar questions, such as designing for "historic" high lake or river levels, design temperatures for process systems at treatment plants facilities, and similar matters on engineer-led water, wastewater, and storm water projects. Again, you pose a very intriguing and timely question facing the various design professions.
Given the almost total deviation from historic data on temperatures, rain fall, wind events, and almost everything else under the broad heading of "Natural Causes" where does the design professional stand on trying to balance what the energy and building codes (minimal requirements) and what could be coming?
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