Jonathan Lehmer graduated with a B.S. in Architectural Engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and an M.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Washington, Seattle. He joined Structural Focus in 2013 with a passion for historic buildings and new designs developed during study abroad programs. Jonathan is a licensed Professional Engineer, newly promoted to Design Engineer. He has worked on several seismic upgrades, tenant improvements, and new construction projects including Sunset Bronson Studios Building 16, Sony Pictures Akio Morita Building, and ROW DTLA Building 2, among others.
What does Structural Design mean to you?
Structural Design means creating elegant designs that perform well and coordinate with all other disciplines. As opposed to brute force engineering without taking into consideration all other aspects of the project, the design aspect is particularly important, especially the project’s aesthetics.
Latest Project, Favorite Project, and Biggest Challenge
Structural Focus designed the new Akio Morita Building, a 260,000 square foot eight-story structure on the Sony Pictures lot. This is probably my favorite project thus far because it was the first large project that I’ve worked on from start to finish. During this project, I was given more responsibility. It was a huge learning experience being involved in all project phases including coordinating with Gensler, C.W. Driver, and all the subcontractors. Structural Focus’ four steps to achieve the ideal new construction project assisted our successful completion of the project.
The construction administration of any project is the most challenging phase, it requires careful effort to identify conflicts and arrive at efficient solutions. It is about looking at the overall project, not only the details of the structure. That was the most difficult task for me but having the opportunity to learn from experience was invaluable.
I developed a passion for historic buildings during my college study abroad programs to London and Rome. I love how much communities value historic structures. It would be really cool to work on a unique iconic building, such as the Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Preservation and retrofit projects really make you appreciate history.
What’s your favorite part about working at Structural Focus?
Structural Focus is a unique firm working on cool, fun, and challenging projects. No individual person works on a specific building type, we all get to work on all types of structures: from historic to new construction and all the materials those projects involve. I think this varied experience makes us better engineers because we draw from a bigger informational database.
The Future of Structural Engineering
Computer programs are now capable of performing much of standard structural engineering. I think in the near future structural engineers will focus their expertise on increasingly complex buildings as computers programs provide the heavy lifting for basic structures and components. Input from a structural engineer will always be invaluable in a complex building design to prevent the selection of poor performing building layouts that a computer cannot advise on.
What advice would you give young structural engineers?
It’s important to seek involvement with every type of project and to always be looking for a new challenge. The growing knowledge that comes from pursuing such goals will keep you excited and eager for the future of your career. Personally, when I began my career I thought I would miss the knowledge from a classroom environment, but I quickly discovered that working at a great company like Structural Focus can provide many opportunities to learn.
What would we be surprised to learn about you?
I was a paid musician for a brief period during college. I played the drums for a rock band in the Sacramento area. Although it was a blast I eventually decided that structural engineering was my true passion.