The Structural Engineering Channel (TSEC) focuses on helping structural engineering professionals stay up to date on technical trends in the field. Our hosts for the show, Mathew Picardal, PE, and Cara Green, EIT interviews engineers ranging from recent engineering graduates to professionals from top engineering organizations on professional development topics for structural engineers to facilitate career advancement.
Topics covered include but are not limited to performance-based design, fasteners and connections, post-tensioned structures, smart structures, tsunami modelling, earthquake engineering, software solutions, seismic design, blast resistant design, wood, business issues and professional development for structural engineers, how to specify things effectively, and more.
TSEC 77: Top Career Takeaways From Two Successful Engineers
In this episode, Mat and Cara talk about three career takeaways that stood out for them throughout their careers, and how those experiences helped them to grow as engineers.
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Their Career Takeaways:
Cara’s first career takeaway: If you are a student or an engineer who is pivoting in your career, look for opportunities outside of what you have studied or have been working in. You might be surprised how your previous experiences can help you in other fields, and you might enjoy the other field more than you initially thought you would. Engineering fundamentals span multiple disciplines, especially in civil engineering.
Mat’s first career takeaway: Get good at what you can do technically. Be the best that you can be. Study and try to be as efficient as you can. It will help you endlessly later in your career. When you get to be in a position where you are making decisions, you must know what you are doing technically.
Cara’s second career takeaway: Maintain some sort of mentorship throughout your career journey. Your mentors will always have something new you can learn from and have great advice when you need it. They don’t only give you the confidence to move forward with certain opportunities, but they will also support you if you stop doing it after you realize it is not for you.
Mat’s second career takeaway: Finding mentorship and finding people to support you is very important. You cannot get far in your career without other people helping you. Having people supporting you from different organizations is a good way to get unbiased opinions and advice.
Cara’s third career takeaway: Staying up to date on the latest trends can give you the ability to change the future. You can influence your career and your career path, and become a big asset to the organization that you work for.
Mat’s third career takeaway: Self-reflection is important because it is very easy to get caught up in the career rollercoaster. Self-reflect every few months about what you enjoy about your job, what your long-term goals are, and how you want your life to look in a certain number of years. You do not want to find yourself in a place you do not want to be 10 years down the line because you did not self-reflect regularly.
More Details in This Episode…
About the Hosts
Mathew Picardal, P.E.
Mathew is a licensed engineer, practicing on structural projects in California, with an undergraduate degree from Cal Poly Pomona and an M.S. in Structural Engineering from UC San Diego. He has designed and managed various types of building structures, including residential wood apartment buildings, commercial steel buildings, and concrete parking structures and towers. He also hosts the new YouTube channel “Structural Engineering Life,” through which he promotes the structural engineering profession to engineering students who are not familiar with the industry perspective.
Cara Green, P.E.
Cara Green, P.E., works in Hilti’s North American headquarters as the Structural Engineering Trade Manager for the U.S. and Canada. She is currently an EIT in Texas and received her bachelor’s in civil engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
This Episode Is Brought to You By:
Colliers Engineering & Design
Colliers Engineering & Design is a multidiscipline engineering firm with over 1,800 employees in 63 offices nationwide — and growing fast! Colliers Engineering & Design maintains an internal culture that is nurtured through the promotion of integrity, collaboration, and socialization. Their employees enjoy hybrid work environments, continuous career advancement, health and wellness offerings,
TSEC 76: Mass Timber in Structural Engineering: Seeing the Bigger Picture
In this episode, we talk to Michelle Kam-Biron, P.E., SE, F. SEAOC, SECB, mass timber specialist at Structurlam, about mass timber in structural engineering and how engineers can become more involved in the industry.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Michelle:
What does a career in mass timber entail, and what should people considering a career in mass timber know about it?
What would you say is the secret to being successful in the industry with the rise of mass timber?
How can engineers become more involved in the industry and support future engineers?
What are a few innovative projects that you have worked on in the past, and some of the new uses of mass timber in structural engineering?
What are some of the ways that engineers can gain more information on mass timber?
Do you have any final advice for structural engineers considering working more with mass timber?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Mass Timber in Structural Engineering:
Many universities do not offer wood design engineering courses. It could be difficult for you to learn about basic wood engineering if it is not offered at your university. A place like the American Wood Council, Woodworks, and APA do offer training, but it is targeted more for continuing education. You need the foundation in wood design to get into mass timber.
Practicing engineers should have a foundation in wood design but must also gather more knowledge from the American Wood Council, Woodworks, and APA. Consider getting a specialty engineer to assist the engineer on record with mass timber. It will ensure that the project is designed correctly, and the engineer on record will also learn more about mass timber design.
Wood construction was limited to six floors, but with the code change in 2021, wood construction can now go to 18 floors depending on occupancy protection. The three new types of heavy timber type IV-HT construction do not require any additional fire resistance.
The secret to being successful in the industry with the rise of mass timber is to talk to people who have experience in mass timber engineering. Get your training online but talking to and connecting with people is where you will get the secret ingredient. Joining a committee like the SEASCM where they talk about mass timber issues, will also be a great benefit to your company.
Mass timber designers must connect with manufacturers to ensure they optimize the wood or fiber in their projects. Bringing in the manufacturer early in the design phase will help to identify the grid and optimize the framing based on what the manufacturer can provide.
I am currently working on a hybrid structure that is the only mass timber project in Chinatown, Los Angeles. It is a large office building that is two floors higher than the surrounding buildings. It is a hybrid project because it has CLT panels on steel construction.
Engineers can gain more information on mass timber by visiting manufacturing facilities. It is a good learning experience for structural engineers to see the manufacturing process and talk to the people manufacturing the wood and creating the fabrication drawings.
The International Code Council (ICC) has a webinar series on mass timber specifically to the 2021 code and a publication that covers the changes that occurred in the mass timber segments of the 2021 code.
The Timber Strong Design-Build Competition is a great way for students to learn about wood construction. The students must design a wood structure, purchase the materials, make a team, and then build the structure. They gain experience in designing the wood structure, sourcing the materials, and then building the wood structure.
Engineers considering working with mass timber must have an open mind and ask...
TSEC 75: Engineering Safer Skies With Performance-Based Seismic Design
In this episode, we talk to Joe Maffei, SE, Ph.D., LEED AP, an internationally recognized expert on the seismic evaluation, design, and retrofitting of structures, about the SFO Air Traffic Control Tower, for which his company, Maffei Structural Engineering, also received an excellence award. He talks about their involvement in the project and how they designed the first-ever control tower that used a nonlinear analysis performance-based seismic design.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Joe:
The SFO tower was the first-ever control tower that used a nonlinear analysis performance-based seismic design. Can you please talk to us about that and explain what the difference is between linear and nonlinear analysis?
In prescriptive design, how much new research do you adapt into your designs?
What are some of the other unique aspects of this structure?
What unique approach did the tower have to address overturning?
How did you define the seismic objective for the project?
What did you learn about nonlinear analysis while working on this project?
How would ground motion affect a structure like this?
What are concrete core wall high-rises and what do you think engineers should know about them?
Do you have any advice for engineers considering a career in structural engineering?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Engineering Safer Skies With Performance-Based Seismic Design:
Non-linear analysis means that you take advantage of the parts of the building code that allow alternate methods with equivalent performance. It is a win-win situation because all the extra analysis evaluations being done ensure more reliable performance in a seismic event and can help reduce the costs of a project.
It takes a while for the technology transfer to happen to prescriptive designs. From real projects you get rules, those rules then become guidelines, and then only later start to make their way into the building code. Extensive analysis and research are done on many different scenarios before the guidelines are added to the building codes for specific areas.
The SFO tower has many unique aspects. Vertical post-tensioning has been used in seismic systems for many years. It vastly reduces the displacement of the structure after a seismic event. It is achieved through unbonded vertical post-tensioning, which was used in the SFO tower performance-based seismic design. The tower was designed for functioning in high wind and seismic events and is situated close to the San Andreas Fault on soft soil. Mid-height seismic isolation was implemented, which lets the top move with respect to the tower. It has a concrete core structure with vertical post-tensioning. A criterion was made for story drifts to reduce shear deformation. The tower has a three-story office building at its base that had to be incorporated into the design. It was done by eradiating four spokes from the tower into the roof of the building. The spokes were made from buckling restraint bases that are designed for controlled non-linear behavior.
With a performance-based seismic design, you are required to do both the linear and non-linear analysis so that the non-linear design can be compared to the linear design to see that the non-linear design's performance is on par with the linear design.
Non-linear analysis tells you much more than linear analysis, but it is not perfect. Sometimes there are things in the non-linear analysis that must be examined to ensure they are realistic. You must know exactly what the yielding is, take control, and tell the structure what to do, as opposed to it being a matter of chance.
If you are applying to graduate school, ask structural engineering professors about interactions they have with practicing structural engin...
TSEC 74: Structural Steel Design Explained
In this episode, we talk to Alex Morales, Assoc. AIA, EDAC, PMP, LEED Green Assoc., about structural steel design and how he went from architecture to falling in love with steel. He also talks about some of the latest innovative steel systems and how they are helping structural engineers.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Alex:
How does one go from architecture to structural steel design?
What does structural steel design entail?
How did you flip a parking garage design from concrete to steel?
What is one of the latest innovative structural steel systems designed by AISC, and how is it helping structural engineers?
What are millennials saying about the future of the AEC industry?
How important do you think it is to establish a culture of mentorship?
Do you have any final advice for engineers considering a career like yours?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Structural Steel Design:
We must always strive to further and better ourselves. In architecture, you get excited about knowing that your drawings will become buildings. But you will be amazed when you go out into the field and see what your drawings look like during construction. Try different roles as you progress in your career; even if you do not like a couple of the roles, you will get experience, working knowledge, and respect for the people who are in those roles. It can help you decide on a subject matter expertise that you would like to work on for the rest of your career.
Structural steel design entails selecting the correct size and shape of the material, the structural calculations and analysis, and designing by choosing the correct materials to ensure the functionality of the completed building. It also involves budgeting, material procurement, and collaboration with the project team, stakeholders, and fabricators.
The owner of the parking garage wanted to get the construction completed as soon as possible, but still have the flexibility to change the parking garage into something else in the future. Instead of concrete, steel was the preferred material to use to get the construction completed faster. A shallower foundation could also be used because of the lighter construction material, which also sped up the construction time. Steel also uses thinner and fewer columns than concrete, which optimized the space to fit in more parking spaces. All the changes and optimizations that the steel had over the concrete design are what sealed the deal in the owner's mind.
AISC’s latest innovative structural steel system is called SpeedCore. It was developed by MKA Engineers, Pankow Foundation, and AISC. It is compiled of two outer steel plates that are filled in between with concrete and eliminate the need for rebar. It vastly reduces the need for materials such as rebar and wood. The metal plates have inward-facing “teeth” that hold onto the concrete and act as stay-in-place forms. SpeedCore is the alternative to leading core construction and makes it possible to build the core and the floors of a building at the same time. It eliminates the curing time, formwork, some permits required, and accelerates the construction schedule. It saves a lot of money and mitigates risks.
There is great energy among the millennials about new ways of doing things in the AEC industry. As a result of the telling of stories and sharing of successes that is happening now, millennials, who are coming of age, are going to take the reins on the future of the AEC industry. It shows everyone that they can make it and contribute to the industry. The AEC industry will be more open to dialogs and intersections and become a very dynamic industry, and whose owners will be very proud of what it can do.
Establishing a culture of mentorship is a great way t...
TSEC 73: Post-Tensioned Concrete Structures: Advantages of Using Post Tensioning
In this episode, we talk to Michael Hopper, P.E., an Associate Partner at LERA Consulting Structural Engineers, about post-tensioned concrete (PT) structures, what they are, some of the advantages of using post-tensioning, and what he thinks the future holds for PT.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Michael:
What is post-tensioning, and why is it important?
What are some of the advantages of using post-tensioning in structures?
How has PT structure design evolved over the last 10+ years?
How does a post-tensioned concrete perform in seismic events?
What are void-formers and when should they be used?
How has concrete technologies made the construction industry more efficient?
What trends are driving innovation in construction?
Is PT concrete environmentally sustainable, and what does the future holds for the PT concrete industry?
Do you have any advice for engineers considering a career like yours?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Post-Tensioned Concrete Structures:
Concrete is fantastic in compression but its terrible in tension. Post-tensioning is re-compressing the concrete so that when the structure is loaded later, the concrete remains in compressions or has a minimal amount of tension. Post-tensioned concrete is a practical way that lets us use concrete in its most efficient way, which is in compression.
Post-tensioned concrete is a volume-reducing technology that can span longer distances with a thinner beam or slab than reinforced concrete. It results in less material used in your slabs, beams, columns, walls, and foundations and less rebar used in a post-tensioned concrete projects. Post-tensioned concrete is versatile, robust, redundant, and reliable.
The Post-Tensioning Institute gives many awards each year for the unique ways engineers have used post-tensioned concrete. The recent advancements in post-tensioned concrete make it easier for developers to implement post-tensioned concrete in their buildings. One of the research initiatives that PTI is doing is with Virginia Tech, and they are testing different tendon layouts, including a banded-banded tendon layout.
In seismic-active areas, you get rocking walls or post-tensioned concrete walls that self-center after a seismic event, rendering the building still habitable after a large earthquake. Post-tensioned concrete is used in its elastic range and not for energy dissipation. There is still a lot of research needed on post-tensioned concrete behavior in seismic-active areas, but engineers are cautious to use it where it is yielding.
Concrete technologies have made the construction industry more efficient because they simplify the construction process. You can combine technologies and reap the benefits of the combined technologies to solve a particular problem.
Void-formers are large, recycled plastic balls that get inserted into concrete that you will not be relying on to do much structurally. They reduce the volume of the concrete used and the weight of the concrete structure. They simplify your formwork because it can be done as flat as possible. Void-formers can be combined with other technologies like post-tensioned systems, which complement each other well. Inserting a void into a post-tensioned element causes the axial stress to increase more than the flexural stresses increase.
Post-tensioned concrete is environmentally sustainable. It is a volume-reducing technology which means that less concrete is needed than other concrete structures. The structural depth is significantly less in post-tensioned concrete structures, which makes it less of a contributor to CO2 emissions. Post-tension concrete systems are very durable, resilient, and adaptable and helps us to reuse structures again instead of building new ...
TSEC 72: Why This Structural Engineer Chose to Go Back to Business School
In this episode, we talk to Derek Loush, P.E., who has worked as a senior project engineer for the past seven years and then decided to go back to business school to get his MBA at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. We talk about why he chose to go back to business school, what he hopes to accomplish by doing it, and how his structural engineering background fits into all of that.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Derek:
What made you decide to go back to business school, and did your company play a role in your decision?
What do you hope to accomplish with this MBA degree?
How did you prepare for going back as a full-time student after so many years?
What were some of the challenges you faced as a returning student, and how did you deal with them?
Do you need an undergraduate degree to attend business school?
What does a typical business class look like?
Do you have any last final piece of advice for engineers considering returning to school after working as an engineer?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Going Back to Business School:
A lot of engineers are more technical and number-driven, and very often don’t have a business background. I decided to pursue an MBA degree to set myself apart in my engineering career and because I wanted to explore the real estate development side of our industry.
Pivoting from structural engineering to real estate development, I wish to have more of an impact on engineering projects, as having a background in business management skills can benefit an engineering project.
Going back as a full-time student after so many years was not easy. However, we had a pre-MBA program that helped us to adjust back to the classroom before the actual classes started. This allowed me to meet some of my classmates start building my network.
One of the challenges I faced as a returning student was readjusting to the homework, tests, finals, and midterms.
Learning who you can lean on when help is needed is extremely important as a student. You need to know that is OK to ask for help because you are not going to make it all by yourself.
The average MBA student has about five years of experience in their industry before they attend business school. Having experience before joining business school can be very helpful and will help propel you in your studies.
Business school is very group-based, and students very often lead the discussion instead of the professors.
Some business school classes are more case-based, where you are assigned a case to read before class and then have to defend your position. This is great to learn how companies respond to certain events and learn to make big-time decisions.
More Details in This Episode…
About the Guest: Derek Loush, P.E.
Derek did his undergraduate studies in civil engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY, and then went for an M.S. in Civil Engineering at Georgia Tech. From 2014 to 2021, he worked at a structural engineering consulting firm in NYC before deciding to go back to business school for his MBA at UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School.
About the Hosts:
Mathew Picardal, P.E.
Mathew is a licensed engineer, practicing on structural projects in California, with an undergraduate degree from Cal Poly Pomona and an M.S. in Structural Engineering from UC San Diego. He has designed and managed various types of building structures, including residential wood apartment buildings, commercial steel buildings, and concrete parking structures and towers. He also hosts the new YouTube channel “Structural Engineering Life,” through which he promotes the structural engineering profession to engineering students who are not famil...