Orange County Branch Newsletter

November 2016

Structural Engineering Institute (SEI)

Complementary Angles - ASCE and SEAOSC Invigorate Resilience Independently

By Chad Harden, P.E, S.E.

Recently two separate engineering organizations met coincidently within two days of each, each engagingly focused on resiliency and safety, and SEI was fortunate to be able to attend both.

The first was the ASCE Orange County Branch, History and Heritage (H&H) and Student Night November 17, 2016, held at the Lyon Air Museum in Santa Ana. The event started with a fascinating presentation by H&H Chair Tom Broz.  Amidst riveted, shiny steel fuselages of historic airplanes housed in the industrial air hanger, Tom spoke on the history of The Lyon Air Museum and the Santa Ana Army Air Base (SAAAB).  The SAAAB was one of three Army Air Corps Training Centers constructed in the United State during World War II; both the previous location for the SAAAB and the current Lyon Air Museum (which now houses airplanes and historical articles used for training on the SAAAB), reside within the current Orange County Airport property. The SAAAB was dedicated on July 16, 1996 as an ASCE Orange County Branch Civil Engineering Landmark for a number of reasons, but to name just one of the compelling details – all construction of the approximately 800 building and supporting infrastructure was completed within 14 months of ground breaking!  This is a pace unheard of today.  For more information on the Lyon Air Museum and the Santa Ana Army Air Base, please read Tom’s History and Heritage article in this newsletter! (1)

The event continued with the keynote speaker, ASCE Society President Dr. Norma Jean Mattei, who touched on the need to develop our nations’ infrastructure. In the coming months ASCE will be spotlighting focus on the Envision program ( Comparable to LEED for building projects, Envision is a rating system and best practice resource more suitable for horizontal infrastructure projects (roads, bridges, water infrastructure, etc.) – both from the standpoint of sustainability but also resilience for new projects and maintaining existing projects. And the big takeaway – we need more engineers to innovatively create solutions to existing infrastructure and the infrastructure of tomorrow – and that means stimulating young minds now.  We need to act and change our destiny, which Dr. Mattei supported with a reference from William Jennings Bryan:

"Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice"

William Jennings Bryan (41st United States Secretary of State)

Along those lines, ASCE will be rolling out a Dream Big film event across the nation! (  You can see a sneak preview now on YouTube!

The second event was the SEAOSC Strengthening Our Cities Summit November 18, 2016, held at The Center at Cathedral Plaza in Los Angeles. Dr. Lucy Jones, a seismologist and formerly of the US Geological Survey (USGS) at Caltech. Dr. Jones now heads up the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science & Society (DLJCSS), and supporting the effort and scope of the “2016 Safer Cities Survey” unveiled at the Summit. As an industry, our understanding of the performance of buildings has grown incredibly in response to large, past earthquakes. However, “Nearly every existing building gains little to no benefit from continued code enhancements.” (2)

“Nearly every existing building gains little to no benefit from continued code

enhancements.” - 2016 Safer Cities Survey

According to the Survey, tens of thousands of vulnerable buildings, including unreinforced masonry, soft story and other buildings in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties still require some form of seismic retrofit. Historically, 90% of businesses comply with mandatory retrofit programs, while 20% comply when programs are voluntary – despite the benefits of continued business operation – and more importantly life safety.  The key is to engage businesses and building owners to reach an understanding of the benefits of why a retrofit should be considered, as added by structural engineer and speaker Ken O’Dell of MHP, Inc. However, Dr. Jones was hopeful that for the first time, cities and policy makers are embracing new ways to help homeowners and businesses prepare for the next earthquake, such as the “Resilience By Design” program released by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and the DLJCSS, and Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (CA 46th District) who is working to promote retrofit solutions for businesses.

Figure: Population at Risk, 2016 Safer Cities Survey (2)

Dr. Jones warned, “We have to accomplish life safety… but life safety is more than during an earthquake.” As a profession, and together with cities, policy makers and stakeholders, we have the responsibility to mitigate the inevitable economic and social impacts following an earthquake.  If the buildings housing businesses and infrastructure support fail, the impacted society will be impacted in ways potentially more devastating than the earthquake itself.

There are a number of resources available to homeowners and businesses, including but not limited to the following:

SEAOSC Safer Cities Advisory Board, Back-to-Business programs and Building Re-Occupancy programs (check your local building agency)


In conclusion, it was remarkable to see such champions in both the vertical and horizontal industries, focusing on the various facets of resilience, retrofit, safety, maintenance and preparation. It is clear that as an industry we have a task not unlike that of the engineers and contractors in WWII at the SAAAB, forging ahead with the huge responsibility of supporting growth and infrastructure, but on even grander scale. The audience for this article would, I expect, be those piqued by the keywords of the title – all of you knowledgeable engineers and policy makers.

But knowing the issues as an engineer is not enough. We have to reach out and communicate.  Talk to your representatives, educate those in a position to make change. The time for change is now, the champion to spearhead resilience in infrastructure is each of us – the champion is you. Reach out to ASCE and SEAOSC in areas that align with your expertise, and get involved! You can make real change, I have seen it firsthand.

I want to extend my gratitude to Drew Kirkpatrick, Senior Project Engineer with Thornton Tomasetti in Los Angeles (

for review and contribution to this article, and to SEAOSC for supporting SEI attendance at the Summit.



1. Broz, Tom. Why The Lyon Air Museum. ASCE Orange County Branch Newsletter, [url=][/url]. December, 2016.

2. 2016 Safer Cities Survey. Structural Engineers Association of Southern California (SEAOSC) and the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society. Los Angeles : [url=][/url], 2016. Strengthening Our Cities SEAOSC Summit.