From post-earthquake forensics investigations to recovery-based design

1 November 2023

This seminar will present case studies demonstrating how one firm is putting recovery-based design concepts into action, leveraging diverse experiences from its forensic engineering practice.

TT Seminar

Event Information

18 January 2024, 3:00 pm - 5:30 pm (UK time)

This event is free and open to all.

Where: online (register using the link below)

Zoom registration link

The public’s expectations about the performance of the built environment after a natural hazard event has changed from accepting life safety to requiring a swift recovery to nearly normal conditions. The reasons behind this change lie in the tremendous loss that recent natural disasters have caused to society.

Thornton Tomasetti is one of the few leading engineering firms that—in addition to designing the world’s tallest skyscrapers—has a large team of forensic engineers that investigate structural failures and respond to clients in need of engineering expertise after natural disasters. In the past 15 years, the firm has deployed dozens of engineers for post-earthquake investigations after the 2010-2011 in Canterbury and 2016 in Kaikoura in New Zealand, the 2017 Puebla-Morelos earthquake in Mexico, the 2014 Napa and 2018 Alaska earthquakes in the U.S., the 2022 Michoacan earthquake in Mexico, and the 2023 Türkiye-Syria earthquake sequence, as well as numerous hurricanes and tornadoes. 

Lessons from these events, along with public demand, influenced the creation of the firm’s Resilience practice. The practice helps people prepare, endure, adapt, and thrive in a disruptive and changing world using the latest science combined with expertise gained from forensic investigations.

In this presentation, we will present case studies of forensic investigations when structural engineers assisted on managing difficult situations of buildings with intermediate levels of damage that prompt complex negotiations between owners, tenants, and their insurance carriers. Then, we will show how that expertise is informing our growing resilience consulting practice to contribute to the development of a long-lasting and functional built environment.

Presenters’ biography

Francisco Galvis

Thornton Tomasetti 


Francisco Galvis is a project engineer at Thornton Tomasetti. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Pontifical Javieriana University and Universidad de los Andes, respectively, in his home country, Colombia, and a Ph.D. at Stanford University in California. His research advances the risk and resilience quantification of the built environment to support decision-making. Francisco has 10 years of combined industry and academic experience. He has taught structural engineering undergraduate classes and investigated the performance of steel, precast concrete, and adobe structures at the experimental and computational levels. As a professional engineer, Francisco participated in the structural design of large infrastructure projects, including a 400-metre-long cable-stayed bridge, and numerous other bridges and buildings in North and South America. At Thornton Tomasetti, he has been involved in forensic investigations for litigation support, and post-disaster structural evaluations after the 2022 Mexico earthquakes, 2023 Türkiye earthquake, and Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. He is currently pushing the firms’ capabilities and tools to conduct risk analyses for functional recovery-based design of new and existing buildings.

Ruchika Kaur

Thornton Tomasetti 


Ruchika Kaur is an associate principal and forensic engineer in Thornton Tomasetti’s West U.S. region. She began her career in 2007, with an initial focus on new building design for the education, healthcare and government sectors. After spending more than two years assessing earthquake damage of hundreds of buildings in Christchurch, New Zealand, in support of insurance claims, Ruchika joined the firm’s Forensics practice. Her experience includes structural investigations of failures, remedial design for failed structures, evaluation of construction defects, building envelope assessments, analysis of building codes, and disaster responses to Hurricanes Harvey and Michael. She has performed seismic assessments in Chile and Mexico in support of insurance-claim investigations. Ruchika is a licensed professional engineer in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Hawaii. She holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of California, Davis, and a master’s degree in structural engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. 

David Ojala

Thornton Tomasetti 


Associate Principal David Ojala is a seismic risk and resilience expert at Thornton Tomasetti who helps clients understand the expected performance of the built environment in foreseeable earthquakes and make informed and financially sound decisions to address risks. David understands the challenges of making big investments to address relatively rare, but potentially catastrophic, natural hazards, such as earthquakes, and how to prioritize simple risk mitigation steps. He draws on a knowledge of seismic performance acquired from post-natural disaster damage assessments, including serving as structural response coordinator for five significant earthquakes and as a structure specialist with FEMA Urban Search and Rescue California Task Force 4 in Oakland, which helps bring real-world perspective to his risk consulting work. As a practicing structural designer, he is able to turn his recommendations into practical solutions in the form of seismic retrofits or performance-based design of new facilities.

Julie Pietrzak

Thornton Tomasetti 


Julie Pietrzak leads Thornton Tomasetti’s Resilience practice, which provides resilient structure and infrastructure design and project management services to a range of clients. She has significant expertise in multi-hazard climate risk and resilience assessments, stormwater management, earthen embankments, and track and rail projects. Julie has contributed to the design of multiple large-scale water resource and land development projects and has consulted on flood resilience strategies for building owners and transportation agencies, including New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston. Julie was invited by the National Academy of Engineering to participate in the 2017 U.S. and the 2021 Japan-America Frontiers of Engineering Symposiums. She also served as co-chair of the resilient and reliable infrastructure session at the 2018 U.S. symposium.