Being born and raised in American Samoa, picking up and moving to Hawai`i for college was not much of a cultural shock for me. There were plenty of similarities between the two localities, such as the weather, people, food, and the overall island lifestyle. Luckily, I had the opportunity to intern with Reid Middleton, Inc. during my graduate studies at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa and was hired as a Designer I upon graduation.
Reid Middleton believes in investing in its employees, even the new ones. This past year, I got the opportunity to travel to and work in the Everett office in Washington state for structural modeling training. I have had the chance to work on various projects within the state of Hawai`i and even a few in Washington and Alaska. Since our Hawai’i office opened fairly recently, I didn’t imagine that I would have the opportunity to work on projects in foreign countries. Little did I know a project was in the works to perform a seismic evaluation in Japan….IN JAPAN! I’ve always wanted to visit the country, but never had a chance.
Not a Typical Day’s Work
We spent two weeks working as a sub-consultant on a seismic evaluation of the United States Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan. The scope of the evaluation included the main hospital and four other buildings that support the operational use of the main building. Altogether, the total floor area evaluated was approximately 244,000 square feet.
The evaluation required us to perform a site investigation to verify existing conditions and provide markups to record information. While at the site, the archives were scanned to find additional information on the buildings being evaluated. Since the site was located far away, we took extensive photo and video documentation of the facilities to provide a visual reference after the site investigation.
My typical day at the office would be sitting behind a desk, working through calculations, and creating/editing models in the office, which I fully enjoy day in and day out. However, to be able to go and see the physical structure of what we were planning to evaluate and compare drawings on paper to something tangible was something I hadn’t yet experienced.
They Say Preparation is Key to Success
Being prepared and reviewing the material beforehand really helped during the site investigation. While performing walk-throughs of the facility, I noticed that I already had a general feel for the layout of each building. For example, at one point during the trip we had to verify a few items in the basement level of the main building, which contains a utility trench. With this being my first site investigation, I would not have known what types of things to look out for had we gone down there without reviewing drawings and preparing beforehand.
Even with all the preparation, not everything can be anticipated or avoided. Take the time difference, for example. It took a few days to get adjusted to the time change, a whopping 19-hour difference from Hawai`i. I recall waking up at 2 a.m. several times because it was 7 a.m. in Honolulu.
From a cultural to a technical aspect, this trip was definitely a learning experience. I certainly learned that preparation shows itself in your work, but it’s equally true that not all situations can be anticipated. I will say one thing: working in Japan is something that I will not soon forget.