Business and Professional Practices
Full Session with Abstracts
Resilience and sustainability are becoming an integral part of how we assess and design our built environment. In response to these growing industry trends, structural engineering education must adapt to provide its students with the appropriate skill set. Specifically, there has been an increase in the number of clients who want to strategize for higher resilience objectives—whether that includes designing new buildings in an area susceptible to natural hazards or understanding the resilience of their existing assets. Clients with large portfolios of properties may require quantitative risk assessments to understand key metrics such as downtime and financial losses. On the other hand, building developers and owners may aim for a cost-optimal design that ensures business continuity even after a major earthquake.
This presentation will discuss examples of such resilience-based projects. One of these will be a seismic risk and resilience strategy for the University of British Columbia, which has more than 300 buildings in their portfolio. This project combined the state of the art in probabilistic seismic risk assessments (FEMA P-58, REDi Downtime Assessment Methodology) with bespoke digital tools, delivering valuable insight about the university’s current risk and key vulnerabilities. The university is now using these quantitative risk measures to move forward with a prioritized action plan. The presentation will also share highlights of projects in which concepts of resilience have been applied to new building design. One such example is the 181 Fremont Tower and how the use of the REDi Rating System expanded the role of the structural engineers. They became multidisciplinary communicators, liaising with architects and MEP engineers to holistically design a resilient building. Through this process, the design team was able to satisfy the owner’s desire to achieve immediate occupancy after the design level earthquake.
To support these types of projects, structural engineers must be well-versed in a variety of topics that extend beyond the traditional curriculum. At the undergraduate level, basic structural design and structural analysis/mechanics should be taught to instill a strong understanding of structural systems and behaviors. Computer programming should be incorporated into these courses to increase familiarity with concepts of automation and data analysis. In particular, digital capabilities can enable previously unachievable project scope (e.g. quantitative assessments at a portfolio level), as it unlocks greater computational power and efficiency. Performance-based engineering can then be introduced at the graduate level, introducing concepts such as hazard, exposure, vulnerability, and risk. As a pre-requisite, probability and statistics should also be taught, as engineers often design for highly uncertain events and calculate risk in a probabilistic manner. Lastly, electives can be designed to encourage multidisciplinary, accessible communication of highly technical content. Courses or seminars in data visualization techniques, public speaking, and community engagement could serve this purpose. Adopting these curricular changes will not only equip structural engineers with the skills needed on resilience-based design and assessment projects, but also enable them to communicate the importance of sustainability and resilience to various stakeholders and influence larger conversations about the built environment.