Insecurity at work

Our house stands on stilts.  Mostly.  The back of the house sits on large concrete-merged-with-the-rock anchors but everything forward is on a log leg – shorter or longer as the house projects over the slope we are built on.  I am not an engineer so I planned on putting down the 12 posts required by our design but then, after looking at that plan, decided to double it.  And, well, insecurity being the true mother of invention, we actually have 31 posts holding up the house plus the three concrete anchors.  And, of course, most of that is cross-braced.  There are more posts if you include the surrounding deck.

Did I mention my insecurity?

Last night our area experienced a 6.6 earthquake.  People in Kamloops felt it.  So did people in Vancouver.  We didn’t.  At 8:00 pm we were sitting upstairs and did not notice a thing.  Even Fiddich didn’t bark!

I feel good about that.

Engineering, eh?  I recall talking to an engineer once (they are not easy to engage at a social level as a rule) and asking about what makes them tick and how good are they given that things keep falling down anyway? “Well, we are pretty good, I think.  We do the math.  We do structural tests.  We measure forces.  We approach the whole exercise pretty scientifically and then, when we have all the information we need we decide the specifications required.  Then, when we have all that, we double it!” 

“What?!  You mean you do all the science and then – what the hell – you just double it?”

“Yeah.  Pretty standard.  Do the work and double it.” 

So, when we were building, I figured I could do that.  I’d put in all the logs I thought seemed logical and then I doubled it.  Then I doubled that.  And then I added a few more.  How hard can this kind of engineering be?

“Dave, what’s the point?”  Well, I am likely to get a few slings and arrows over this but here goes: When in doubt about your construction, overbuild.  Since we were deeply in doubt when we started we simply added more mass to everything.  True, it’s more work and more materials but it was cheaper, faster and more personal than hiring an engineer. And, anyway, they are so hard to talk to, ya know?

I figure the house weighs somewhere between 60 and 80,000 pounds.  I have no real idea, of course, but I carried every piece of it at least five times so I’ll go with that figure.  I also figure that one of the logs, two at the most, can hold up 60,000 pounds so 31 will definitely do the job.

Overcompensation or just conservative engineering?   And there is no question that I am easier to talk to.  Call me.


6 thoughts on “Insecurity at work

  1. Great to know you are safe & sound, and feel nothing about the earthquake! I was shocked by the prompt news last night. You did the right thing, ‘double it’! 😉


  2. Also easy to “just double it” when your daughter and wife are doing the rock drilling….. SURE why not throw a few more posts up?!?! It’s easy as pie!


    • Yes, sweetie. And your mother and I appreciate your efforts. Did I mention that we have a new pile of logs at the bottom of the hill all with your name on it? Next visit, perhaps? You make it look so easy………..


  3. I remember talking to an Engineer at an earthquake conference in Vancouver about 15 years ago. I asked him how they decide what designs are safer in an earthquake vs unsafe.
    His answer,” After an earthquake, we look at which buildings fail. Why they failed, and then we strengthen the area that failed……”

    All those years in university and they “double up” on their designs. Classic.
    A child building a treehouse figured that out at 10 years old.

    Now if we could only find a way for them to “half” their arrogance………


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