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News: SEAOC News

Regional Update from the Southern California Member Organization (SEAOSC)

Monday, March 13, 2017  

By Jeff Ellis, S.E., SECB, SEAOSC President

It’s certainly an exciting time to be an engineer and the Structural Engineers Association of Southern California has had quite a year so far since July 2016! There have been many great advances in design, construction and technology which continue to help evolve and propel our profession and our industry forward in many positive ways. Also the public and policy-makers are engaging engineers more to help them better understand not only how to make their communities safer, but also how to make them more resilient so they may recover from a major disaster more quickly. Indeed, several Southern California communities have engaged SEAOSC and have either passed mandatory retrofit ordinances or are close to doing so to better protect the lives of their citizens. Momentum!

We have a talented, hard working and passionate team on the Board this year, shown in our SEAOSC July/August newsletter. It’s been a pleasure to work alongside them in service to our association. Also I have the honor to serve with insightful and experienced structural engineers on our Board Executive Committee; President-Elect Bob Lyons, SE, of Risha Engineering, Treasurer Mehran Pourzanjani, SE, of Saiful Bouquet, and Past President Michelle Kam-Biron, SE, of the American Wood Council. Also, our committee chairs are enthusiastic and have been providing great leadership for our committees. Our committees continue to engage in meaningful work to further SEAOSC’s vision and mission with efforts in areas such as advocacy, education, design, professional practice, and codes and standards. Our leaders working in these areas include Sam Mengelkoch, SE, of Structural Focus who chairs our Image & PR Committee helping with advocacy efforts; Dan Fox, SE, of MHP who chairs our Education Committee with useful insight by Board Director Committee Contact Lorena Arce, PE, of AISC; Larry Kaprielian, SE, of KNA who chairs our Professional Practices Committee; and Michael Ciortea, SE, of DSA and Colin Kumabe, SE, retired and previously with LADBS, are co-chairs of our Building Codes and Standards Committee. 

It’s been a very good and productive year. We hired a new association management company Co-Pilots, who have been doing a great job, and our annual August golf tournament was one of the more successful ones we’ve had in years. We launched our monthly dinner meetings with the well attended Fall Welcome Event in September, where committees engaged the membership and the speaker presented on an idea for a building code change to help reduce recovery time after an earthquake. We collaborated with the California Building Officials (CALBO) on a community resilience webinar and our sold out November dinner meeting provided a very engaging panel discussion on the L.A. retrofit ordinance. This year’s annual two-day Strengthening Our Cities Summit in downtown Los Angeles in November was a great success, with important associated outreach initiatives such as the pioneering Safer Cities Survey and the Safer Cities Advisory Program. We wrapped up our 2016 events with the always fun Holiday Event, held at Parker’s Lighthouse overlooking the Queen Mary in Long Beach. It was a very enjoyable time of camaraderie and holiday spirit. Pictured on the left, LADBS Assistant Deputy Superintendent Shahen Akelyan, SEAOSC Building Codes & Standards Committee Co-Chair Colin Kumabe, and LADBS General Manager Frank Bush at the SEAOSC Fall Welcome Event. 

It’s hard to believe that this was the 6th year of the Strengthening Our Cities Summit. It has served as an important educational and outreach event and it’s great to see the forum it provides for various community stakeholders to join us for important discussions on how to make our communities safer, stronger, and more resilient. The Summit’s theme was “Partnership, Performance and Policy” as it’s recognized that well thought out and effective strategies are usually born out of good partnerships, that it’s necessary to identify the goals or performance desired, and that practical and achievable policy can better be developed and implemented with involved stakeholder partners and performance targets.

The first day of the Summit was focused on the technical aspects of building stronger more resilient cities. We heard from experts throughout the day on topics including seismic risk communication, practical applications of performance based design, and the SEAOSC non-ductile concrete (NDC) building and soft, weak and open front (SWOF) wood building seismic retrofit design guides. The second day of the Summit built on the discussions of the first day with outside partners and state and local leaders as we released the Safer Cities Survey, in partnership with the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society. This Survey informs where Southern California communities are with regard to understanding the type and number of vulnerable buildings through an inventory process, the implementation of strategies to mitigate risk, and programs to decrease recovery time, such as a back-to-business program.  I would like to give a big thank you to the Summit Co-Chairs, Annie Kao, PE, of Simpson Strong-Tie and David Williams, SE, of Degenkolb and to the Summit Committee as they worked extremely hard to create another influential event. I’d also like to thank all the speakers, moderators and panelists as they graciously gave of their time and expertise to provide valuable insight and inspiration. Of course, also important to the success of the Summit is the support of our Sponsors, thank you! The 2017 Strengthening Our Cities Summit will be held on November 7th and 8th in downtown L.A. and the committee are already planning another meaningful event. Picture to the right, SEAOSC External Affairs Advisor John Bwarie with Summit Co-Chairs Annie Kao and David Williams at the 2016 SEAOSC Strengthening Our Cities Summit.  

Additionally, enough cannot be said of the tremendous effort that has been given in the development of the two SEAOSC design guides for the L.A. NDC and SWOF buildings seismic retrofit ordinance. This effort was lead by SEAOSC Director Josh Gebelein, SE, of Brandow & Johnston, SEAOSC Existing Buildings Committee Chair, Daniel Zepeda, SE, of Degenkolb, Design Guide Assistant Chair Russell McLellan, SE, of Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, and Seismology Committee Chair Jesse Karns, SE, of MiTek. At the March dinner meeting, SEAOSC honored each primary author with a plaque of the cover of the design guide they worked on as well as letters from the SEAOSC Board and the VP of ICC. The following is the verbiage in the SEAOSC Board letter. 

Congratulations to you and everyone who worked on the SEAOSC design guides for the City of Los Angeles mandatory ordinance for earthquake hazard reduction in existing non-ductile concrete buildings and existing soft, weak or open-front wall wood buildings! These design guides represent a tremendous achievement and will be an excellent resource not just for local structural engineers performing designs in accordance with the Los  Angeles retrofit ordinance, but also for engineers and building officials evaluating these building types and for policy makers developing seismic risk mitigation policy. The commitment to the work on the design guide(s) for which you helped author is applauded! Your talent, passion and hard work with the SEAOSC team increases the impact we can make together on the structural engineering profession, our industry and our communities. It’s these efforts to go over and beyond to make a real difference to improve our built environment that distinguish individuals in their career and communities. In recognition of your service for this effort, attached is a framed cover of the design guide for which SEAOSC and you may be very proud. With Much Appreciation.” If you’ve not yet obtained a copy of these important design guides, they’re available on the SEAOSC online store.

Pictured to the left are Design Guide authors from right to left: Henry Burton, Russell McLellan, Josh Gebelein, Jesse Karns, Gabriel Acero, Garrett Hagen, and Daniel Zepeda with SEAOSC President Jeff Ellis. Not in attendance: Andy Alexander, Jonathan Buckalew, David Funk, James Lai, and Benjamin Mohr.

After the holidays, our first dinner meeting of 2017 offered a presentation on the SEAOSC Excellence in Structural Engineering award winning Cal Poly Pomona Student Recreation Center project by LPA. Our Winter Education Program was then held on the last two Fridays in January and provided attendees with important and insightful information on the newly effective 2016 California Building Code as well as on the City of Los Angeles mandatory earthquake hazard reduction ordinance for existing non-ductile concrete buildings and for existing soft, weak and open-front buildings.

The important annual SEAOSC Job Fair & Student Scholarship Award Night on February 1st was well attended and a great success! SEAOSC and the SEAOSC Foundation recognized and rewarded engineering student excellence through scholarships for eight deserving local university students this year. Ashraf Habibullah, SE of CSI provided an impassioned talk about the importance of advocacy for our profession and shared various thoughts of how this might be accomplished. It may be difficult to break out of our engineering silo to try to better engage and communicate effectively with non-engineers, but it’s absolutely imperative to do this for our careers, profession, industry and communities! Engineers are great problem solvers and innovators, but great ideas and solutions may not go far if they are not presented in a consistent, compelling and memorable manner. Photos of the event are posted on our online Event Photo Gallery and photos and names of this year’s scholarship winners are shown on the Foundation 2017 Scholarship Recipients webpage. Pictured to the right, Younger Member Committee Co-Chairs Noya Wang and Maria Mohammed with CSI President Ashraf Habibullah at the SEAOSC Job Fair & Student Scholarship Award Night.

Our Membership Committee’s Women in Structural Engineering Subcommittee, with leadership by SEAOSC Past President Michelle Kam-Biron, SE, Board Director Victoria Wigle, SE, of DPR, and Membership Committee Chair Kerry Regan, PE, of Buehler and Buehler, planned our March dinner meeting and suggested something new; a pre-dinner Mentoring Mixer. This mixer linked younger members with more seasoned members – as well as with a free drink – and new relationships began and engaging discussions followed. It was a resounding success! It’s not only interesting to connect our generations and to network with one another, but it also makes us stronger individually and as an Association. The dinner program was a panel discussion on the important topic of “Work/Life Balance as Structural Engineers” and it was filled with useful insights. There was great dynamic interaction between the panelists and audience, facilitated well by Moderator Vivian Pena, SE, of Simpson Gumpertz & Heger. Our upcoming April 5th dinner meeting will be a discussion on the important topic of “Structural Engineering and Its Risks: Risk Management for All Engineers”, moderated by President-Elect Bob Lyons, SE. The panel will include structural engineers, a member of our Professional Practices Committee, attorneys, and a liability insurance broker. Obviously risk is something we all must deal with in engineering no matter our role.

It’s an exciting time to be a structural engineer with a robust economy and many opportunities to advocate, learn, teach, and advance! I hope you’re an active member of your local SEAOC Member Organization and are engaging as much as you can. Attend the monthly dinner meetings, work on a committee or two, and join in membership activities such as holiday and membership appreciation events. Together, with our diverse talents and expertise, we can work to improve our profession, industry and communities more comprehensively, more quickly and with a louder voice than we could individually. So continue to participate and lend your voice and expertise to SEAOSC so we may have a greater IMPACT together!