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CEE ASCE student chapter tours San Francisco

The U-M student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) traveled to San Francisco on October 13-16.

The University of Michigan student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) traveled to San Francisco on October 13-16, 2018. Twenty-one students attended the trip, along with three Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty members: Professors Carol Menassa, Jason McCormick, and Jerome Lynch.

During the four-day trip, students visited construction and manufacturing sites in and around San Francisco. With six major earthquake faults and poor soil strength, the Bay Area presents interesting engineering challenges that make it a great learning opportunity for CEE students. This trip was made possible through a generous gift from U-M CEE alumnus Bruce Dorfman (’82).

A man stands and speaks to a group of sitting people.
U-M CEE alumnus and Senior Managing Director of Trammell Crow Residential Bruce Dorfman addresses current U-M students at Alameda Naval Air Station.

Alameda Naval Air Station

Trammell Crow Residential (TCR) has entered into a public-private partnership with the San Francisco City Council to develop the land at the former Alameda Naval Air Station, which closed in 1997. TCR will create new affordable housing for employees in tech companies, along with office spaces for the companies themselves. The Senior Managing Director of TCR and CEE alumnus Bruce Dorfman led a tour of the site.

“It was interesting to see how a growing metropolis is dealing with population growth,” said Anisha Agrawal, CEE master’s student in structural engineering. “This site was very insightful in terms of understanding what concerns may arise when developing an entirely new piece of land cut off from the mainland.”

A group of people pose in front of a suspension bridge
The Bay Bridge

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge

With one of the longest spans in the United States, the Bay Bridge links San Francisco and Oakland, California. Caltrans led the students on a tour inside the bridge box girders and into a supporting tower to get a close-up look at the bridge.

CEE master’s student in civil engineering Sebina Kalawadwala was impressed: “For the first time I got to actually go inside the bridge and get to see the how it works, which was amazing.”

A group of people wearing hard hats and reflective vests observe the roof of a parking structure
CityLift Automated Parking Structure

CityLift Automated Parking Structure

Unlike a traditional parking garage in which drivers navigate their vehicles to parking spaces, an automated parking structure uses a mechanical system to transport cars to parking spaces. This eliminates much of the space that in a traditional garage would be needed for driving. In a tour provided by Suffolk and Trammell Crow Residential, students got a look at the inner workings of this innovative parking solution.

Multidisciplinary Research Center

In a tour of a nine-story building being constructed by DPR Construction, students had the opportunity to view different stages of completion on each floor. As they progressed down the floors of the building, they saw how each stage of construction led to the next.

High rise construction site
1700 Webster High Rise Development

1700 Webster High Rise and Alexan Webster Low Rise Development

At these sites, students toured the first high-rise building to break ground in Oakland since 2008. This residential building incorporated lean construction principles to increase collaboration and productivity and to reduce waste during construction. The low rise development involved redeveloping a 1.42-acre parking lot into a mixed-use project with luxury apartments, retail, parking and art. This portion of the tour allowed students to see timber construction in progress.

A group of people wearing hard hats and reflective vests gather inside of a building
Transbay Transit Center

Transbay Transit Center

The new Transbay Transit Center is the regional transportation hub serving eleven transportation systems. Topped by a striking 5.4-acre rooftop public park, this complex construction project offered ample learning opportunities for students.

“I was most fascinated by the Transbay Terminal site tour,” said Urias. “I enjoyed hearing about the complexities in the project, including building atop a main street of the city, dealing with politicians, environmental and structural design challenges, and the planning for different phases.”

A group of people in hard hats and reflective vests
Gateway of the Pacific

Gateway of the Pacific

Once completed, this site will be a 1.3 million square foot campus with space for office and laboratories, as well as a park and amenity center. Since the project is still far from the finishing phase, students had a chance to see the fireproofing, steel connections, piping and ducting on the site.

“The project itself was very interesting, but I mostly enjoyed seeing that the Project Manager/Project Engineers actually loved their job, the company, and the project they were working on,” said CEE senior Monicka Chang. “They inspired me as an aspiring Project Manager to find a job I will love too.”

Networking Events

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, one of the largest structural engineering and architectural firms in the United States, hosted a panel at which engineers from several structural firms discussed new technologies they are using in their design processes.

Students also attended an alumni panel and networking event at the San Francisco offices of DPR Construction. Panel members included Mike Lepech (Stanford University), Mike McGill (MMS Design), Jason Bartel (DPR Construction), John Belvedere (CH2M), Bruce Dorfman (Trammell Crow Residential), and Evan Avery (Hensel Phelps).

A group of people
ASCE Officers at DPR Office in San Francisco

Several students remarked that they gained valuable insights from the panel.

“The alumni panel and reception turned out to be transformative,” said Emilio Urias, CEE senior. “The alumni provided their insights into what it entails starting your first job out of college, and what they recommend to make those first years of work count. Being so close to graduating, their advice was much needed.”

Chang added, “Something that really stuck with me was what Mike Lepech said about saying yes to opportunities…saying yes to opportunities could open up many paths that I otherwise would not have been able to experience. It is a great way to learn and a great way to grow as a professional and as a person.”

Unique Opportunities

Through a variety of site tours and interactions with professionals in many fields, the students on this trip were able to expand their knowledge beyond what they have learned in the classroom and the lab.

“The trip was well-planned and very insightful, said Amirmahdi Tafreshian, PhD student in civil engineering. “[It] provided me with a brilliant opportunity to connect with some of our successful alumni and learn from their experience.”

Special thanks to Anisha Agrawal (MSE student in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Marketing Chair of ASCE U-M Student Chapter) for her comprehensive reporting of this trip. Want to hear more? Read Anisha’s blog post about the trip.


Portrait of Mason Hinawi
Mason Hinawi

Marketing Communications Specialist
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering