August President's Message

I was recently at a social event and met up with a long standing friend and colleague structural engineer.  We both actually passed the SE exam together more years ago than either of us would probably like to remember or certainly discuss here.  Let’s just say in our early careers, we both worked together and separately on large commercial and institutional projects while employed by sizable structural design firms here in San Francisco.

In her work today, however, she deals almost exclusively with the structural design relating to single-family residences.  She also knows and is aware of numerous other Civil and Structural engineers who work almost exclusively on single-family residences.  We then went on to discuss the long standing very sad fact that many, if not most, of these practitioners seem to see no real value in being members of SEAONC.  Some years back, while making my “Board Calls” to members that had not renewed their memberships, I received similar feedback.  Many felt as though we only cater to the more urban structural engineering practice that deals more with larger commercial, institutional, or health care projects and the like.

In doing a bit of research this morning, it seems that single-family residential construction constitutes approximately 25% to 30% of all construction dollars spent across the United States in any given year.  That also includes infrastructure, power and transportation projects as well.  This seems to me to be a large portion of the total structural engineering profession we might be missing in our membership.

Over the years, and of late, I have seen some really great work on the part of our committees that has addressed various aspects of designing in wood and other type-V framing materials.  This has been particularly strong in the area of retrofitting older homes.  So, maybe this is a matter of better communicating the work we are doing. Or, maybe it requires additional activity on our part.  I for one, and hopefully some of you who are reading this might agree, that the smaller practices out there doing single-family residential work and small commercial work for that matter, deserve to have a great, relevant, Structural Engineers Association to support them in the work they do as well.

I’m now going to open this up for your ideas and commentary.  If you should have thoughts on this topic, please feel free to communicate them to me at

Until next time,