Hello, SEAOSD. This month finds us all at an interesting time, to say the least. In the past weeks COVID-19 has seemed to change our social and economic landscape almost daily. If, a month ago, someone casually mentioned the term ‘social distancing’, most of us would have given them a blank stare. As of today, many of our companies are now preparing for some level of remote work and trying to assess what we hope are limited and short-term impacts of a bear market. On behalf of SEAOSD and our Board, we wish each of you and your families health and prosperity in the coming weeks and months, even among unique circumstances!
Our SEAOSD Board has recently met and set a goal of coming out of this crisis stronger than we enter it. Over the coming weeks we will be actively working with our committees to assess how SEAOSD can adapt and continue to be a valuable resource for the San Diego engineering community even if we are limited to a remote capacity. If you have any suggestions on this front, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
For many years, I worked in an office downtown, directly across the street from the Centre City Building, a historic 14-story tower built in 1927. Don’t hate, at the time it was the tallest building in San Diego! Every time there was an earthquake or even small tremor, all of our engineers would ignore all of our elementary school training and run to the windows to watch the Centre City Building just in case we got some significant shaking. Luckily, we never did, but it underlined the fact that structural engineers have a love/hate relationship with natural disasters. We’re certainly not rooting for destruction, but it’s also pretty rare that we actually get to see our designs put to a real test. As engineers, we spend our entire careers daily predicting, modeling and designing for massive seismic events that may, or may not occur in our lifetimes. It’s easy to be lulled into complacency and forget that it’s a question of when, not if, our structures will be tested in very real ways…even if it’s far in the future.
COVID-19 is a public health emergency, not structural, but I can’t help but see the parallels in how preparation and expertise (or the lack thereof) are factoring into how this situation ultimately plays out. We’ve all been taking a crash course in epidemiology in the last couple weeks. Agencies staying prepared for a pandemic, ready with aggressive and early testing, tracking disease vectors, maintaining hospital capacity to weather spiking infection rates, etc…have never seemed so important. As the public, we’ve been counting on experts to stay hyper-vigilant and ready, even when a novel coronavirus was, like a seismic event, just a model on an intern’s computer at the CDC.
Watching our government’s response, I’ve personally felt a renewed sense of responsibility for us to ‘mind our shop’ as structural engineers. Frankly, the public doesn’t think about us much now, and there are some worrying signs as to how seriously our society is taking seismic risk in general. Building safety and infrastructure are all too often on the back burner. Prop 13 has failed in our recent election, our state has an infrastructure grade of C-, and our national infrastructure grade is a D+. It’s not necessarily the public’s fault, I know I wasn’t thinking about pandemics two months ago. This is our torch to bear. It’s why we exist as SEAOSD.
The public is counting on us, first as engineers (the experts) to get it right, day in and day out, so when our structures do get their test via natural disaster, we’ve protected them. COVID-19 is changing the way I think about my ETABS model this week! But beyond that, they are counting on us as a profession to be persistent, hyper-vigilant, and advocate unabashedly for the kind of preparations we know are needed for our built environment.
As is becoming a recurring theme, I’m crazy proud to be a part of SEAOSD because of the people who share this exact same passion and have already been working hard on the problem. Did you know that EERI in collaboration with SEAOSD just this month released the San Diego Earthquake Planning Scenario? Download it, read it, be vocal about seismic risk to your family, friends, city council members and congress people. Many thanks to our SEAOSD representatives who donated many hours to the planning scenario, most notably, Tony Court!
I also want to highlight our Existing Building Committee (EBC) and introduce our EBC chair, Peter Maloney:
Advocating for seismic safety in our existing buildings stock is what SEAOSD EBC is all about! We’ve been conducting critical surveys of at-risk building types in San Diego and providing best practice guidelines for how the California Existing Building Code impacts design.
In the past few years, several cities in California have begun efforts to address the seismic concerns in their existing building stock. We want to see similar or better measures here in San Diego. These efforts range from URM and wood soft story retrofit ordinances to steel moment frame and non-ductile concrete building retrofit ordinances and span the state from Los Angeles to San Francisco. For these cities, the first step to addressing these concerns has been to understand the full extent of the problem through an inventory. Over the last year the SEAOSD EBC has focused on inventorying local San Diego buildings to better understand San Diego's vulnerable building stock. We have completed the first phase of this inventory (downtown+) and have the opportunity for several studies and additional inventory efforts to further this effort. This inventory will aid San Diego policy makers with the data they need to make policy recommendations regarding the safety of our existing buildings.
We need help in this effort, so come join the committee and get involved! Please reach out to me at [email protected], or flag me down at one of our local SEAOSD meetings for details. Thanks!
Okay, SEAOSD, even though we don’t have a meeting this month, we still have work to do! Best to you and yours-
Casey Whitsett, S.E.
Leonardo Contreras - Affiliate
Sally Almufti – Student
Here are the open positions on the Board:
and two board positions
If you have interest in being a speaker at the 2020 Convention, please email [email protected] soon!
The SEAOSD chapter will be giving two Speaker Stipends of $1000 each to the abstracts that are approved. Once your abstract is approved please notify SEAOSD to request the stipend.
We look forward to sponsoring some of our local speakers.
Classified Job Listing
“Share your passion for Structural Engineering with budding college students! Sign up to be a mentor for a day and introduce your mentee to the world of structural engineering. Take part in an opportunity to show the next generation of structural engineers the different aspects of this industry and what it entails. Truss us. It’ll be fun!”
Rail to Pedestrian Bridge Conversion
The conversion of an old rail bridge into a pedestrian bridge was undertaken as part of a City redevelopment plan in Gainesville, GA. Retaining walls, staircases and gathering areas had already been added when a major tropical storm hit, and undermined the foundation of one of the newly constructed landing/gathering areas. The heavy rains eroded a large area of bearing soil. The settlement caused walls to become misaligned, creating several large stress fractures. The City needed a quick and permanent solution before the entire structure was lost. Click here for Engineering Details