Beyond the Buildings

This is the first in an SDAF series exploring the people and companies behind San Diego’s built environment.

“It’s a unique little industry,” says Aaron Pebley, a senior project manager with KPFF Consulting Engineers. This is the understatement of the year, considering a recent feather in the KPFF cap is the IQHQ RaDD (Research and Development District), the biotech “city” slated for Downtown San Diego’s waterfront. With 22 offices throughout the country—and six in California alone—KPFF creates central arteries for higher tech buildings like IQHQ’s RaDD. In San Diego, the firm is synonymous with our life science campuses, leveling up the homegrown sector. Alongside RaDD, the firm is also busy revving up adaptive reuse in Sorrento Valley. Here, we take five with Pebley…

Overarching challenge. These life science buildings need to be high-performance, and they demand so much flexibility for their lab tenants. The infrastructure that is required to support these buildings is far, far more involved than any typical office building.

Give us an example. We get an opportunity to really dive into the vibrational characteristics of the structure itself, ensuring sensitive lab equipment won’t be impacted by a vibrating floor. Imagine you are in an open office and your co-worker comes hustling down the hallway and you can feel the floor bouncing slightly as you sit in your chair. That can’t happen in a lab!

So…IQHQ Research and Development District. It really feels like a new identity is being established for downtown San Diego’s waterfront with this development, and IQHQ has the potential to serve as a lynchpin for even more life science development. Beyond the life science sector, it will also hopefully create momentum for other office and hospitality projects downtown. Downtown has been waiting for quite some time for a new market sector to plant its flag there, and with this project it appears that may finally be happening.

“Sky’s the limit in Sorrento Valley.” This corridor is really coming to life with adaptive reuse of the existing building stock there. So many existing buildings are getting significant overhauls to reuse them for life science tenants. It’s great to see some older buildings get a new life for state-of-the-art research companies.

Office perks. Many of these companies have high profile talent and clientele, and they want to go big on amenities as a way to integrate work/life. Integrating fun design elements from restaurants and breweries to fitness centers and bocce ball courts into the fabric of these beautiful buildings is always a challenge we love to solve as structural engineers!

Interview & write up by Gillian Flynn, connect with her at

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