In Appreciation: Bob Bachman

Bob Bachman, a Fellow of SEAOC and a man of many other distinctions, has announced his retirement from the seismic codes and standards arena where he has played a leading role for decades. The structural engineering community owes him a major debt of gratitude, which many may not even realize. I want to mention here just three of Bob’s major contributions to our field.

Many of us feel that the 1997 UBC was the very best building code ever produced. The seismic contents of that code would not have undergone the major changes they did, but for the fact that Bob, as SEAOC Seismology Committee chair at the time, was determined and worked tirelessly to make it happen. The IBC by then was slated to replace the UBC. These changes brought the UBC close to the IBC, making eventual transition easier for the user. The most important features of the IBC were adopted; yet the essential character of the UBC was retained.

The non-building structures provisions of the 1997 UBC were minimal. Bob, almost single-handedly, changed that. For years, he kept on reminding the rest of us that engineers design not only buildings, but also non-building structures. He pointed out repeatedly that these structures are different in many ways from building structures and posed different challenges. The content-rich Chapter 15 of today’s ASCE 7 bears Bob’s stamp all over it.

Seismic design provisions of U.S. model codes used to be adopted from the SEAOC Blue Book and subsequently from the NEHRP Provisions, with ASCE 7 playing little or no role at all. This changed in a big way with the adoption of ACE 7-05 by the 2006 IBC. The Seismic Subcommittee of ASCE 7-05 was chaired by Bob Bachman. The Seismic Subcommittee of ACE 7-02 consisted of just two individuals. Bob, as a precondition for accepting subcommittee chairmanship, told ASCE that subcommittee membership had to be opened up, offering representation to all stake-holder groups, thereby securing their buy-in. ASCE, to their credit, agreed. Bob spent endless hours developing and getting consensus approval of subcommittee operating rules and procedures. The broadly based membership and agreed-upon operating rules have made the ACE 7 Seismic Subcommittee the forum that everybody utilizes to shape and reshape the seismic design provisions of ASCE 7, which are then adopted with little or no modification by the IBC. Today’s ASCE 7 Seismic Subcommittee is Bob Bachman’s legacy.

Although definitely not in his league, I have worked alongside Bob Bachman in some of the same forums for many years, watching in admiration as he “made things happen” (his favorite phrase). I for one will miss him a lot; it won’t be the same without him.

- S. K. Ghosh

On behalf of SEAOC I would like to second the appreciation expressed by S.K. Ghosh for Bob’s many years and many significant contributions, and thank S.K. for providing this well-expressed reminder. 

- Kelly Cobeen, SEAOC Board President

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