How did you become interested in the seismic retrofitting of buildings?
Both my father and one of my grandfathers were contractors and the other grandfather was a developer. Basically, I grew up in the A/E/C Industry! I was strong in math and science, so engineering seemed like a great fit for my interests. When I attended California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo’s Architectural Engineering program, I took a seismic retrofit elective and I really enjoyed it. The problems are unique for each building and more challenging for a structural engineer. More engineering judgement and creativity come into play with retrofitting.
What was the most challenging retrofit project that you have encountered?
We did an Immediate Occupancy seismic upgrade for a hard drive manufacturing plant. Because of the value of the plant’s operations, the manufacturer decided the investment of seismically retrofitting the building as an essential facility was well worth the small additional cost of construction. Almost the entire building was a clean room environment making an interior retrofit virtually impossible. Our solution was to build an exoskeleton support structure around the building. It was also essential to maintain strict procedures to not compromise the clean room environment when we had to make any penetrations into the building. Any crane work could only be scheduled during plant shutdowns which occurred about every six months over one weekend. Work was scheduled around the clock and a lot of tolerance had to be built in to our design to accommodate the actual field conditions of the existing building. Dimensions shown on existing as-built drawings are never completely accurate. If the plant was shut down due to construction for any additional time, the loss of production would have been millions of dollars per day. Our team made sure that this did not happen!
As the San Diego Office Director, what other types of projects are you retrofitting?
Although we have several new construction projects in the office, a lot of what we do involves the seismic retrofit of existing buildings, especially hospital buildings. When a disaster occurs, we want to make sure that our region's hospitals are safe and functional. It’s too expensive to replace all of the existing hospital facilities and their support buildings, so retrofitting has been a necessary choice for many providers. We are also involved in evaluating government owned buildings that were constructed as far back as the 1930’s and will require seismic retrofitting to ensure their sustained use. One of the most interesting aspects of the seismic retrofit work that we do involves historic buildings, where this work tends to be more about preserving a building's history for posterity versus maintaining the building’s post-earthquake function like a hospital. Seismic resistance and modern detailing were not part of the original design and it takes a lot of care and experience to retrofit these structures while maintaining their historic identity. Degenkolb was proud to provide the seismic retrofit for the National Historic Landmark Hotel del Coronado built in 1888 which is one of San Diego’s most significant buildings.
“Michael was great to work with on a recent seismic evaluation and structural upgrade study that Degenkolb performed for one of our historic buildings. The building presented a host of challenges as it is a registered National Historic Landmark constructed in 1937 with eighteen stories and 800,000 square feet of floor space. Not only was Michael very knowledgeable in his understanding and
application of ASCE41 strengthening requirements, but he also worked well as a strong team member to achieve fitting the
structural upgrade within the restrictions overlaid by the historic
fabric. The proposed result was a phased seismic upgrade that met the program and the historic preservation requirements of the
building. I look forward to working with him again.”
James “Jed” Sampson, PE, SE
General Services Administration
Years at Degenkolb: 11
President 2016-2017, Past-chair of Existing Buildings Committee,Structural Engineers Association of San Diego (SEAOSD)
Chairman 2012-2013, State Existing Buildings Committee, Structural
Engineers Association of California (SEAOC)
Corresponding member, Code Advising Committee,
Existing Building Subcommittee, National Council of Structural
Associate Member, Seismic Rehabilitation Standards Committee, ASCE 41
Member, Design-Build Institute of America
To learn more about seismic retrofitting and other capabilities in our San Diego office, please contact Michael Braund directly at: