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Day 1: Arrival in Mexico City

Article Image 1

The Journey Begins

October 27-28, 2017

Around 4:15 pm on Friday October 27th, Rachel left San Luis Obispo to catch a shuttle at the Santa Maria Airport and then was onto to Los Angeles. After a brief stay-over with her family, she will fly out from LAX on Saturday morning to the Benito Juarez Airport in Mexico.

In hand for plane reading as she prepares for her first reconnaissance mission:

•ATC 20 a field manual on post-earthquake building evaluation

•ATC 78 discussing behavior of older non-ductile concrete buildings

•PMFSEL 96-3 describing retrofits to concrete buildings after the 1985 Mexico Earthquake

Traveling, Tacos, and Earthquakes


Saturday morning started with a 10 a.m. flight from LAX, nearly four and a half hours later I was through customs and on a shuttle to the hotel. The ride gave me a broader view of the building types in Mexico City and the tightly spaced construction reminded me of downtown Los Angeles where land is valuable. Many buildings had aged masonry walls (presumably unreinforced); however, being one story buildings they did not appear to have significant exterior structural damage, only deterioration due to weathering. I found it interesting that these buildings had giant car hoods and parts stored on their roofs. That was a new sight for me, certainly not a roof load you would consider in our ARCE design labs!

Arriving to the Sheraton Mexico City Maria Isabel Hotel, I settled into my room to find a great view from my window of El Ángel monument on Paseo de la Reforma, the main avenue that runs through the heart of Mexico City. After a short break, I met civil engineering professor Sergio Breña from UMass-Amherst for a dinner of authentic Mexican tacos and Queso con Chorizo (heavenly compared even to Southern Californian standards), during which we discussed the plan for tomorrow.  Dr. Breña is one of the engineers that examined many buildings after the 1985 Mexico Earthquake and, for him, this trip is an opportunity to re-evaluate some of the same structures and compare their response to last month’s earthquake.

My first in-the-field lesson from Dr. Breña took place on our walk between the hotel and the restaurant when he pointed out a water tank on a roof that had started to tip over and create stress cracks along the building. For the same structure, there were cracks along masonry partitions which seem to follow the diagonal braces as well as other cracking at the interface of beams and columns. While we did not go inside the building today, perhaps we will later in the week.

When it comes to reconnaissance, Dr. Breña says it takes lots of patience and a small team to navigate through the bustling Mexico City traffic. We will be leaving early tomorrow morning to get a start on work, and around noon expect to be joined by my primary mentor, Cal Poly ARCE alum Garrett Hagen from Degenkolb. I am extremely excited to be working in the field and learning alongside two very intelligent and gifted engineers.

So far I have seen the airport, the downtown street life, a damaged water tank, and the inside of a small Mexican restaurant. All to which, I am pleased to report, have exceeded my expectations in terms of the beginning of one great adventure.


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