Kit Miyamoto, MS '97 (Civil Engineering)

Engineer using skills to help others

H. Kit Miyamoto

To Kit Miyamoto, disasters are learning experiences that can save lives and properties in the future.

Miyamoto is an internationally recognized expert on high-performance earthquake structural engineering and disaster mitigation, response and reconstruction. Following a violent earthquake, where some people might see rubble and ruin, he’ll see a building that can be repaired and returned to its inhabitants. Or, he will find proof of shoddy construction and building materials destined to fail. His knowledge of structural integrity—before, during and after earthquakes—has saved lives.

Miyamoto is CEO of Miyamoto International, Inc., a global earthquake structural engineering firm based in Sacramento with 11 offices around the world. He is also president of the nonprofit organization Miyamoto Global Disaster Relief. For the past two decades, he and his colleagues have been called upon to scour earthquake-ravaged towns across the globe to assess what went wrong during violent quakes, what could have been done to minimize damage, and what should be done to get communities rebuilt and thriving again.

The company has responded to more than 100 earthquake and hurricane events over the past 20 years, including mega-quakes in New Zealand, Haiti and, most recently, Japan.

In Haiti, Miyamoto’s teams established a program to help Haitians repair buildings by teaching the masonry skills necessary to bring them up to international seismic strength standards. More than 3,000 buildings have been repaired so far.

“We leave the country stronger, not only in its buildings but its knowledge base,” Miyamoto says.

Their work in Japan is just beginning.

“There is a huge difference between the quakes in Japan and Haiti,” he observes. “In Haiti, 300,000 people were killed, but 50 percent of the buildings were untouched. Whole communities still exist there. In Japan, whole towns have been wiped out, but maybe 30,000 killed."

Ironically, Miyamoto was in Tokyo, delivering a speech on earthquake engineering at Tokyo Institute of Technology, when the 9.0-magnitude quake hit on March 11, 2011.

Miyamoto credits the foundation of his research and design expertise to his studies in civil engineering at Sac State. “The program offered access to a great mixture of research engineers and practicing engineers who not only taught me about design practice, but the physics and math of how buildings behave during earthquakes. The research I did for my master’s degree is a very important part of what I do now.

“I love what I do,” Miyamoto adds. “Having safe shelter is such an important thing. We make the world a better place.”

This article was originally published in the Summer 2011 edition of Sac State Magazine.

This video was produced by Sacramento State's Office of Public Affairs, published June 2012.