Senior Geotechnical Engineer Melanie Walling and Senior Geotechnical Engineer Hamilton Puangnak were recently named to several influential seismic committees—all of which play a critical role in updating and informing standard building codes across the United States and worldwide.
Melanie was accepted as a corresponding member to the Building Seismic Safety Council Provisions Update Committee (BSSC PUC) Ground Motions Issues Team, accepted as a member of the ASCE 7-28 Seismic Subcommittee for Minimum Design Loads and Associated Criteria for Buildings and Other Structures, and selected as the United States Society of Dams (USSD) Earthquakes Committee Chair. Hamilton was also accepted as a corresponding member of the ASCE 7-28 Seismic Subcommittee for Minimum Design Loads and Associated Criteria for Buildings and Other Structures and recently became a voting member of the Structural Engineers Association of Washington (SEAW) Earthquake Engineering Committee (EEC). In various capacities, these organizations are responsible for evaluating current seismic building codes and recommending changes that eventually inform the standard guidance in ASCE 7-28 and the International Building Code (IBC).
Right now, the BSSC PUC is developing potential updates to the 2026 National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) Recommended Seismic Provisions for New Buildings and Other Structures on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The Ground Motions team focuses specifically on identifying, developing, evaluating, and approving technical ground motions proposals to be integrated into the 2026 NEHRP Provisions, which are the technical basis for the updates to ASCE/SEI 7 and the IBC.
The ASCE 7-28 Seismic Subcommittee reports directly to the Standards Committee of the ASCE and Structural Engineering Institute (SEI), which is responsible for developing and updating this critical guidance every six years. Hamilton and Melanie were both accepted as associate committee members for the current cycle, which ends in 2028.
“The ASCE 7 committees are diverse, consisting of academics, practicing engineers, agency representatives, etc.,” Hamilton explains. “Participating in this committee offers us the opportunity to help advance the technical practice among the engineering community while also representing our, our clients’, and our project partners’ perspectives as end-users.”
The United States Society of Dams (USSD) also introduced Melanie as the new chair of the USSD Earthquakes Committee at its annual conference in April. As members of a USSD technical committee, Melanie and the other members will play a critical role in steering national seismic best practices for dams. The USSD Earthquakes Committee is responsible for monitoring new research related to seismic risks and dam engineering, as well as keeping up with the practical challenges facing dam owners. They recommend new research initiatives when they see a need and disseminate findings, recommended best practices to facility managers and dam professionals across the country, and coordinate with related organizations like the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD). As chair, Melanie also has plans to build a more active and engaged Earthquakes Committee during her term.
“Previously we met twice a year, but I would like to meet quarterly,” Melanie says. “I would also like to create more opportunities for participation and learning—externally and from each other. I would like to increase engagement, particularly for younger and mid-career members. There is a lot that we can learn from each other.”
Hamilton is doing his part to share knowledge and expertise locally as a voting member of the Structural Engineers Association of Washington (SEAW) Earthquake Engineering Committee (EEC), an influential group of engineers that guides building code standards and policy across Washington State. Committee meetings primarily include structural engineers and representatives from a variety of local jurisdictions and government agencies—and a handful of geotechnical engineers.
“The evolution of modern seismic design criteria encourages collaboration between geotechnical and structural engineers,” Hamilton explains. “Successful partnerships require a mutual understanding of project objectives, constraints, and acceptance criteria. The committee is a nice way to facilitate dialogue between these disciplines.”
The EEC evaluates new building codes from across the country, listens to the most recent scientific findings from engineers at the University of Washington and other research programs, and considers the overall impact of building code changes or new methodology. Hamilton has been involved since 2018 and jumped at the opportunity for more responsibility as a voting member. With these appointments to ASCE 7-28 and the USSD Earthquakes Committee, Hamilton and Melanie are both bringing their seismic expertise to the national level.