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John W. (Jack) Laws

Principal, San Francisco

“I think it's very important for structural engineers to get involved early in the design process, working with the design team to come up with a ‘systems approach’ to a building’s design. When all disciplines coordinate, an engineer can help guide the structural design so that it works integrally with other systems of the building. You end up with a built environment that is easy to construct, fun to be in, and makes for a good experience for the ultimate end-users of the building - and at an economical cost – which is always the bottom line. .”

Jack has more than 30 years of experience in the field of structural engineering. Early in his career, he made many of his industry contacts while playing pick-up basketball with local architects in North Beach. Jack realized the San Francisco/Bay Area was one of the best places to work as a structural engineer in terms of innovation and opportunities – such as developing aspects of the building code and learning how the code affects the design. He has worked on numerous building-type projects, including hospitals, medical office buildings, laboratory facilities, and commercial and residential buildings. He also has extensive experience in remodeling, renovation, and seismic rehabilitation of buildings, particularly historically significant structures. Jack was chairman of the State of Existing Building Committee of Structural Engineers Associations of California from 1998 through 2001. The committee develops code criteria for seismic safety of existing buildings.

  • What was the most important skill you learned in college?
    Learning how to learn. You can't learn everything in school, but you can develop the best process to learn whatever new technical or design issues confront you in your daily practice.
  •  What type of projects have been your favorite?
    Historic preservation and affordable housing projects. I've been lucky to work on both types in the last 30 years. They are important to the fabric of any city, neighborhood, and community.
  • What is your favorite place, building, or built environment in San Francisco?
    The historic Ferry Building. Interestingly, when we worked on its renovation in the mid-90s, we found that the existing pier, built in 1915, still met the loading requirements of present day uses and any current code seismic loading that was required to support the Ferry Building structure above it.

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