David Cocke

Term: 2020-2021


David Cocke, S.E. is the founder and President of Structural Focus in Gardena, CA with expertise in seismic evaluation, historic preservation, retrofits, and new design.

David brings a long history of involvement and leadership with EERI. David joined EERI in 1992 and is a Charter Member of the Southern California Chapter. He has served for several years as a member of the EERI Initiatives Development Committee and has participated in the Friedman Family Visiting Professionals Program since 2009. 

David served on the EERI Board of Directors from 2015 to 2017 and was Vice-President in 2017. He served as Co-Chair of the 11th National Conference on Earthquake Engineering in 2018. In addition to his engagement with EERI, David has served on the board of directors of many organizations, including the California Preservation Foundation, Pasadena Heritage, USC Architectural Guild, and SEAONC. David serves on the boards of the Los Angeles Conservancy and the Structural Engineers Institute of ASCE.

A few of David’s notable professional projects include the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Red Bull North American Headquarters, John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, and a new Amazon campus at Culver Studios. David has been leading the effort to bring Back to Business (B2B), a Building Occupancy Resumption Program, to Southern California. In 2013, his team worked with DreamWorks to establish southern California’s first B2B in the City of Glendale, and now partners with a multitude of clients and cities throughout Southern California to establish their B2B programs.


My first exposure to EERI was shortly after starting my career, but my experience during the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake opened my eyes to the realities of a natural disaster’s impact on our communities. Until then, I was looking through the narrow lens of structural engineering, and that experience showed me that we should try to take a much wider view and grasp the impacts on our communities, both immediate and long term. Even now, as I mentor young engineers, I encourage them to try to travel to post-earthquake sites when possible, not only to “see” the damage but to “feel” the distress of the community.

EERI is in great hands. The leadership over the years has been passionate and enthusiastic and we can be thankful for the dedication of all of those that have contributed at the staff, Board and committee levels. In the last couple of years, our staff has evolved and Heidi is hitting her stride as our Executive Director. All our staff roles are filled with highly motivated, efficient, hard-working and creative people. The pieces are in place to excel and lead and my main responsibility as President will be to keep them going, provide some guidance and the best resources possible…and do not “mess it up.”

Interestingly, it seems that the social climate is now in place to make some significant changes for the betterment of our communities. While attending professional conferences recently I have noted considerable discussion centered on “functional recovery”. There is significant policy movement regarding NEHRP, CA AB 393 and more. EERI and SEAOC have developed a Functional Recovery Working Group and EERI produced a White Paper on the subject in response to new language in the 2018 reauthorization of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP). Other organizations are focusing on resiliency, performance-based design and risk reduction, all leading to achieving functional recovery of our buildings and communities.

With the push in the California legislature to consider changes to the building codes requiring a higher level of seismic performance in our new buildings as well as mandatory retrofitting of buildings, with local jurisdictions considering and passing new mandatory retrofit ordinances, and corporations becoming more sophisticated regarding risk reduction and new recovery programs, it is obvious that our communities are becoming more aware and are demanding better building performance and community recovery.

So what is EERI’s role in promoting this concept of functional recovery? Although we certainly have the individual members with expertise to establish the technical procedures and standards, there are certainly other organizations already working on those technical efforts (SEAOC, SEI, and others). What is needed and what we can provide is the leadership to coalesce and carry the policy to the public and legislatures through advocacy and communications.

We must continue to support Congressional reauthorization and funding for the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. We should advocate for state adoption and implementation of resilient building codes, for higher retrofit and infrastructure standards to achieve “functional recovery”. Our membership is unique from the other organization due to the diversity of our members’ areas of expertise, and with that diversity, we are most qualified to lead with promoting the policy.

In addition, I have noted that other engineering organizations are interested in activating earthquake reconnaissance activities. Competition is not necessary – EERI has always, and now more than ever can provide the leadership and coordination that is greatly needed during reconnaissance of a disaster. Our own Earthquake Clearinghouse sets the standard. I have also noted that more and more other organizations are trying to expand their involvement in more diverse areas, and some potential overlaps are developing. The last thing that anyone of us needs is to be duplicating the work of others. With that in mind, we should be communicating and collaborating to advance our knowledge. Perhaps a leadership council between related organizations should meet on a periodic basis to compare notes, give advice and avoid duplication of efforts.

EERI does so many things very well. With the changes in technology and media, our methods of communication, education, and learning are rapidly evolving. EERI’s programs set the standard for professional organizations, including our annual meetings, technical seminars and regional and student chapters. We have an active Student Leadership Council and host the highly successful annual Seismic Design Competition. Through the Friedman Family Visiting Professionals Program and Housner Fellows Program, and, we provide meaningful opportunities for our future leaders to learn.

We need to continue to try to engage more younger professionals and help with their development as they advance. Our professional journal—Earthquake Spectra, is one of the most highly respected journals in the world and with recent actions by the Board, we have ensured its sustainability. EERI has unique research and community service opportunities like the Learning from Earthquakes (LFE) program, School Earthquake Safety Initiative, Concrete Coalition, World Housing Encyclopedia and others. Our committees are active and continue to contribute significantly toward our mission. Our influence is global and when EERI issues a statement, the world listens. Our diverse membership and our excellent staff are our main strengths. I look forward very much to working with you all.