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The Building Safety Issue You Probably Haven't Considered

... And What Meghana Joshi is Doing About It.

From designing buildings to designing an artificial intelligence, Meghana Joshi, the subject of this week’s Juno Jones Spotlight, has done quite a bit. Not only is she an associate at WHA Inc, she is also a founder and CEO of the innovation firm StudioTek. She describes herself as an 'archipreneur', an architectural professional and entrepreneur all in one. She is also a member of Hazard Girls, a Juno Jones sponsored community of women working in nontraditional fields. I had the chance to sit and talk with her about the main passions and inspirations that keep her going.

Meghana, what's your job title?

I am an Associate at WHA Inc., and I am also the Founder and CEO of the Irvine based innovation firm Studio TEK.

Tell us more about your companies.

WHA Inc. (William Hezmalhalch Architects) is a comprehensive land planning and architectural design firm that specializes in the shaping of new communities and reshaping of urban and existing in-town neighborhoods.

StudioTEK is an Irvine based technology and innovation startup that invents life and safety devices in buildings using emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Meghana with the PCBC Gold Nugget Award for Luxaira Senior Affordable Project.

What is your main role at WHA?

I work as a Project Manager in the Multifamily Department. My role begins with design development and includes getting all necessary permits from the jurisdictions, preparing and coordinating construction documents, and heading construction administration. I specialize in Senior Living projects.

How did you first get interested in architecture?

I grew up in a historic town called Bijapur, in India. Bijapur is the epitome of religious landmarks, decorated with citadels, palaces, mosques, mausoleums, whispering galleries, and daunting imperial office buildings. As the city modernized, the monuments were renovated and repurposed into restaurants, office spaces, and community spaces. My childhood comprised of life around Indo-Islamic architecture elements, such as arches and domes. Additionally, my frequent visits to South Indian temples, deriving design elements and patterns from math, added to my ever-growing interest in architecture.

In the company you founded, Studio TEK, you work with artificial intelligence. What was your motivator and what were you hoping to accomplish?

In 2017, my daughter was a junior at Troy High School in Orange County. Two students were arrested in her school for planning a Columbine-style attack on their schoolmates. Luckily for us, the student who believed in “See something, say something” spoke up, and averted a tragedy. But not everyone is so fortunate.

A few months after that incident, my chest tightened imagining the plight of seniors at the Oakmont Senior Living Center in Napa. 70 elderly were abandoned by the staff during a fire. As someone who is closely associated with the senior living industry, and familiar with their physical capabilities, it was clear to me that the active and passive fire and life safety measures we had in place weren’t enough. The NFPA fire damage data bolstered my belief.

There comes a time to democratize the solution with technology and innovation instead of just choosing to respond to a ballot item, or waiting for a code mod, or a revision. We had a few ideas that combined both of our expertise in architecture & engineering and would be critical in reducing the loss of life and property significantly in case of an emergency.

rPATH, the right path, rescue path was born!

It is an emergency alert system that combines software, hardware. stationary sensors, Artificial Intelligence, and machine learning to provide vital information about the nature and location of the emergency in case of emergencies. Emergency response time is crucial when it comes to life and safety. Our invention puts the power of information in the hands of first responders so that they can prepare their response knowing the exact nature and location of the emergency. We have filed a joint patent on our own invention, and have collaborated with a team of engineers to build a prototype which is now ready for demonstration.

We are working on rSCAN to address safety in schools, and rEXIT to address safe exiting that is inclusive of invisible disabilities. While we work on the devices, we are also approaching legislators and building code boards to make smart devices such as ours mandatory in buildings to increase safety of residents. Our goal is providing safety as a right, not a privilege.

"A building is more than an aesthetic presentation of an enclosed space. It is about life, safety, accessibility, and user experience."

What kind of challenges have you encountered along the way? How have you solved these challenges?

At this moment, funding is our biggest challenge.

We are a bootstrapped startup, and working parents, which leads to situations where we are constantly running out of time and money to fund the device production. Our plan is to showcase the prototype, as well as phase one design of the device and seek funding. We are also working towards building awareness about the product through interviews and conferences, as well as social media.

What is your favorite part of being an architect?

All of it. To know a building as scribbled lines on vellum to something physical, capable of being a part of the community is overwhelming.

Experience has taught me that a building is more than an aesthetic presentation of an enclosed space. It is about life and safety, accessibility, and user experience. It is about the interwoven, interconnected social, environmental, and economic characteristics that lay within the walls and roof. From worrying about the environmental impact of choosing that virgin land to stressing about the footprint of the building material sourcing, to pondering over the social impact of having a diverse team of architects/ consultants and contractors, to agonizing over the economic impact of illegal and undocumented labor, the reality of what I do, and what I can do as an architect is beyond standard definition.

You use the term 'archipreneur', what does that mean to you?

Architect as an entrepreneur.

Because architecture teaches us to think beyond our realm of work, we are open to interprofessional dialogue, and collaborative innovations. By letting the industry boundaries blur, we can bring a positive impact on how we build, and how we experience our buildings. Technology in AEC industries need not be limited to building materials and construction management. When an architect thinks like an entrepreneur, innovations will follow.

"When an architect thinks like an entrepreneur, innovations will follow."

Thank you so much Meghana for your wonderful contribution to the Juno Jones Spotlight series! The care you put into your designs for safety is absolutely remarkable, and you are an inspiration to so many women in non-traditional fields. Your invention, rPATH, is extremely important and deserves much recognition.

Meghana with Congressman Harley Rouda to push for legislation
that covers and protects those with invisible disabilities.

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