Career Began
Kelly Cobeen_WJE
Kelly Cobeen
Photo Source: WJE
Kelly SEAOC Krawinkler Award 2023
Kelly Cobeen Receiving the SEAOC Krawinkler Award in 2023
Photo Source: Gwen Searer
Kelly Cobeen at the 2022 Public Comment Code Hearings
Kelly Cobeen at the 2022 Public Comment Code Hearings
Photo Source: Gwen Searer
Kelly Cobeen Receiving the 2017 California Preservation Award
Kelly Cobeen Receiving the 2017 California Preservation Award for the Hibernia Bank Seismic Strengthening project.
Photo Source: Gwen Searer
Kelly Cobeen at Indian Creek
Kelly Cobeen working in the field on a wood-framing project called Indian Creek
Photo Source: Gwen Searer
Kelly Cobeen Resistograph
Kelly Cobeen showing Kari Klaboe how to use a resistograph to assess wood decay.
Source: Gwen Searer
Contributions to Structural Engineering History in Northern California

Kelly Cobeen was born in Berkeley and moved to Hawaii as a toddler, where she did her schooling. She returned to the Bay Area to do her Bachelor’s and Master’s in Civil Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, during which she found the structural courses to be most challenging and interesting and was hence drawn to a career in structural engineering.

After her graduation, Kelly began her career at Phillips and Giorgi in Napa. She then went on to work at GFDS Engineers in San Francisco and subsequently started her own firm, Cobeen and Associates, where she worked for 5 years. She joined Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates in 2008, where she currently serves as a Principal.

Kelly’s structural engineering experience is not just limited to the design of new buildings and retrofit of existing buildings but also includes her involvement in extensive committee work, research, education and code-development. She is widely known for her contribution to the field of light-frame wood construction. She got involved in research and code development early on in her career and was on the committee responsible for the 1994 Uniform Building Code overhaul to provisions in the code for conventional construction. She has coauthored the Design of Wood Structures textbook and taught wood design at University of California, Berkeley and has been an integral part of the CUREE-Caltech Woodframe Project and several Applied Technology Council projects. Kelly has wide-ranging experience in working with a host of construction materials, apart from wood and enjoys diversity in projects.

Kelly’s favorite project is her first major seismic retrofit project – the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, a non-ductile concrete frame structure with hollow clay tile infill. It made her appreciate the process of investigating and finding out how old buildings are constructed and how to carefully supplement the existing structure in conformance with historic preservation principles. One of the other highlights of the project was that she got to work and interact with a multi-disciplinary team.

Kelly describes the best day in her life as being a day where she can go crawl around an old building. She credits Ruth Gordon, Zan Turner and Maryann Phipps, who by their involvement, engagement and leadership, showed her that there was a place for women in the civil engineering profession. During her time off from work, she enjoys going on a run and is an avid reader of historical fiction. Her biggest contribution to structural engineering stems from her work in codes, standards and guidelines, through which, she has helped influence design in a broad fashion. Kelly strongly believes that individual engineers and the larger engineering community can and should influence codes, standards and other things that affect the built environment. Building code involvement has made her appreciate the art of compromise and the importance of bringing people together to take small steps in the right direction.

Awards & Accomplishments
  • SEAONC Edwin Zacher Award (1997)
  • SEAONC President (2010)
  • BSSC Honor Award (2009)
  • SEAOC Fellow (2013)
  • SEAONC Fellow (2014)
  • SEAOC President (2015)
  • NCSEA James Delahey Award (2019)
  • BSSC Excellence Award (2021)
  • SEAONC Honorary Member (2021)
Related Engineer(s)
Related Organization(s)
Related Structure(s)
  • California Palace of the Legion of Honor Seismic Retrofit and Addition
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial
  • Silicon Graphics North Charleston Campus (now Google)
  • Hibernia Bank Retrofit
  • Badger Pass Ski Lodge Retrofit