Shopping for Answers = Bad Practice for Architects

Code interpretations are not like hats; you don’t keep trying them on until you find one that looks good and fits….wait, maybe they are like hats.  Sometimes you can only wear one hat.  Literally, not metaphorically, like a hard hat.  OSHA says you must wear a hard hat. The DOT says you must wear a motorcycle helmet.   Code Interpretations are definitely not like swimsuits.

If one suit is too tight, try a bigger one.  If the color doesn’t match your argyles, keep digging through the bin until you find something more festive.   And it’s ok to get a second opinion.  While your significant other may say, “Looks great! Are we swimming at night?” your best friend might say, “You look like a dime store mannequin.”  You get my point.

Back to the subject.  Code Interpretations are like Hats.

To put this in a less sartorial way…

A gentleman wandered into my office seeking an accessibility review of his proposed two-story office building.  (This review is required by the State for all commercial projects with a construction cost greater than $50k.)  I only needed a few minutes to determine that the design was not even close to complying with the Texas Accessibility Standards.  Several doors did not have proper maneuvering clearance, one of the exits was not accessible and they had specified a platform lift in lieu of a full passenger elevator.  I briefly explained the violations, but the owner insisted that his designer knew about all of the ADA rules.  He then left with the plans and took them to a more agreeable Registered Accessibility Specialist.  He proceeded without heeding my warnings and now has a building that does not comply.  He shopped for the answer that suited him, not the correct answer. But he’s a lawyer, so he’ll probably console himself by drinking Laphroaig in his walk-in humidor.

I’ve heard this referred to as cognitive dissonance.  It’s what allows us to ignore the worst about a favored political candidate and see only the positive or the opposite for the other candidate.

When researching building codes, we have the tendency to only read until we get the answer we want.  But the codes have so many variables that if you stop reading, you will probably miss the section that turns the answer on it’s head.

Very little of what I do is interpretation.  When challenged, I will always cite the specific code and section number or I will explain that it is based simply on my interpretation.  If you get an interpretation that you don’t like, don’t simply ignore it in favor of the agreeable interpretation, especially if the interpretation you like is not factually supported.


One Response to Shopping for Answers = Bad Practice for Architects

  1. Jen Mathis says:

    Oooh. Don’t even get me started on this.

    THIS is one of the reasons I’m in Amsterdam- because I try very hard to follow the code AS WRITTEN, but, the Canadians don’t want to.

    I can’t hang with that.

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