A Message from the SEAOC President: Kelly Cobeen

By Kelly Cobeen, SE, SEAOC President 2015-2016

Much activity continues to occur at the state level, involving both board and committee undertakings. SEAOC seeks opportunities for members to become involved in outside technical and professional activities, and bring discussions and issues back to the SEAOC committees. Such an opportunity was brought to our attention recently by SEAOC member Susan Dowty, who recently became Government Relations Manager for the International Code Council (ICC). ICC is in the process of establishing an Ad Hoc Committee on Tall Wood Buildings, and was soliciting committee members. Based on input from the MO boards and the Sustainable Design committees, three members were recommended by SEAOC for potential committee membership: Matthew Timmers of SEAOSC, Ryan Miller of SEAOCC, and Jennifer Cover of SEAOSD. We hope that one or more of these volunteers will be selected to the ICC committee, and can bring news back to our Seismology and Sustainable Design Committees. If you are aware of similar opportunities coming up, please bring them to my attention or contact SEAOC Executive Director Don Schinske.

Towards the end of last year the NCSEA board circulated a position statement on special inspection for vote by its member organizations (SEAOC being one such member organization). The SEAOC Board was able to review and discuss this position statement at our January meeting, at which time the board voted to approve the position statement in concept, with comment about the details. At the same time the board expressed interest in discussion with NCSEA regarding improved communications, procedures for future votes, and better defining the objectives and procedures for such position statements. We will bring you more information as it is available.

I recently met with SEAOC Existing Buildings Committee chair David Ojala and SEAOC Sustainable Design Committee chair Megan Stringer to catch up on committee activities and plans. Both committees have many items on their plates, which they will share via upcoming articles in the SEAOC Talk newsletter. Of particular interest, the SEAOC Existing Buildings Committee is serving as a forum for discussion of the seismic retrofit measures being developed by individual jurisdictions across the state. Additionally, individuals on the SEAOC Sustainable Design Committee are serving as liaisons to the national level ASCE SEI Sustainability Committee, where significant activity has been taking place. Stay tuned for more information.   

Several weeks ago SEAOC members were sent an email regarding a nationwide study of compensation, employee engagement, and career satisfaction (SE3 Survey) being conducted by individual members of the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California (SEAONC), with funding provided by SEAONC. The SEAOC board approved distribution of the survey link through the SEAOC email list.. The goals of the SE3 survey are two-fold: to understand the keys to employee engagement/retention, and to identify gender-related obstacles at various stages in a structural engineer's career, with the overarching objective to identify ways in which firms can adapt their practices to retain an engaged and productive workforce. Included in the SEAOC announcement was a clarification that the survey and resulting data collection is being conducted by individual members, rather than the association itself; because concerns regarding data security are in the news regularly, the board wanted persons responding to be aware of this and able to judge their comfort in responding to the survey. The engineers conducting the survey have taken all measures available within the survey software to protect the anonymity of respondents. If you have comment or concern about this, please feel free to contact me or the SEAOC office. The survey is open until April 18, and reminders will be coming out by email.

Warming up Your Aloha for the 2016 SEAOC Convention

The Convention Committee continues its hard work planning the 2016 SEAOC Convention in Ka’anapali, Maui. Continuing from the last SEAOC Talk, here is a short snippet of information to help make sure that by next October you are ready to be a Kama’aina (local).


Heiau - Hawaiian temple

Loko I’a - Hawaiian fish pond

Menehune - Little people of Hawaiian legend

Poi - A Hawaiian food staple made from pounded taro root. While very popular among locals, it is thought to be an acquired taste with many first time eaters comparing it to eating wall paper glue.

Legends: With Saint Patrick’s Day upon us, and many young people and those young at heart talking about Irish leprechauns and leprechaun traps, it is only fitting to talk about the little people of Hawaiian legend. The Menehune (little people) are said to be small of stature, live in the forests and deep valleys of the Hawaiian Islands, and only come out at night when they will not be seen by others. They are said to be hard working and loving of sports and other fun. Most notably, legend identifies the menehune as master builders who, arriving in large groups, construct projects overnight, ranging from canoes to houses to massive heiaus (temples) and fish ponds. While the legends vary, there are common rules of the menehune across all. The projects they work on have to be completed in one night, and they have to stop work before daybreak. In addition, they cannot be seen by people; if they are discovered in the process of work, they have to abandon the work immediately, never to complete it. Along with there being a number of remaining fish ponds and heiaus in Hawaii being attributed to the menehune, there are also some that remain partially finished, presumably because the menehune were discovered in the course of their work.

One legend from Kauai has the local chief, Ola, constructing a dam to provide water to his taro patches. His subjects work day after day on this large project, but progress is slow. The somewhat lazy but also clever Pi, not wanting to help with the building, goes into the forest. He announces to the seemingly uninhabited forest that the help of the menehune is needed and a feast of poi is promised if they should help. He then goes home, prepares a large feast of poi, and after the other workers go home, leaves the poi next to the dam. The next morning the workers show up to find construction completed. Getting word of Pi’s appeal to the menehune, they celebrate the completion of the dam and Pi’s cleverness.

Because Hawaiian legends only existed in oral form up to the time of European contact, it is not clear whether the legends of the menehune predate contact. Some suggest that the menehune were adopted into Hawaiian folklore based on stories of the brownie from Scottish/English lore or leprechaun from Irish lore. Still other theories identify the menehune as real people that were from an earlier migration from the Marquesas Islands, driven inland by later migrants from Tahiti; interestingly an 1820 census identified 65 menehune living in the Wainiha Valley.

Activities: Aquaculture was well developed in ancient Hawaiian culture. Fish ponds with stone walls were often built along rivers and provided with sluice gates at the upstream side, letting in smaller fish that were then held until they matured and could be easily caught for food. While not identified in legend to have been constructed by the menehune, the Ko‘ie‘ie fish pond at Kalepolepo Park in North Kihei, Maui is believed to be over 400 years old. A local nonprofit is in the process of restoring the fishpond, and offers canoe tours of the fishpond several mornings a week. Information on the restoration and tours can be found at http://mauifishpond.com.

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