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WSP Principal David Odeh Shares Vision for Future-Ready Structures in SEI Keynote


It’s a big year for Odeh Engineers/WSP’s David Odeh, SE, PE. Fresh off the IMAX release of “Cities of the Future,” a Structural Engineering Institute documentary with which he was closely involved, Odeh brought the film’s themes, imagery, and inspiration to the stage at the SEICon24 keynote address at NASCC: The Steel Conference.


The film, narrated by John Krasinski, transports audiences into a developed concept of what urban life could look like 50 years from now, building on emerging trends in innovation like autonomous vehicles, air taxis, and multi-use structures. The cities rendered in the film are designed to be fully sustainable, adaptable, and resilient–-and with the right framework, they can become a reality, Odeh said.


Encouraging his keynote audience to challenge their own perceptions of future-ready design, he posed a series of questions throughout: What if we built structures right from the beginning with eventual reuse or adaptation in mind? What if structures could adapt with the push of a button? What if structures could be easily relocated or raised?


“A lot of great engineers and researchers in our community are already thinking about the future and about ways to cope with future realities [like climate change],” Odeh said. “We need to make a big investment in the materials of the future. We need to create opportunities for systems to evolve.”


Odeh dove into several recent projects in his own hometown of Providence, R.I., that exemplify his definition of future-ready structures: those that are sustainable, adaptable, reusable and resilient.


One example he shared was Brown University’s South Street Landing, an adaptive-reuse project that involved converting a long-abandoned electrical power station to a collaborative workspace for more than 400 Brown employees. The design team raised the original ground floor by 4.5 ft to protect the structure, which sits right on the bank of the Providence River, from future flooding.


“Structural engineers made it possible to reuse this building in a more resilient way and be more sustainable by adapting it over time,” Odeh said, emphasizing how repurposing existing infrastructure ultimately saves thousands of tons of CO2 emissions.


Odeh also took his audience behind the scenes of Brown’s Lindemann Performing Arts Center, whose moveable walls can transform the shape and acoustics of the structure with the push of a button, thanks to its innovative steel framing.


“We can apply adaptable design to solve problems related to climate and [other uncertainties],” Odeh explained.


The future may be uncertain, but today’s leading structural engineers have the information and technology at their fingertips to ensure that structures are future-ready, Odeh said.


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