Take Part in the Egress Stairs Symposium in New York City

March 31st, 2007 No comments

The Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI) of ASCE is hosting a Symposium on Egress Stairs in High-Rise Buildings, May 15 in New York City. The symposium will feature a series of presentations by leading experts discussing both human and construction factors in the designs of egress stairs, offering participants insights into the future of high-rise buildings and egress stair construction. Cooperating organizations include The Infrastructure Security Partnership (TISP) and the Building Security Council (BSC). This symposium is geared primarily to high-rise building architects and engineers, as well as those responsible for the safety occupants in future and existing buildings.

From the AEI website,

In the years following incidents at the World Trade Center, Read more…

Structural fears keep firefighters out of burned building

March 29th, 2007 1 comment

311xinlinegallery.jpgReported in the Houston Chronicle (March 29, 2007)

Fears about the structural integrity of a burned-out six-story office building in which three people perished are keeping firefighters from entering today to see if any more victims remain in the ruins, officials said today.

While there were no reports of anyone missing, the firefighters were waiting for an engineer to give the green light to enter the building again. Its not clear in the article what’s keeping the engineers from making their evaluatlion. I assume they’re waiting for the fire to be put out, after which they could assess if the building is dangerous. Only after this assessment could the firefighters enter the building, room by room, to complete their search for victims.

This got me thinking about a FEMA-sponsored seminar on ATC-20, for rapid post-earthquake safety evaluations of buildings, that I attended a couple years ago. The idea was to equip engineers with a framework to do effective structural evaluations quickly following a disaster. While this fire wasn’t a widespread disaster, it highlights the role of structural engineers in the recovery, following an accident or disaster. For engineers who aren’t building inspectors everyday, but spend most of their time in a design setting, I think the ATC-20 course could be useful.

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Patent Infringement Suit Over Seismic Design Settled

March 22nd, 2007 No comments

Slottedweb connectionHow often do you hear about intellectual property lawsuits when it comes to structural engineering?

The first time I heard of a patented connection, I was confused. How many ways could you attached a beam to a column? Surely all possible ways of bolting and welding had been realized by now. But then a few years ago, SidePlate came to our office to present their patented connection, and its benefits towards mitigating progressive collapse. There were applications for this system in some of the work we were doing. After many technical questions, someone in our office asked the presenter, “what kept an engineer from detailing a connection that looked like their SidePlate on their drawings,” and we were explained something about licensing requirements. It sounded trivial at the time, but obviously intellectual property was a big deal to SidePlate, as it is in all industries.

So, I was interested to read that Seismic Structural Design Associates settled a federal patent infringement suit for an undisclosed amount with WHL Consulting Engineers, over unlicensed use of SSDA’s seismic SlottedWeb field-welded connection for structural steel.

See the full story covered via ENR, A to Z of Building, and Intellectual Property Today.

Where else have you seen intellectual property related issues come up related to structural engineering?

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Best Practices for Reducing the Potential for Progressive Collapse in Buildings

March 20th, 2007 No comments

NIST cover

NIST recently published, Best Practices for Reducing the Potential for Progressive Collapse in Buildings (NISTIR 7396).

via EurakaAlert:

The report, Best Practices for Reducing the Potential for Progressive Collapse in Buildings, argues that although no building system can be engineered and constructed to be absolutely risk-free, risk-informed assessment and decision-making can reduce the risk of progressive collapse. According to the researchers, engineers must not simply work to the minimum requirements of the building code; they need to consider ways to improve structural integrity and robustness to accommodate local failures. Read more…

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Magical Leader Tread

February 28th, 2007 No comments

Magical leader treadThis came in my inbox this morning, and its really funny. Click on the image and see if you can find what’s wrong.

Read more…

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ASCE engineering grades

January 30th, 2007 No comments

moneyI was recently invited to fill out the ASCE‘s annual salary survey. This post isn’t about the survey or its results. I just wanted to highlight the ASCE Guidelines for Engineering Grades, which was included as a link in the invitation. It’s basically a table that relates engineering grade (a.k.a. salary) levels to experience, eduation, and responsibility, relative to public and private sector, as well as academic work. Those of us about to change careers, or involved in a performance and/or salary review may find this as a useful reference.

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How to write good

January 11th, 2007 No comments

typewriterI don’t think engineers early in their career appreciate the importance of writing well (yes, I know about the title:) If you were like me, you treated technical writing as skill of secondary importance while in school, focusing more on design and analysis. The reality is that design and analysis skills only count for at most 50% of what I do, and the rest is communicating. Thoughts have to be conveyed clearly and concisely to the client, because the design does not stand on its own.

I don’t claim to be a great writer, or even a good one (part of the reason I started this blog was to improve my writing), but I’d like to share tips I’ve picked up along the way.

The first tip is a cheat sheat for homonyms. Read more…

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It’s a Calatrava

January 8th, 2007 No comments

Structural engineers have their opinions about architects. The relationship between the two requires synergy, but sometimes the architect’s “vision” conflicts with the engineer’s sense of constructability.

So I smiled when I saw this cartoon by Steve Duenes, published in the New Yorker on Oct. 30, 2006.

Steve Duenes New Yorker cartoon

Read more…

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