Waters in the storm…into the house they’re borne

Chapter 1:  Waters from the Storm

The first sign of trouble at the condominium building appeared in late October 2021. Residents in the third and fourth floor units noticed water leaking from their living room ceilings. More leaks appeared in the common areas below a fifth-floor balcony.

The condo building was relatively new, finished in 2018, and there had been no reports of previous leaks into the building. The property manager had a contractor come out to investigate and repair the damage. As the contractor began to remove damaged finishes, more moisture was discovered in the walls and ceilings. Repairs were made, but several months later, in December, more leaks appeared.

A few miles away at a large single-family home, a family of four had recently returned from an extended trip out of the country. It was just before Christmas and, during a storm, the family noticed water dripping from the ceilings in the living room and kitchen. Additional leaks would be discovered in the guest room, recreation room, and garage. The family reported no prior leaks in the home. The custom two-story home was built in 1982 and had stone walls, Mediterranean-inspired architectural elements, arched windows, curved ceilings, hardwood floors, and decorative paintings over Venetian plaster walls.

Across the Bay in an iconic three-story Victorian home, the homeowners noticed a sudden water leak in their garage after a storm in late December. The water flowed openly across their garage floor and out towards the street. When a reconstruction contractor came to the home to repair it, extensive rot damage was found behind the finished walls and ceiling.  It was clear that water had been getting into the walls for a long time, but had only recently leaked into the garage.

Chapter 2:  A Closer Look

Water leaks had appeared at all three properties around the same time—during the rainstorms that blew through the Bay Area in late 2021. But each home was so different—the first, a relatively new condo building; the second, a large 40-year-old home in a suburban setting; the third, an historic Victorian home built in 1900. All three homes had damages that required extensive repairs.

The question to be answered: Were the two big storms in October and December the cause of damage to all three properties? Or were there pre-existing conditions that the storms suddenly exposed? Degenkolb was hired to find out, and sent out forensic engineer Steve Moore.

At the condo building, repairs were already underway after the storms. The contractor had removed some of the wall finishes, covered up the fifth-floor balcony with temporary plastic tarps, and sealed open exterior joints with caulk and backer rod. There were no obvious openings where the water could have entered, but the leaks continued during subsequent storms. Inside the walls, Degenkolb’s Steve Moore probed the stained wall framing where he found solid and firm wood and lightly rusted fasteners with no evidence of long-term moisture exposure. With the plastic installed over the balcony and all exterior joints sealed, how did water continue to leak into the units below?

Down the road at the large single-family home, the evidence told a different story. French doors in the bedrooms and playrooms open to balconies and walkways on the second floor. Floor drains were supposed to have captured rainwater before it entered the residence. We noticed, however, that the wood at the threshold of each door was warped, separated, and split. We also noticed that the floor drains were filled with leaves and other debris. Plants had started to grow up through the drain covers, effectively blocking them. But did this translate to water in the living room ceiling? If so, how?

Across the Bay at the 120-year-old Victorian home, the challenge was following the evidence of water damage to its source. Inside the garage, behind the removed wall finishes, the damage was evident— stained and rotted framing members in the corner around a rainwater drainage pipe. We followed the damage to a second-floor balcony above the garage. Upon examining the balcony floor above, we noticed intact conditions with no obvious voids or cracks in the floor tile around the roof drainpipe. How was the water getting through the balcony floor?

At each residence, it initially seemed the storms were responsible for the damage, since there hadn’t been leaks before or significant rainfall due to the ongoing California drought. But by peeling back the layers and examining the evidence, a few clues were revealed that pointed to other reasons.

Chapter 3:  The Culprits

The exterior wall finishes on the condominium are comprised of stucco, which is designed to allow rainwater to penetrate through the cement plaster and then drain out the bottom. On a balcony, the bottom of the stucco drains onto flashing at the wall-to-balcony intersection. The flashing directs water to a drain system in the balcony floor assembly. The cause of the water intrusion was missing or improperly installed flashing at the wall-to-balcony intersection, likely the result of an original construction defect. The condition hadn’t been noticed earlier because not enough rain had fallen since the condo had been built to become a problem.

At the large single-family home, we determined that when it rained sufficiently, water from the balcony overwhelmed the blocked drain, pooled on the balcony, and then overflowed the thresholds into the floor assemblies. We observed that the wood at the door thresholds was warped and there were deep cracks in the grain. When wood is damaged by water, the cycle of wetting and drying become exacerbated each time. Cracks in the wood become deeper, the cellulose breaks down, and it becomes easier for water to penetrate the next time it rains, causing further damage. It was clear that the wood had become wetted and dried several times before the storms in late 2021. The cause of the water intrusion was a lack of maintenance of the exterior drainage, which resulted in significant water penetration during the large storms of 2021.

At the Victorian, it was clear that the moisture damage to the framing had been occurring for many years, but the water had not previously flowed into the garage. Upon closer examination of the balcony, we identified a failed joint at the guardrail intersection with the exterior wall. The failed joint was the result of dried and cracked sealants and paint, which allowed rainwater to penetrate the wall cavity. The failed joint had been allowing water intrusion for many years, but it was not until the excessive flow in December 2021 that the long-term deterioration was revealed.

Moisture intrusion at the condo was caused by a pre-existing construction defect.

Falling rain enters the balcony area and is able to penetrate under the drain due to incorrect lapping of waterproofing materials between the substrates. From there, it travels through the interstitials space in the floor before dripping down through the ceiling and into the condo below.

Lack of maintenance to the exterior weatherproofing systems and existing water damage allowed rainwater to penetrate into the home.

Rainwater accumulates on the surface of weathered wood, then soaks into the pre-existing splits and gapped joints. Via wicking and capillary action, the water then travels through the splits and gapped joints to the interior of the home, bypassing exterior weatherproofing systems. Standing water from clogged balcony drains contributes to the deteriorated condition of the wood.

Cause of damage to the Victorian was from deteriorated weatherproofing materials.

Rain penetrates behind siding via cracked paint and deteriorated weatherproofing materials. Once behind the siding, it can migrate down through the wall cavities, causing damage to framing, insulation, and finishes.

 

Epilogue

Each building had first noticed water intrusion during significant storm events in late 2021. Without any history of prior leaks, it was initially believed that the storms had caused the leaks. But after careful forensic assessments of each location, the physical evidence revealed the actual causes: different pre-existing issues that had manifested well before the rains fell—an initial defect in construction, a lack of routine maintenance, and dried and cracked sealants and paints, respectively. These three examples of sudden rainwater intrusion illustrate the importance of taking the time to closely examine and follow the evidence path and to not just blame the damage on the water in the storm.

Want to submit a claim? Click here: 

a man smiling for the cameraTo speak with a Forensic Engineer or to schedule an investigation, contact Steve Moore at smoore@degenkolb.com.

 

Other articles by Steve Moore:

Meet the Degenkolb Summer 2022 Interns

Degenkolb invited 13 aspiring structural engineers to join us as interns this summer! From our offices in Seattle to San Diego, these students have been learning and working alongside Degenkolbers on a variety of exciting projects these past few months. We spoke with them to hear more about their experience with the firm before they return to campus this fall.

 

Q&A with Degenkolb Summer 2022 Interns

____________________________________________________

Cassidy Sutton, Oakland

Where do you go to school and what year are you in?
I just got my undergraduate degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in Architectural Engineering and will be returning in the fall to get my master’s degree in Architectural Engineering.

How did you find out about Degenkolb?
I have always heard about them from my peers and at Cal Poly’s Annual Structural Forum I went up and chatted with them! I have always been interested in the work at Degenkolb.

What is your most vivid memory of your time so far at Degenkolb?
My most vivid memory is probably the softball games that I’ve been to! It’s a great way to get to know my coworkers and the dinners afterward are always really fun.

If you could give any future interns advice on how to get the most out of interning with Degenkolb what would it be?
Ask questions! Everyone at Degenkolb is eager to help and wants you to succeed. You’re not supposed to know everything so ask questions and be willing to learn.

Describe your ideal day off.
My ideal day off is going on a morning hike and then going to get breakfast and coffee with friends! Then an afternoon at the park reading and relaxing.

____________________________________________________

a man wearing a red and blue jacket

Dominique Hayet, San Diego

Where do you go to school and what year are you in?
I just completed my undergrad at UC San Diego and will be starting at UC Berkeley for my master’s degree in the fall.

How did you find out about Degenkolb?
Outside of seeing the name at our school’s career fair, I was put in touch with the company by a close professor at UCSD who wanted to help me out in my internship search. Could not have been more grateful for how things turned out!

What is your most vivid memory of your time so far at Degenkolb?
The happy hours are hard to beat! Getting to assist in the design of a parking canopy was a very cool experience, and the Wellness Challenge team walk through downtown San Diego’s first day of Comic-Con was also a great time. And I will not forget coming into the office on my first day in-person to be greeted by a beautiful view of the Coronado Bay Bridge.

If you could give any future interns advice on how to get the most out of interning with Degenkolb what would it be?
Realize going in that you will be challenged and use that to push yourself forward and seek out help from others. There are plenty new things to learn in the office that school may not fully prepare you for, and the internship program provides an excellent opportunity for exposure and growth in this environment. You may take longer to figure things out than you expect and that is okay, but don’t try doing it all on your own. The office is full of insightful engineers and reaching out for help will always provide you with a new opportunity to learn. Take notes when you need to and get a good night’s rest to make it through the day! And although the work is serious – give yourself time for interacting and getting to know your coworkers.

Describe your ideal day off.
Depending on the season, a drive with friends either to the beach or the mountains. Soak up the sun, grab some dinner and ice cream (or Julian apple pie), and come back home to chill with music, games, and/or a movie or a nice long sleep followed by a morning workout and just relaxing at home.

____________________________________________________

a person smiling for the camera

Judy Guan, San Francisco

Where do you go to school and what year are you in?
I graduated from San Francisco State University with my bachelor’s degree and will be returning in the fall for the 2nd year of my master’s degree.

How did you find out about Degenkolb?
I found out about Degenkolb through a SEAONC career fair.

What is your most vivid memory of your time so far at Degenkolb?
The most vivid memory so far for me is completing my first Issue for Permit set and having my name on the drawings. It is surreal to think the things I helped design as an intern are going to be built.

If you could give any future interns advice on how to get the most out of interning with Degenkolb what would it be?
My advice for future interns is to get to know the other engineers in the office and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Everyone is willing to help so do not feel like you need to struggle to figure out the problem on your own. Interns are expected to make mistakes and need help to figure things out. Get the most out of this experience by asking questions whenever something is unclear. This internship is a great opportunity to learn and grow.

Describe your ideal day off.
My ideal day off would be waking up naturally and not to the sound of an alarm. I would take my time cooking food as well as trying out new recipes. Then I would spend my day at home watching TV shows.

____________________________________________________

a person smiling for the picture

Anele Siyephu, Los Angeles

Where do you go to school and what year are you in?
I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Currently, I am attending North Carolina State University and will begin my final year of my master’s degree in structural engineer this coming fall.

How did you find out about Degenkolb?
While I was researching internships, I reached out to a friend in the construction industry for networking ties. He mentioned working with Degenkolb on a few projects and was very impressed by the company. I decided to do further research into the matter and luckily came across this opportunity.

What is your most vivid memory of your time so far at Degenkolb?
Aside from the all the social events and the amazing projects I worked on, my most vivid memory must be winning a table tennis game against the highest ranked player in the LA office.

If you could give any future interns advice on how to get the most out of interning with Degenkolb what would it be?
I would advise future interns to enjoy their time, get involved, be open to learning and lastly don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Describe your ideal day off.
My ideal day would entail a morning round of golf, followed up by an afternoon of watching sports (soccer, rugby or cricket) and finally an evening “braai” with friends and family.

____________________________________________________

a person wearing glasses

Jimmy Yang, San Francisco

Where do you go to school and what year are you in?
I went to undergrad at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. After graduating, I did one year of full-time work as an EIT and decided to pursue further education at Stanford for structural engineering! I will be finishing up my last quarter at Stanford this fall and will graduate December 2022.

How did you find out about Degenkolb?
I first heard about Degenkolb during a “seismic tour” of Stanford Campus and heard Professor Deierlein mention the company’s involvement on campus. Since then, Jim has come to speak to our class in a guest lecturer series. I also had the pleasure of speaking to many current employees at school career fairs.

What is your most vivid memory of your time so far at Degenkolb?
Going on a guided tour with the entire San Francisco office to the Transamerica Pyramid is up there (pun intended) as one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had. The view at the top floor was incredible! I would recommend putting in an escalator to the top floor, even if climbing to the 60th floor was great for the Wellness Challenge.

If you could give any future interns advice on how to get the most out of interning with Degenkolb what would it be?
Be vocal about what you want to learn and do. The management at Degenkolb is very open to helping put you on projects that you want to do. Since they aren’t psychics and can’t read your mind, you have to put yourself out there and tell your project managers what kinds of projects and sectors you are interested in working in.

Describe your ideal day off.
I love going out with a small group of friends and exploring places I have never been before. I don’t mind if it’s in the city or in the back country if it’s with the right group of people!

____________________________________________________

a man wearing a blue jacket and holding a blue bag

Tyler X. Rodrigues, Oakland

Where do you go to school and what year are you in?
I just graduated with my Bachelor’s from UC Berkeley, and will be headed to Stanford this fall to start my master’s.

How did you find out about Degenkolb?
I found out about Degenkolb by word of mouth in my structural engineering classes, as well as looking for internships through websites like Handshake.

What is your most vivid memory of your time so far at Degenkolb?
I’ve really enjoyed going to the softball games and happy hours after work, as well as going on site visits and just generally learning about how things work in the industry as opposed to academia.

If you could give any future interns advice on how to get the most out of interning with Degenkolb what would it be?
Go to the social events, it really helps you get to know your co-workers better. And always communicate with your project manager; don’t be afraid to ask questions! That’s how you learn!

Describe your ideal day off.
Sleeping in, then playing video games or watching movies with friends while eating a bunch of carbs.

____________________________________________________

a person in a suit smiling

Chris Wolff, Oakland

Where do you go to school and what year are you in?
I attend San Francisco State University and am in the final semester of master’s program for Structural/Earthquake ENGR!.

How did you find out about Degenkolb?
This internship and company were recommended to me by my academic advisor and my steel design instructor.

What is your most vivid memory of your time so far at Degenkolb?
Designing and building my first (2) 3D models based on structural/architectural plans and ASCE 7-16 chapter 13. This was a very interesting experience because I got to see how influential the different load combinations (especially the drift+gravity combos) are in determining design. It was also a good learning experience to look at a model once it is finally working from the perspective of the contractor and see if each of the chosen members make sense, or whether there is a simpler/more economical solution.

If you could give any future interns advice on how to get the most out of interning with Degenkolb what would it be?
Spend as much time around all the other engineers as possible, both in and out of the office and ask them questions. Everyone is extremely helpful and willing to share their knowledge and experience in order to give you the best intern experience possible.

Describe your ideal day off.
Playing music and eating good food with friends, going to the beach with my family, cooking a nice dinner for my partner, snowboarding with friends…how can there be only one ideal day off?

____________________________________________________

a person wearing glasses

Janice Lee, Seattle

Where do you go to school and what year are you in?
I currently have one more year in my undergraduate program at Seattle University.

How did you find out about Degenkolb?
My advisor connected me with an alumnus who he had also advised during their undergrad. We met up and had a two-hour long conversation and I determined that from her description of the workplace and what Degenkolb does as a company, that I could be a great fit and vice versa.

What is your most vivid memory of your time so far at Degenkolb?
Every site visit with the forensics team have always been exciting to me, not only because I get to investigate damaged buildings, but because we often meet with the property owners. It really helps to know the face of the people who we are helping and motivates me to put my best self forward to satisfy their needs.

If you could give any future interns advice on how to get the most out of interning with Degenkolb what would it be?
My advice is to not be afraid to ask questions! It is always best to keep in mind that as an intern, I am not expected to know everything, but to be enthusiastic to make connections and learn from my coworkers.

Describe your ideal day off.
My ideal day would be going out for a meal with my loved ones and making arts and crafts together. I love painting, embroidering, and making friendship bracelets!

____________________________________________________

Garrett Barker, Los Angeles

Where do you go to school and what year are you in?
I just graduated from Cal Poly SLO with a B.S. in Architectural Engineering and will be attending UC Berkeley for my M.S. in Structural Engineering in the Fall.

How did you find out about Degenkolb?
I first learned about Degenkolb when I toured the SF office during a Cal Poly SEAOC field trip. A later Cal Poly SEAOC meeting introduced me to the LA office management.

What is your most vivid memory of your time so far at Degenkolb?
My first office happy hour, seeing everybody out of the office and getting to know a more personal side of everyone made work even more engaging.

If you could give any future interns advice on how to get the most out of interning with Degenkolb what would it be?
Face every new task as a chance to surprise your project manager with your knowledge and ability; always be thinking “how can I use my unique skillset to bring value to this task.”

Describe your ideal day off.
Going on a morning hike and then heading to a quite beach to read!

____________________________________________________

a man in a suit smiling

John Strickley, San Francisco

Where do you go to school and what year are you in?
I just finished my Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering at UC Berkeley and will start my master’s degree in Structural Engineering (SEMM) at Berkeley this fall.

How did you find out about Degenkolb?
One of my teammates from Cal Steel Bridge Team told me he was interning at Degenkolb last summer. I also found out just by googling “structural engineering internship San Francisco.”

What is your most vivid memory of your time so far at Degenkolb?
Playing on the Degenkolb softball team on Thursday evenings. It’s a lot of fun and something I look forward to every week.

If you could give any future interns advice on how to get the most out of interning with Degenkolb what would it be?
Don’t be scared to ask questions or tell your managers what projects you want to work on. They’re all very understanding and accommodating. Additionally, always say yes to opportunities to meet other engineers like happy hours, softball games, or just going to their desk/office to say ‘hi.’

Describe your ideal day off.
A lot of sports, such as baseball, basketball, golf, and hanging out with friends at night.

____________________________________________________

a person smiling for the camera

Alex Orlando, Sacramento

Where do you go to school and what year are you in?
I just graduated from UC Davis, and will be going to UCLA for my master’s in the Fall.

How did you find out about Degenkolb?
Online searches.

What is your most vivid memory of your time so far at Degenkolb?
The site visit to Westbrook Elementary School in Roseville.

If you could give any future interns advice on how to get the most out of interning with Degenkolb what would it be?
Reach out when you need help! Everyone is really nice and wants to help out.

Describe your ideal day off.
My ideal day off would be a quick day trip to Lake Tahoe.

____________________________________________________

a man smiling for the camera

Kevin McEntee, Oakland

Where do you go to school and what year are you in?
I go to UC Berkeley and I am currently wrapping up my undergrad and graduating this fall with my B.A. and plan on pursuing my master’s in Structural Engineering next fall.

How did you find out about Degenkolb?
I found out through Degenkolb via one of my good friends who’d been hired as an intern as well. I looked more into the company and applied and was very happy to hear back for an interview.

What is your most vivid memory of your time so far at Degenkolb?
My favorite memory here at Degenkolb was when Alex Barnes took the Oakland and Sacramento interns out to a site visit at John Muir Health Walnut Creek’s new state of the art cancer treatment center. Not only did we get to see how the plans we make get built, but it was cool to see the good we get to do here at Degenkolb for the people.

If you could give any future interns advice on how to get the most out of interning with Degenkolb what would it be?
Make sure you always ask for work well before you finish what you have. Don’t be scared to ask questions either and don’t be afraid to get up and walk into a project manager or Principal’s office for help. The people here are truly great and love to help in any way they can.

Describe your ideal day off.
My ideal day off would probably be spent in Tahoe, whether that be a day out snowboarding in the winter/spring or just spending time at the beach in the summer.

____________________________________________________

Cyrus Khoylow, Los Angeles

Where do you go to school and what year are you in?
I graduated from undergraduate at UCSD in Spring 2022 and I am going to begin my master’s degree at UCSD in Fall 2022.

How did you find out about Degenkolb?
I found out about Degenkolb through a structural engineering career fair.

What is your most vivid memory of your time so far at Degenkolb?
My most vivid memory would be my first happy hour with the office at a brewery in the Arts District of Los Angeles.

If you could give any future interns advice on how to get the most out of interning with Degenkolb what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions to anyone around the office.

Describe your ideal day off.
My ideal day off would be sleeping in and meeting up with friends in the afternoon.

____________________________________________________

a man smiling for the picture

Omar Mercedes, Sacramento

Where do you go to school and what year are you in?
I will be starting my master’s degree at UC Berkeley in the fall after recently graduating from UC Davis.

How did you find out about Degenkolb?
I found out about Degenkolb at the SEAONC career fair in January.

What is your most vivid memory of your time so far at Degenkolb?
My most vivid memory of my time so far at Degenkolb has been playing in the softball team while getting to know everyone outside of the office.

If you could give any future interns advice on how to get the most out of interning with Degenkolb what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions as everyone is constantly learning something new every day. Additionally, I would also encourage everyone to attend the socials and games to get to know everyone.

Describe your ideal day off.
My ideal day off would be spent all day at the beach with family and friends.

____________________________________________________

Many thanks to our 2022 summer interns!

Meet our SoCal Science & Technology Team!

Who leads the SoCal Science & Tech team?

 

What is Science & Tech?

Our Science & Tech practice area excels at consulting and design services related to rehabilitation of existing facilities, the design of new ones, and developing corporate seismic programs nationally and internationally.

What can we do for you?

 

 

Stay tuned for more stories and ideas from the SoCal Science & Tech Team!

Orange You Glad to Meet Our New OC Office Director?

Degenkolb is excited to announce Matthew Barnard as our Orange County (OC) Office Director! 🍊

Orange” you interested in learning more? Tune into our Q&A with Matt to hear about this exciting new chapter leading Degenkolbers in our newest office in Anaheim, CA.

 

 

2022 BNP/ENR ACE Outstanding Mentor, Laura Basualdo!

Congratulations to Degenkolb’s Laura Basualdo, S.E. for being named a 2022 BNP/ENR ACE Outstanding Mentor! 🎉

Laura was selected as one of five 2022 Outstanding Mentors because of her contribution to her students, fellow mentors, and affiliates epitomize the dedication and effectiveness of ACE’s 4,100-plus mentors. The ACE Mentor Program of America aims “to engage, excite, and enlighten high school students to pursue careers in architecture, engineering, and construction through mentoring and continued support for their advancement into the industry.”

“Laura joined ACE as soon as she started working. She was a mentor for a few months and jumped at the opportunity to be a co-team leader right away. A few years later, she co-founded a new ACE team East of Downtown LA, which she co-led until 2020. She has overseen organizing the Trades Day events for the ACE Los Angeles/Orange County affiliate for a few years now. She particularly enjoys organizing these events since the students get to learn about the trades while doing lots of different hands-on activities, and they tend to be the student’s favorite event. As a member of the ACE 2020-2021 Virtual Program Committee, she helped plan the virtual sessions during the pandemic. Laura joined the ACE LA/OC affiliate Board in 2021.” (source)

“She’s been a role model to me, and if I could describe what I want my American Dream to be like, it would be to become someone like her; a smart, creative, capable and energetic person in the architecture field helping aspiring students while also making a change in the world the way she does through her career.” – Guiseppe (Former ACE Student)

Learn more about Laura’s incredible impact as an ACE mentor for the ACE Mentor Program of LA/OC here

Celebrating Women Making a Difference 📣

Happy Women’s History Month!

Each and every day, women across our firm are making a difference in the office, in their communities, in the field of structural engineering, and beyond. For Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating several of the many Degenkolbers who are making a positive impact through their work.

Lisette Terry (Associate, Seattle) is no exception! Hear about her involvement with iUrban Teen in a recent Q&A interview conducted for Engineers Week and learn more about the organization.

 

Yvonne Tsui (Associate, San Francisco) helps house people experiencing homelessness through her work with DignityMoves. On March, 8, 2022, also known as International Women’s Day, the organization held its ribbon cutting ceremony for 33 Gough Street—30 rooms of a 70-room pilot cabin project for people experiencing homelessness.

 

Elena Good (Design Engineer, Oakland) is one of many women Degenkolbers making a difference in and out of the office year round. Interested in learning more about SE 2050? Check out our page on the SE 2050 Commitment or visit SE2050.org.

 

 

Degenkolb Seattle — Celebrating 20 Years in the Community

Interview with Degenkolb CEO and Chairman of the Board, Stacy Bartoletti

___________________________________________

 

Interview with Degenkolb Principal and Seattle Group Director, Cale Ash

 

“Rendezvous with the Stalwarts” Interviews Degenkolb Senior Principal, Jim Malley

Tune in to the latest episode “Rendezvous with the Stalwarts” by Structural Stalwarts for an interview with Degenkolb’s very own Jim Malley (Senior Principal, San Francisco).

Please enjoy parts one and two below.

Stanford University’s Lorry I. Lokey Laboratory Studies Chemical Reactions that Provide Solutions to Science’s Biggest Questions

Since 2003, researchers at Stanford University’s Lorry I. Lokey Laboratory for Chemistry and Biological Sciences have sought to find answers to science’s biggest questions by focusing on the smallest of things: molecules, cells, and their chemical compounds. Chemical elements—much like a building’s concrete, steel, or timber—are the building blocks of everything around us. The Lorry I. Lokey Laboratory has united the brightest scientific minds studying these components, witnessing the advancement of knowledge and biochemical investigation for all.

The Lorry I. Lokey Laboratory was built to serve as the most research-intensive structure on the world-renowned Stanford University campus—and it certainly has held up to that vision. Home to research for the Chemistry and Biological Sciences departments, the $42-million, 85,000-square-foot building features state-of-the-art modular laboratories for nine principal investigators as well as 180 students and postdoctoral fellows. Their work in molecular and cell biology and advanced organic synthesis chemistry spans nearly two decades within the laboratory’s walls. Despite much of their research existing on a microscopic level, the scope of their findings is global.

One example is the Wender Group housed on Lokey’s second floor. Studying the intersection of chemistry, biology, medicine, and materials science, the group’s work emphasizes the use of synthesis “to address problems of significance in biology and medicine including eradication of HIV/AIDS, overcoming resistant cancer, and treating cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease (source).” The researchers also focus on the development of new strategies to treat disease as well as new therapeutic strategies to address unsolved medical problems.

Another group is the Burns Lab which explores the “boundaries of modern organic synthesis to enable the more rapid creation of the highest molecular complexity in a predictable and controllable fashion (source).” For the non-chemist, their research seeks to answer a variety of chemical, medicinal, biological, and biophysical questions that can translate to insights, discoveries, and more for human health and the fight against illness and disease.

Chemistry surrounds us: from what we eat and wear to even think and feel. Lokey’s brilliant chemists and biologists continue to research chemical reactions that will give us solutions, benefitting science, human health, and beyond. Degenkolb Engineers was proud to have worked on the design of the laboratory along with architect, DGA.

Reflections on Katrina: Supporting Others in Difficult Times

A pair of children’s shoes hang from a telephone wire. Broken picture frames filled with water-damaged photos of major life events litter the ground. Gemstones that used to hang from a chandelier that had been in the family for four generations glint feebly from underneath piles of debris. Katrina’s storm clouds had dissipated three months earlier, but the devastation remained scattered across the communities and land that had the misfortune of being in her path.

Degenkolb* staff was on-site to conduct an investigation on a homeowner’s claim. This time, the homeowner met the engineers and their Claims Coordinator at the site. Mounds of rubble lay in a heap on top of the slab where his house used to stand. As the engineers did their work, the homeowner sifted through what was left. Much of it was unrecognizable — items damaged during the storm had then sat outside, exposed to sun, humidity, and more rain for weeks and months. Many sentimental items were now beyond salvageable. The homeowner was looking for anything that had even remotely survived.

Lisa Esquivel was the team’s tireless Claims Coordinator. When Degenkolb’s investigative engineering team started getting calls to go down to Mississippi and investigate the cause of loss — a nuanced determination between the wind from the storm or flooding from surge waters — Lisa was the one who found a furnished apartment to stay in.  She and the IT manager were the ones to go out and buy the computers and tech equipment needed to operate a field office (this was well before remote work setups were common). Lisa coordinated the schedules, set up the files, made sure there was food in the fridge, and towels and bedsheets were cleaned between multi-week shifts of engineers. When the engineers went to the sites, she was the one who interacted with the homeowners. She offered a sympathetic ear when they told their stories – what they went through when they left, or the reasons for why they didn’t. She heard the way they agonized in uncertainty when they didn’t know what had happened to their home or whether their insurance carrier would cover their loss.

In the evenings, while the engineers discussed the types of damage they’d seen and the indicators of cause of loss, Lisa thought about what she’d seen, sometimes overwhelmed to tears with empathy for the kind, generous, and welcoming people who’d lost almost everything. These people’s lives — nearly everything they owned — lay scattered across neighborhoods and towns, some of it lost forever. During catastrophes like a hurricane or a wildfire, the advice is that things can be replaced but people cannot; it’s meant to encourage folks to prioritize their safety first and foremost. This saying is certainly true; a human life cannot be replaced. But losing everything around one’s life—photos, children’s’ drawings, gifts from friends and family, hobbies and collections—is still a significant loss that takes an emotional toll.

The home where the team had been that day was once used as a filming location for a major motion picture in the late ‘90s. At that time, the homeowner hadn’t accepted payment for the use of his home for filming. At the end of shooting, the crew presented him with a unique gift: A framed dollar bill signed by the crew and stars of the film, which included several major Hollywood actors. While sifting through the debris, he found the frame with the signed dollar bill intact. Excitedly, he showed it to Lisa, who shared in the man’s joy at finding at least one of his irreplaceable items. It was a small, but impactful, step forward in a long journey to recover and rebuild.

Sixteen years later (to the day), Hurricane Ida struck the Gulf Coast once more. This time the levies held, but the winds and water appear to have been no less devastating in 2021 than they were in 2005. For Ida, the post-catastrophe work hasn’t yet begun—it will be weeks to months before adjusters and engineers are able to safely visit sites and assess damage. That tireless Claims Coordinator, Lisa Esquivel – now the Forensics Operations Manager for Degenkolb Engineers —is reflecting on the valuable lessons we learned from Katrina, preparing herself and her colleagues for the journeys they may take, and hoping for small but impactful steps forward by those who were affected by Ida.

*Degenkolb Engineers acquired Barrish Pelham Consulting Engineers in 2018. Staff involved in the Hurricane Katrina recovery story were at the time employed by Barrish Pelham and are now employees of Degenkolb Engineers.

To learn more about Lisa’s journey and to help gain focus on investigative engineering for Ida, please reach out to lesquivel@degenkolb.com.

Want to submit a claim? Click here: 

 

 

MSIRobot