On June 13, 2021 Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors approved a motion regarding the assessment and safety of high-rise buildings in their jurisdiction. The motion directs the Department of Public Works (DPW) to take six actions; with Actions 3 and 4 having a direct impact on the practice of structural engineering.
Action 4 directs a study of the “feasibility of requiring a certification inspection program for all similar type (high-rise) buildings in the unincorporated Los Angeles County area”. We understand a “certification inspection program” to involve engineering assessments beyond the normal scope of routine maintenance inspections.
Over the past two months SEAOSC has had the opportunity to collaborate with DPW as the department prepares a formal response to the motion. Our members prepared and presented case studies that helped to illustrate the history and rarity of building failures under modern building codes. Our Safer Cities Advisory Group also created and distributed a survey to help DPW understand the current process used by Structural Engineers to assess existing buildings. (You can read more about the survey findings here.)
During our weekly meetings with DPW, SEAOSC was asked that we utilize our contacts and connections across the state as we consider the motion - which we were able to do through the support of SEAOC. Understanding that multiple California jurisdictions are contemplating similar questions to those posed in Los Angeles County, SEAOC convened an ad hoc committee of members from across the state to provide insight and perspective on this topic. On October 13, 2021 SEAOSC, together with SEAOC, provided a formal position statement to DPW. Some key themes of the statement include:
For buildings with reported or known deficiencies, we encourage the County to achieve their objects using existing regulations to the extent possible. Relevant existing regulations include the CEBC (which requires the abatement of unsafe and dangerous buildings), the California Health and Safety Code, and the International Property Maintenance Code.
At present, we find that a new program of mandatory engineering assessments would be premature, and possibly counter-productive:
Without an inventory, and while the causes of the Champlain Towers South collapse are still under investigation, there is no equitable or reliable definition of "similar type (high-rise) buildings."
Without an extreme event like an earthquake, the sudden collapse of an occupied, maintained building in California is rare. We have no data that indicates mandatory “certification” prevents collapse.
The County can develop outreach materials to remind building owners of their responsibility to maintain their buildings, to inform them of the resources available through DPW, and to explain the applicable existing codes, regulations, and legal precedents.
We are expecting that DPW will be reporting to the Board of Supervisors in November, and will share additional information as it becomes available.
I would like to extend my gratitude to SEAOSC members Wayne Chang, Susan Dowty, Daniel Zepeda, Patti Harburg-Petrich, and our entire Safer Cities Advisory Group for their efforts in responding to this call in a timely fashion. It is our community of passionate engineers that positions SEAOSC as a resource to our community leaders. If advocacy, policy, and legislation is something that interests you, I would encourage you to check out the next scheduled Legislative Action Committee meeting.
With that, I wish you all a wonderful November, and look forward to seeing you at our ‘Structured Connections’ membership meeting on November 3rd.
To aid the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works in responding to the Board of Supervisors’ approved motion of July 13, 2021: Assessing the Safety of High-Rise Buildings In Los Angeles County, SEAOSC’s Safer Cities Advisory group distributed a survey to understand the current process used by Structural Engineers to assess existing buildings. Licensed PE and SE members were asked to respond based on recent experiences conducting condition assessments of existing buildings five or more stories in height. The survey included a series of questions with two scenarios: where no structural failure is observed and when a failure occurs. Ninety (90) SEAOSC/SEAOC Members responded, and the majority of respondents practice in Southern California (78%).
A key finding from the survey reported that due diligence for a transaction (real estate, insurance, etc) or a broader evaluation due to a voluntary upgrade or mandatory ordinance-related upgrade are reasons why Condition Assessments are frequently performed. The survey also concluded that Condition Assessments were rarely performed due to specific failure or concerned occupant.
In the scenario where assessments are not due to an observed failure, most of the survey participants noted that they look for deterioration or damage when performing condition assessments. The most common deficiency observed in this scenario is concrete deterioration; however, steel deterioration and design deficiencies were also reported. Furthermore, nearly all respondents reported performing a job walk and review of as-built documentation as part of the condition assessment scope. 92% of respondents also reported prioritizing their findings, with life safety being the overwhelming top priority.
In the scenario where assessments are due to observed failure, the vast majority of respondents reported looking for the cause of damage, checking for conformance with as-build plans, and looking for deterioration when performing condition assessments after a failure. Reported deficiencies from assessments due to observed failure were similar to the previous scenario with concrete deterioration as the most common deficiency observed. However, failure of foundations is reported more frequently in this scenario. In line with the previous scenario, nearly all respondents (96%) reported performing a job walk and review of as-built documentation as part of the condition assessment scope. The majority of respondents prioritized their findings and life safety was again the top priority. Finally, many respondents reported that they will notify the jurisdiction if there are life safety issues or if issues are not addressed in a timely manner.
SEAOSC thanks those who participated in the survey. We value your time and input on this matter.
Over the past several months, SEAOSC members have been discussing the Los Angeles City Council’s proposed expansion of Fire District 1. On October 18, SEAOSC formally responded to Council President Nury Martinez and the LA City Council stating that SEAOSC will not be taking a position on the expansion of Fire District 1.
The current Fire District 1 is composed of dense, urban areas in the City. Within its boundaries, additional fire life safety regulations are required for new construction and additions. Fire District 1 limits the type of construction as defined in the California Building Code (CBC) to Types I, II and III, prohibits Types IV and V construction, and provides for additional fire life safety requirements. Fire District 1 is a building code provision found in Chapter 9, Article 1, Division 72 of the LAMC (Section 91.7201.1).
Councilmember Bob Blumenfield and Councilmember Monica Rodriguez made a motion on June 5, 2019 to expand Fire District 1 to include all areas within the City covered by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s Very High Fire Severity Zone and City’s High Wind Velocity Zone as well as high density population centers with a population density of at least 5,000 residents per square mile. The proposal was brought to SEAOSC’s attention in March 2021. At that time, the SEAOSC Board and SEAOSC Committees began discussing a response.
In August 2021, SEAOSC representatives had the opportunity to meet with John Popoch, Deputy Chief of Staff to Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield. This interaction set the stage for collaboration with the Councilman on this and future topics. Mr. Popoch explained the public safety intent behind Councilmember Blumenfeld’s proposal and invited SEAOSC to provide comments and recommendations.
This is an interesting issue with diverse perspectives from our members. We discussed many different matters like the vulnerability of existing buildings, sustainability implications, the cost of various construction types, other hazards like earthquakes, and the importance of allowing structural engineers to make decisions on appropriate structural systems and materials. Many committees provided volunteers who participated in the discussion and contributed to SEAOSC’s response, including Seismology & Hazards, Codes & Standards, Wood, Concrete, Steel, Existing Buildings, Sustainability, and Communications. Thank you all, your contributions were extremely valuable.
Our members assess public risk and design to ensure safety. Department of Building and Safety issued a report on May 27, 2021 in response to the proposed expansion which states that 4.72% of “Building fire” incidents in 2015-2020 in Los Angeles occurred in Fire District 1, however Fire District 1 encompasses less than 1.5% of parcels citywide. This caused us to examine the question: Is Fire District 1 a tool that is making our city safer? There does not appear to be evidence to demonstrate that Fire District 1 has improved public safety in the past or that its expansion will lead to greater safety. In addition, we recognize that our current building codes are robust and effective. Therefore, while SEAOSC supports efforts to increase public safety, we were not able to take a position on this issue.
On October 6, 2021, more than 100 SEAOSC members gathered together for our first member meeting of 2021 for the annual Committee Showcase and Member Meeting. Attendees came from as far away as San Diego and San Luis Obispo to enjoy a clear night outdoors in LA’s South Bay. They all came with a clear purpose: to reconnect, become more engaged in the Association, make new connections, and to have fun.
Each of SEAOSC’s 15 committees were present to talk one-on-one about their important work and invite new members to join in their work. Nearly every attendee signed up for at least one committee!
This event set a new standard for post-pandemic SEAOSC activities: innovative, member-centric events. This year, the Annual Committee Showcase featured 15 carnival-style games, burgers and fries from The Habit Burger truck, and two autumn-themed beers on tap for a memorable and fun evening. Games of chance brought laughs and prizes for attendees including past board presidents, long-time members, and new members alike.
And besides the winners of the various games, the association came out a winner as the attendees responded with: “What a great event.” “This was so much fun!” “Can’t wait for the next one!”
SEAOSC is taking the approach that if we’re going to be together, we need to make it meaningful for our members. Plan to join us at our next member meeting: our first Structured Connections happy hour event at Los Angeles Union Station on November 3, 2021.
Since the 2020 SEAOC convention’s forum on diversity, equity, and inclusion, SEAOSC (along with SEAOC and each of the other three Member Organizations) has made a concerted effort to incorporate this important work into the daily functions of the Association. At this year’s SEAOC Convention, the final day’s plenary session consisted of a panel of representatives describing the efforts by each of the MO’s. Lorena Arce, Co-Chair of SEAOSC’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, provided the update for SEAOSC and explained the committee’s efforts. As a panelist, Lorena answered some key questions to highlight this important work of the Association...
Who at SEAOSC is leading the diversity initiatives?
It is important to say that the Executive Board has been instrumental in this effort. Also, our Women in Structural Engineering Committee has been working toward equity in the workplace for several years now. Through their activities, they empower our members and educate firm leaders on the issues that concern women in the workplace. The Diversity and Inclusivity Committee was formed in June of 2020 to expand the diversity efforts for the Association. We didn’t plan it, but the D&I Committee is composed of board members, and liaisons to WiSE, YMC, Communications, and other committees. I think this presents a unique opportunity to interweave diversity efforts into the Association.
How did the D&I committee come about?
D&I began as an ad Hoc committee empowered by Ken O’Dell toward the end of his term. Matt Barnard, the incoming president for SEAOSC, quickly recognized a need for us to be a standing-alone committee. We met weekly for an entire year! There had been a lot of discussions, and we had to strip down the discussion to the very definition of diversity. We wanted to develop a strategy and execution plan that would be sustainable. We had to understand and manage our resources ranging from funds to volunteers to contacts, etc. There are a lot of great ideas -- we had to ask ourselves: what can we accomplish in a short amount of time that could be most impactful, while continuing to work toward the intermediary and long-term goals?
How did you get involved and were you prepared to take on a role like this?
Personally, I just dove in…I think all of us did. Also, personally, I was completely unprepared. We had to assess where we as a community stand…and so naturally, we looked atSEAONC SE3 and atNCSEA. I started to attend meetings to see what others are doing. It was frustrating at times because some groups were racing ahead with their programs doing an amazing job and I wanted us to move that quickly too. I also looked elsewhere; outside of the structural engineering profession. I found that a lot of the engineering professions (civil, transportation, and electrical) find themselves in the same situation as us: wanting to do more to affect change in our community. We aren’t alone in this movement. We are only getting started and the beauty of this Association is that you can help carry the torch forward by getting involved.
How are you supporting firms on their D&I journey?
To reiterate, the work that WiSE has been doing and planned out for the upcoming year is part of the answer; because their efforts to improve women’s experience as a structural engineer inherently improves diversity within the firms. At the D&I committee, we noticed how a lot of firms started to develop their own initiatives, in-house D&I committees, social media posts, etc. We want to create a platform for these firms to come together and collaborate with one another. We also recognize that a lot of our members come from small firms that may not have the resources to develop their own programs, so we want to make sure that those firms can lean on the association. And along the lines of recognition, upon direction from our Board, we are developing a Diversity and Inclusivity Award for firms that demonstrate an exemplary commitment to improving diversity within their company-more details to come!
As part of your student outreach, which students will you reach out to and how do you plan on doing so?
We want all students to know of our profession, right? With our limited resources, we analyzed at the student’s journey from kindergarten through post-grad hoping to pin-point those pivotal stages where they might steer their interests towards structural engineering. We also recognized that there are a lot of organizations and programs out there focused on STEM fields and minorities. They have been doing this for many years, quite well. We researched these to find out which ones would make the most sense for us to work with given our current resources. As a starting point, we identified high-school and early college as optimal ages to target. We are developing partnerships with ACE Mentoring, Boys and Girls Club of Southern California, and local NSBE chapters. Our goal is to create a program that minimizes the effort by our volunteers but maximizes their impact in a fun and rewarding way.
What do you mean by SEAOSC Stories?
With such an emphasis on lack of diversity, we want to recognize that we do have some diversity in our Association; certainly more than there has been in the past. Our membership includes women, persons of multi-national backgrounds, LGBTQ community, age, religion, etc. We wondered why we just don’t celebrate it enough or in a way that could make a difference. Through this initiative, we are telling the stories of our members and their achievements. We want to shine the light on the individual’s journey, challenges, and successes. Also, why stop at people? We also want to celebrate the diversity that exists in our firms and our projects. We want people both within and outside of our profession to update their image of the structural engineer and the profession.
How do you present SEAOSC Stories?
We want to create content for people to connect with our profession. Understanding that people receive information thru various mediums, we selected newsletter articles, social media, and films to start. We will be relying a lot on WiSE and Younger Member committees to help identify folks or projects to profile. We actually want to hear from the membership at large. In fact, we are releasing a 5-part web series of short films called Something from Nothing. The trailer for this web series premiered the convention. You can help by liking and sharing content, nominating members or projects to highlight, and by getting involved with our committee!
What specifically can your members expect for the upcoming year?
Well, WiSE has some exciting plans this year. They’re programming includes the launch a Mentorship program, modeled after SEAONC SE3’s long-term mentorship program. They will roll it out initially to the WiSE, D&I, and YMCs as a pilot program, with the intention of expanding it to the rest of the membership. Secondly, they are working towards a Business Management program aimed to support professionals interested in improving their skills around hiring and employee retention, business development, and project management. From the D&I committee, we are planning on ACE Mentorship recruitment events, speaker engagements for NSBE and Boys & Girls Club, recognition of our first ever Diversity and Inclusivity Award, and more SEAOSC Stories.
It was wonderful to see our California Structural Engineering community come together last month in San Diego for the annual SEAOC Convention. Thank you and congratulations to all those volunteers who planned, presented and were recognized during the few days together. A special congratulations goes out to our Southern California members who’s projects received recognition for their Excellence in Structural Engineering:
Existing Structures, Award of Merit: UCLA Pritzker Hall Seismic Renovation, KPFF
Existing Structures, Award of Excellence: Essex Fox Plaza Tower, Saiful Bouquet
New Non-Building Structures, Award of Merit: Arroyo Bridge, SGH
New Non-Building Structures, Award of Excellence: Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement, ARUP
New Building Structures, Award of Merit: Long Beach Civic Center City Hall and Port Headquarters, SOM
New Building Structures, Award of Merit: UCLA Margo Leavin Graduate Art Studio, SGH
I would also like to extend another round of congratulations to SEAOSC member Michelle Kam-Biron for her induction into the SEAOC College of Fellows. Established in 1994, The SEAOC College of Fellows was established to honor esteemed members of our community who have provided distinguished service to the association and made outstanding contributions in the field of structural engineering. Michelle has been a leader, mentor, teacher, advocate, and so much more here in Southern California. It is wonderful to see her recognized on the state stage for her contributions.
This year, the convention gave me the opportunity to reflect on my membership and participation in SEAOSC. I was first introduced to the association as an active member of the student chapter at Cal Poly, SLO. I was drawn back to the association early in my career, finding it a valued and trusted source for technical information. What keeps me engaged at this stage is the people. Although the technical content of the convention was indeed extraordinary, the highlight of the event for me was the connection with colleagues. The one-on-one conversations - something we are not always able to carve out time for in our overflowing schedules - were powerful moments of collaboration and inspiration: glimpses into the different paths each of us have traveled in our careers, the pride we have in the work that we do, and the visions we have for the future. It is those conversations that sent me home with a renewed excitement for the future of the profession.
I am looking forward to more of those conversations this Wednesday, as our SEAOSC community comes together for an outdoor Committee Showcase. If you haven’t already signed up, I encourage you to join us in Gardena from 5:30pm - 7:30pm and challenge yourself to make a new connection.
Kelsey Anne Parolini, S.E.
SEAOSC President, 2021-22
Notes from the Building Codes & Standards Committee: IBC 2024 Call for Code Changes Proposals
The SEAOSC Codes and Standards Committee provides information on various code development processes, including the I-Codes, ASCE 7, ACI, AISC, AISI, AWC, etc. Our building codes are only as good as we, as structural engineers, make them. Get involved with the code development process by sending your code proposals for the endorsement by SEAOC. Here's how...
This month (September 2021), the SEAOSC Codes and Standards Committee is focused on the International Building Code proposed revision status/updates.
The International Code Council is now preparing to accept proposals to the structural provisions of the 2024 International Building Code, 2024 IBC. The SEAOSC Building Code and Standards Committee is collecting code proposals to be shared with SEAOSD, SEAONC, and SEAOCC for the endorsement of SEAOC. Each of the Building Codes and Standards Committees of the four SEAOC member organizations will discuss proposals and form a position of support to be transmitted to the ICC. The deadline for code proposals is January 10, 2022.
The timeline and information on the 2024 IBC development may be found on the ICC web site at https://www.iccsafe.org/products-and-services/i-codes/code-development/current-code-development-cycle.
Send your code proposals to the SEAOSC Building Codes and Standards Committee by simply emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got Milk?... Beef, It's What’s for Dinner…. These are powerful, strategic campaign slogans that not only represent a product but promote an experience.
Thanks to NCSEA (the national association to which we belong), the Structural Engineering industry is embarking on its own campaign. A program designed to promote the value of Structural Engineering and raise awareness for what we do. And the tagline is...
WE SEE ABOVE & BEYOND
Designed to promote Structural Engineering Excellence, the campaign will demonstrate how structural engineers create experiences in our communities - where we work, live, love and play. The campaign is designed to draw a connection between the work we do and the lives of our community members. All advertising and social media posts will drive viewers to the campaign website: www.WeSEEAboveandBeyond.com.
SEAOSC will play an active role in sharing the message materials provided by NCSEA via social media. Together we can increase our reach, so please follow SEAOSC on LinkedIn, Twitter, and/or Facebook. When you see a message that resonates with you, consider sharing it so that our voice will grow stronger.
“The Structural Engineers Association of Southern California will empower its members and advance the Structural Engineering Profession in service to our community” - This is SEAOSC’s mission. A single simple sentence to let the world know what we are all about. Twenty-two strategically crafted words strung together, intended to define the vast types of works we do. It is the five words in service to our community that I would like to focus on today.
For me, “our community” is the neighborhoods, cities, and counties that we live, work, and raise our families in. To be able to serve this community is a powerful thing. That act of service is providing safe buildings for our community members to thrive. That act of service is educating the next generation of engineers, providing new research and technical resources to those already in the field, or developing new products. And that act of service also includes educating and advocating for our neighbors - protecting and improving the housing, economy, and character of those around us. SEAOSC has approached this advocacy recently on multiple fonts:
For nearly a decade, our SEAOSC Safer Cities Program has emphasized the value of strengthening existing buildings as a means of creating safer communities. Our volunteers have worked with a number of Southern California Cities to aid in the development of recent Seismic Retrofit Ordinances. And as recently as August, we once again activated our Safer Cities Advisory Program to support a local jurisdiction. To learn more about the current efforts our members are collaborating on, please join us for the State of SEAOSC address, September 8th.
This past year, SEAOC sponsored state Assembly Bill 1329, fighting to raise design standards above and beyond that of life safety. On behalf of all four California Member Organizations, SEAOC’s Legislative Committee gave us a powerful statewide collective voice on capitol hill. Here in Southern California, we lent support to the effort by connecting with state legislative offices to discuss vulnerabilities in our own backyards. If this type of work is something that peaks your interest, please check out our SEAOSC Legislative Action Committee during the October 6th Committee Showcase. (Although the bill did not make it to the Governor’s desk last week, the amount of effort put forth by the SEAOC committee and chair Ryan Kersting was enormous and much appreciated.)
What does in service to our community look like for you, and how can SEAOSC help you with that vision? As always, share your thoughts and feedback with SEAOSC@SEAOSC.org.
On September 3, 2021, the State of California launched the 45-day public comment period for the Building Standards Commission approved proposals to amend the California Building Code (CBC) by State jurisdictions (DSA, OSHPD, HCD, etc.). The SEAOSC Codes and Standards Committee is asking all members to review these proposals and offer your expertise and input. This can be done by emailing your comments to the Codes and Standards Committee, as it will have more weight if it is included with comments from the Association.
These proposals can be found at 2021 Public comments (ca.gov). You will see one bar for each jurisdiction. For example, if you click “DSA-SS/CC,” you will see the following:
From the options, “Initial Express Terms” are the actual proposals written in legal language. For a better understanding, you may consider reading the “Initial Statement of Reasons” (ISOR) first.
The proposals were written in April, and the Commission decision can be found by clicking “Commission Action Matrix.” The matrix shows most of them approved as written. (Note that those few that were not approved will not advance, and as such, commenting on them is not useful.)
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