Engineers / Jack Moehle
Jack Moehle spent over forty years as a professor at the University of California Berkeley, teaching thousands of students and passing on his experiences in both practice and technical research. He has helped keep UC Berkeley at the forefront of structural developments in earthquake engineering, while contributing to and enriching the entire profession. Seeking to improve engineering practices, he became a leader in the development of building codes and professional engineering guidelines through his involvement in the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California (SEAONC), the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI), the American Concrete Institute (ACI), and various code committees. Drawing on this experience, he served as a peer-reviewer for many iconic buildings. In research, he leveraged his role as director of the Engineering Earthquake Research Center (EERC) and Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research (PEER) Center to advance numerous projects that have informed our understanding of building performance and the resulting impact on our communities. Like those who paved the way for Jack, his mentorship has laid paths for his students into the world of structural engineering where they continue to build on his legacy.
Jack grew up in a town called Cary on the outskirts of Chicago as one of three brothers. His father, a mechanical engineer, always desired to be a teacher and demonstrated the value of giving back to your community as Mayor of their town. From the beginning, Jack expressed an interest in engineering, finding himself drawn to the problem-solving posed by physics. He began his college education at Purdue, where he accelerated his coursework and transferred to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This is where his path in structural engineering began.
In his senior year, Jack took a concrete design course with Mete Sozen, who was at the forefront of research in ductile concrete design. With Sozen’s influence, research in seismic design pushed forward far from the earthquakes of California. After Jack’s fellowship at the university, Sozen accepted Jack as a research assistant, and he entered the master’s program working with the university’s shake table. In 1980, having completed two years of undergraduate and three years of PhD work, Jack graduated at 24 years of age.
Like his father, Jack sought to teach, and he jumped on an offer from UC Berkeley to teach in their Civil Engineering department. UC Berkeley was at the center of earthquake engineering, and Jack wanted to be in the place where earthquakes were actively affecting the structural engineering profession.
When he started teaching at UC Berkeley in 1980, Jack joined many great names in structural engineering research, including Ray Clough, Ed Wilson, Graham Powell, Egor Popov, and Stephen Mahin. They were welcoming to this new, young professor. Ray Clough was actively involved in SEAONC and invited Jack with him to the meetings in San Francisco. Jack saw this as an opportunity to expand his exposure to the area which both his research and teaching revolved around, and immediately joined committees.
SEAONC also provided connection to the practicing engineering community and, therefore, a way to work on projects that had a direct and immediate impact. Jack became good friends with many engineers and was invited, initially by Joseph Nicoletti in 1989, to contribute to projects in a consulting role. Throughout his career, he acted as a consultant or peer-reviewer for several iconic buildings and high rises in San Francisco and Los Angeles, which helped him stay at the forefront of development in structural design. He contributed to the development of technical guidelines for the engineering of tall buildings and helped start the Tall Buildings Initiative in 2010. Some of the projects he peer-reviewed include the Paramount building (2001), One Rincon (2008), the Millennium Tower (2009), the Salesforce Transit Center (2018), and the Salesforce Tower (2018).
Most of Jack’s technical involvement focused on the engineering of concrete structures, and early on became part of ACI. After work with beam column joints in 1985, he was invited to be a member of the ACI 318 seismic subcommittee. His work and efforts stood out and he was asked to chair the subcommittee in 1989, a role he kept for about eighteen years. During this time, he became chair of EERC, now PEER, at UC Berkeley. In 1991, EERI asked him to become an editor for Earthquake Spectra and the same year Jack wrote a paper for the journal on Displacement Based Design, one of the first papers with this title. It became a precursor of his work to come.
In 1995, the National Science Foundation ran a competition for funding between EERCs. Jack led UC Berkeley’s effort to compete for this and secured the funding with a proposal for a project focused on Performance-Based-Design (PBD). PBD is a design method that uses building performance as a goal rather than prescriptive code methods and enforces an understanding of the risk to life, occupancy, and economic loss that may occur as a result of earthquakes. Or, in short, the impact of a building on the community in event of an earthquake. Jack’s promotion of PBD helped launch the ATC-58 project around 1994, and he was able to use his position as director of the PEER Center to contribute to the effort. The final push came in 2005 when Jack was awarded an EERI Distinguished Lecture. He used this opportunity to assemble a team to develop the methodology that directly related structural earthquake damage to repair costs, building downtime, and lives lost. This was a pivotal development and has been widely adopted in the structural engineering field.
During the course of his career, Jack contributed to an extraordinary number of research efforts and provided leadership in technical committees that resulted in widely used Codes and Guidelines, including:
- ACI 318 Building Code
- ASCE 41 Seismic Evaluation and Retrofit of Existing Buildings, development of Displacement Based Design (ATC 33, ATC 386)
- Seismic Evaluation of Older Concrete Buildings for Collapse Potential (ATC 78)
- Recommended Administrative Bulletin on Structural, Geotechnical, and Seismic Hazard Engineering Design Review for the City and County of San Francisco (SEAONC AB-082/083 Task Group)
- Next-Generation Performance-Based Seismic Design Procedures for New and Existing Buildings (ATC 58)
- Guidelines for Performance-Based Seismic Design of Tall Buildings (TBI Guidelines)
- Guidelines and Commentary for Seismic Rehabilitation of Buildings (ATC-33/FEMA 273, ASCE 356)
- Guidelines for Evaluation and Repair of Masonry and Concrete Walls (ATC 43/FEMA 306-308),
- Seismic Evaluation Guidelines for Existing Buildings (FEMA 178)
- State of California Proposition 122 Seismic Retrofit Practices Improvement Program (ATC-40),
- Improved Seismic Design Guidelines for California Highway Bridges (ATC 32)
As a culmination of much of his research and experience, Jack published a book entitled “Seismic Design of Reinforced Concrete Buildings” in 2015. This book ties together his work on various code committees, researcher at UC Berkeley, and as a peer reviewer into guidance on the behavior, design, and construction requirements for earthquake-resistant concrete buildings.
With all of these contributions, Jack has helped push the structural engineering field forward as a researcher, engineering consultant, and professor. Throughout his career he has brought these roles together, allowing each to inform and benefit the others. Jack was a mentor and teacher to his students and his legacy continues to influence how we see the world as structural engineers.
- ACI Honorary Member (2022)
- EERI Honorary Member (2021)
- EERI George W. Housner Medal (2020)
- ACI Joe W. Kelly Award (2019)
- Academia de Ingeniería Mexico, Académico Correspondiente, 2016 election year Best Journal Paper of the Year, for “Seismic Performance of Reinforced Concrete Core Wall Buildings with and without Moment-Resisting Frames,” The Structural Design of Tall and Special Buildings Journal (2015)
- ATC/SEI Award, Exceptional Public- and Private-Sector Research and Development Program, Tall Building Seismic Design Guidelines (2015)
- SEI/ASCE Fellow (2015)
- SEAONC Helmut Krawinkler Award (2014)
- National Academy of Engineering (2014)
- Engineering News Record, Top 25 Newsmakers (2012)
- SEAOC Best Technical Presentation of the Convention (2011)
- SEAONC Award of Excellence, and SEAOC Excellence Award for Tall Buildings Initiative Guidelines on Performance-Based Seismic Design of Tall Buildings (2011)
- Earthquake Spectra Outstanding Paper Award (2009)
- SEAOC College of Fellows (2008)
- ACI Arthur J. Boase Award, Concrete Research Council (2008)
- ACI Chester Paul Siess Award for Excellence in Structural Research (2007)
- SEAONC Honorary Member (2006)
- University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Distinguished Alumnus Award, Civil Engineering (2005)
- EERI The Annual Distinguished Lecture Award (2005)
- ACI Delmar E. Bloem Distinguished Service Award (2001)
- ACI/Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute Alfred E. Lindau Award (1998)
- ACI Fellow (1990)
- ASCE Huber Research Prize (1990)
- University of California, Berkeley
- Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center
- American Concrete Institute
- Earthquake Engineering Research Institute
- Applied Technology Council
- American Society of Civil Engineers
- Building Seismic Safety Council
- California Department of Transportation
- Charles Pankow Foundation
- Southern California Earthquake Center
- San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association
- San Francisco Utilities Commission
- The Paramount
- One Rincon
- Salesforce Transit Center
- Salesforce Tower