Structural Engineers Association of New York

SEAoNY Upstate - Syracuse Half-Day Seminar

  • 29 Mar 2018
  • 12:15 PM - 5:00 PM
  • C&S Companies - 499 Col Eileen Collins Blvd, Syracuse, NY 13212
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SEAoNY Upstate - Syracuse Half-Day Seminar

March 29, 2018

12:15PM - 5:00PM

C&S Companies - 499 Col Eileen Collins Blvd, Syracuse, NY 13212


12:15-12:30 Check-in/Registration

12:30-1:00 Lunch/Comments on SEAoNY Upstate progress

1:00-2:30 Webinar by Dr. Michael O’Rourke: Snow-Load Drifting – Current Provisions & Future Directions (1.5 PDHs)

2:30-2:40 Break

2:40-5:00 Presentation by Dr. Julie Mark Cohen: Unrecognized Knowledge: Recurring Structural Failures (2 PDHs)

3.5 PDHs offered (pending)

Webinar Presentation:

The webinar will provide a detailed review the current ASCE 7 provisions for snow drift loading as well as expected future improvements. The current provisions to be covered include windward and leeward roof step drifts, unbalanced drift loads on gable roofs, as well as snow drifting at parapet walls, RTUs, and atop adjacent structures. Special attention will be paid to the mechanical basis for various geometric characteristics of these drifts.

The webinar will conclude with a discussion of three likely improvements to the ASCE 7 drift load provisions. The first is revision of the windward drift relations based upon recent Norwegian observations. The Norwegian observations lead to relations for wall heights capable of capturing snow flux and thereby preventing downwind drift formation. The final likely improvement relates to regional differences in “winter windiness” and resulting differences in expected drift size.

Webinar Speaker: Michael O'Rourke, Ph.D., P.E.         

Michael O’Rourke, P.E., Ph.D., has been a professor of Civil Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute since 1974. He chaired the ASCE 7 Snow and Rain Loads subcommittee responsible for rain and snow load provisions in ASCE 7-98, 7-02, 7-05, 7-10 and 7-16. He is the author of dozens of research articles on snow loads, guidelines for the use the last 5 versions of ASCE 7, as well as the recently completed “Snow Loads on Solar Paneled Roofs”.


Since the 1960s, forensic investigators of structural failures have primarily sought out quantifiable errors and omissions. Underlying causes of too many of these failures have gone unnoticed, thus not offering information to develop "feedback loops" to correct deficiencies and inadequacies in structural engineering practice. Consequently, unnecessary structural failures have not only continued, but have recurred.

From a broader design- and systems-based perspective, the author has examined hundreds of failures. She has identified and substantiated nine areas in which structural engineers have been making design decisions without using available, pertinent knowledge from related engineering fields and even from structural engineering. Three areas are the focus of this seminar.

Using three case studies, overviews will be given on structural engineering design decision-making in the context of history. The first one is fracture due to hydrogen embrittlement of galvanized high-strength hard steel bolts and threaded rods. The second is the February 2017 failure of the Oroville Dam Spillway. The third includes structural failures that have resulted from the (mis)use of the terms "design" and "systems thinking." Relevant knowledge was available, but was not recognized and utilized during conceptual and schematic design.

Structural failures impose risks to society (deaths, injuries, financial loss). Recurring failures are inexcusable. As such, structural engineering as a profession is too important to society to start out with an undergraduate education under the umbrella of civil engineering (i.e., with courses irrelevant to structural engineering practice). Suggestions will be offered on where changes need to be made.

Presentation by: Julie Mark Cohen, PhD, PE, SECB

Julie Mark Cohen, PhD, PE, SECB, is a Consulting Structural and Forensic Engineer and an Independent Science and Technology Studies Scholar. She has over 30 years of varied professional experience, mostly in practice, but also on self-initiated research for which she has procured her own funding in structural/earthquake engineering and also in science and technology studies. Her presentation is based on the results on her research project entitled "A Study of Knowledge Flow and Recurring, Costly Infrastructure Failures" which is funded by the National Science Foundation's Science, Technology, and Society program. Dr. Cohen can be contacted at

For SEAoNY members, registration is $50 in advance
For non-members, registration is $65 in advance 

Advanced Registration will close the March 28th at 2:00pm

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Lunch is Sponsored by:

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"SEAoNY" is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization. 536 LaGuardia Place New York, NY 10012

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