Photo. Structural Focus Team Members (left to right): Wayne Chang, SE, Maria Mohammed, PE, and Melissa Sanchez, SE, LEED AP
Melissa Sanchez, SE joined Structural Focus in 2012 after four years at another firm. She graduated with a B.S. in Civil Engineering from UCLA and an M.S. in Structural Engineering from U.C. Berkeley. Melissa is a LEED Accredited Professional and a licensed California Structural Engineer with experience in structural analysis, design and construction administration for existing and new structures. Melissa has enjoyed mentoring high school students through the ACE Mentor Program and volunteering as a math tutor at local high schools.
What does Structural Design mean to you?
Structural Design has the ability to help transform an underdeveloped area into a vibrant community filled with activities for residents. Structural Engineers help make the architect’s vision a reality that is safe and enjoyable for the community.
Latest Project, Favorite Project, and Biggest Challenge
I recently completed the renovation of several existing buildings that are part of the Los Angeles Headquarters for a Fortune 500 media company. The multi-million dollar project included the conversion of three buildings with a total 207,000 square feet of space into a collaborative and creative office space plus amenities. Extensive renovations were made to existing buildings, including the landmark Binoculars Building designed by Los Angeles architect Frank Gehry in the late 1980s, as well as an adjoining tilt-up building and a nearby two-story historic masonry building. Structural Focus provided full structural engineering services for all the buildings, I was involved in the design of the buildings’ renovations and site work elements from the beginning of design, through construction, and now completion.
Throughout this project, I was very involved with the structural design and I attended weekly team meetings with the client’s representatives, the architect, and the contractor. I really enjoyed working with the project team and getting to know everyone. Work is always fun when you have a good team collaborating to accomplish a common goal, a successful project.
The biggest challenge when working on existing buildings are the many unknown conditions that are discovered while in construction. As the project progresses, you don’t know what is going to come up and usually, when there is a problem it’s almost always urgent to find a solution. This project was no exception. Over the course of construction, we encountered a broken roof drain that had eroded away a large portion of soil and compromised the existing footings, dry rot and damaged roof sheathing, and existing utility lines. The challenge was to come up with a creative, constructible, and cost-effect solution that incorporated the existing conditions. With extensive collaboration with the contractor, we were able to come up with solutions to repair the existing damage and work around the utility lines. This project definitely kept me on my toes but it’s very rewarding to see the finished product.
We work with many important clients, from movie studios and media companies to historical organizations, it’s hard to choose a dream project when I’ve worked on so many great ones already. To me, any dream project involves clear communication and open collaboration between the design and construction teams resulting in a positive impact in our communities.
What’s your favorite part about working at Structural Focus?
I really love the wide range of projects that I get to work on at Structural Focus. They are challenging, interesting, and fun. In addition, the family environment at Structural Focus is unique from other firms. Everyone really cares about each other and knows each other’s family, interests, likes, and dislikes. We genuinely like being around each other. When you are somewhere forty plus hours a week, the people really make a difference. Structural Focus has really become my work-family, emphasis on the word family.
The Future of Structural Engineering
As long as architects continue to push the boundaries and limits of structures, there will be a need for structural engineers. Sometimes we joke that we need some kind of large fan or levitating device to support the building configurations that architects try to achieve these days. But, joking aside, it’s our job to help the architect push the boundaries and limits to create unique structures.
In addition, there is a continual progression towards using three-dimensional models in the industry. This new technology will continue to drive client involvement. The client now has much more information before the project begins which allows for more collaboration prior to the completion of a project.
What would we be surprised to learn about you?
During my free time, I pursue a wide variety of hobbies. I enjoy running with my dog Oakley, capturing images through painting and sketching, as well as planning events. I’ve helped coordinate church retreats, weddings, and now I’m part of the logistics committee organizing SEAOSC’s Strengthening Our Cities Summit. I believe that it is important to educate our community by bringing them resources and tools to better understand the risks of earthquakes and how to mitigate losses.