Orange County Branch Newsletter
Student Chapter - CSUF Student Team Wins National Structural Engineering Competition
Contributed by: David Naish, Ph.D, P.E., Faculty Advisor
A Cal State Fullerton student team beat out Villanova University and the University of Texas to take first place in the national finals of a structural engineering competition.
The four-member team of civil engineering students won the 2014 Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) Student Structural Design Competition in Boston over spring break with “Independence Tower.”
The team’s proposed building, a 700,000-square-foot tower, is a combination of office and retail spaces to be placed in downtown Los Angeles.
Judges assessed each team’s structure based on the originality and complexity of the design, but they essentially allowed students to build any structure they wanted.
“It’s got to be something that incorporates some good thought,” said team member Jeffrey Addison. “A big part of it is innovative design. They want to see something unique about it, and I think that’s what makes it stand out among the many submissions they get.”
The students designed Independence Tower during a course focusing on designing high-rise structures in the fall 2013 semester.
Initially, the course focused on the fundamentals of high-rise buildings–explaining how they stand and why they fall, Addison said. However, the majority of class time was dedicated to a major group project, which included Independence Tower.
David Naish, Ph.D., an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, split the students into groups of about four members. Naish liked the Independence Tower presentation, so he encouraged his students to submit it to the design competition.
Only one team per school is allowed to enter, but few other students showed interest, so the group was free to submit its own presentation without significant competition.
That meant the team had to pare the 120-page report they submitted to Naish down to 15 pages in order to conform with SEI guidelines, Addison said. The members took some time off for their family and friends, but from about Dec. 26 to the deadline on Jan. 3, they were meeting at school and spending as much time as possible revising their report.
With the hectic submission process behind them, the judges set to work on narrowing the field down to three finalists, and the CSUF team was one of them. They were invited to the conference in Boston where they presented their structure in greater detail for 20 minutes and participated in research presentations and other events.
Due to its hypothetical location in the heart of Los Angeles, earthquake safety became a primary concern for the team.
The governing design factor for structural engineers designing buildings is usually wind or earthquakes, and in Southern California, earthquakes are almost always the priority, Addison said.
For engineers, the primary goals include making the building stiff enough to withstand smaller earthquakes and, should a severe earthquake strike, designing the building to fail in a way that it does not completely collapse and helps give occupants time to safely escape.
“(We design the building so hopefully) if it does fail, it fails in a way that ensures survival,” Addison said.