Clarence Rinne and Don Peterson, at separate times, each attended UC Berkeley and then entered the structural engineering profession in San Francisco. Clarence opened a branch office for his employer, leaving San Francisco for suburban Palo Alto, primarily to work with prominent local architect Birge Clark. Soon after that, in 1960 he founded the firm Clarence Rinne Structural Engineer. Don Peterson and David Hammond were among the first employees, and in 1968 the firm became Rinne, Hammond and Peterson. In 1972, the firm became Rinne & Peterson and continues today as the first structural engineering firm in Santa Clara County.
Early work with the architectural firm Ehrlich, Heft and Rominger eventually lead RPSE to become one of the first structural engineering firms working with the semiconductor industry and its associated “clean room”. Control of floor structure microvibration, treating the “building as a machine”, and fast-track design and construction were all instrumental in this burgeoning industry. The project teams branched out into biotechnology, creating even more opportunities for RPSE. Along the way, work for other market segments was always in the portfolio, including office buildings, printing plants, libraries, theatres, residential work, health care, public schools and retail. Contract school and hospital plan checking were later added to the firm’s services.
Clarence and Don both left marks on their firm. Clarence was inclined to start projects for repeat clients on a handshake, assured that the details would be worked out fairly in due time. He inspired a generation of engineers to treat their clients, co-workers and vendors with friendliness and respect. Don was a true student of the structural design profession, he inspired a growth mindset in those around him. He had real passion for designing what he called “tough buildings” – buildings that were well tied together, to resist seismic events. For instance, he paid extra attention to the detailing requirements for diaphragm collectors, long before it was required by the building code. Employees were coached to meet project schedules and maintain quality and attention to the details. In those days, the vellum drawing became priceless as it neared completion, a coffee cup on your drafting table was a sure way to elicit a chiding from a co-worker.
Pat Chow, Patrick Man and Jim Lentfer all forged the majority of their careers at RPSE. As the successful second generation of owners, they strove to carry on the traditions established by Clarence and Don. In 2013, Patrick Man retired from the firm.
In 2015 the firm changed its name to Rinne & Peterson, Inc. to better publicize its operation as a privately-held California “C” Corporation.
The firm operates as a structural engineering consulting firm, with architectural clients as its primary market. Beginning with Clarence and Don’s introduction into the profession in San Francisco, the firm has focused on quality and customer service.
The client list includes other design professionals (architects and engineers), owners (both commercial/industrial, residential, public/private schools, health care, and civic.
The company has a stable workforce and relies on repeat work for established clients, as well as acquiring new clients through marketing and networking efforts.