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 60: The Benefits of Using Ultra-High Performance Concrete in Your Engineering Projects
In this episode, we talk to Matthew J. Bandelt, Ph.D., P.E., an Assistant Professor and Associate Chair of Graduate Studies in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) about using emerging concrete materials, such as ultra-high performance concrete, in projects and how they test these materials to evaluate their performance.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Matthew:
What is meant by ultra-high-performance concrete?
How can some of the ductile concrete materials you work with improve the seismic performance of structural systems?
How can these emerging concrete materials improve constructability and reinforcement detailing in projects?
What are some of the benefits of using ultra-high-performance concrete for transportation infrastructure?
What happens at the lab when you test these materials, and what kind of methods do they use to evaluate the performance of these materials?
What is involved when working together with various American Concrete Institute committees to improve design guidance for structural engineers when applying these materials?
What piece of final advice can you give young engineering students who are considering a career in structural engineering?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About the Benefits of Using Ultra-High-Performance Concrete:
Ultra-high-performance concrete is a class of concrete materials that have high-performing mechanical properties that improve its durability behavior. In compression, ultra-high-performance concrete has strengths in the range of 22 000 PSI or higher. Fibers are generally incorporated in tension scenarios to increase the tensile strength capacity of the ultra-high-performance concrete. It has a much higher strain and deformation capacity than regular concrete.
Ductile concrete has two advantages over traditionally reinforced concrete in terms of seismic design. When properly engineered, they have a high rotational capacity in plastic hinge regions for seismic applications. It has excellent shear performance that will positively impact the shear demands in your project design decisions. You get these advantages while using less concrete material. The strength is so high in ultra-high-performing concrete that you can reduce section sizes. You have increased performance while reducing the amount of concrete material used in a building.
In seismic-related matters, ductile concrete systems can significantly reduce the confinement reinforcement needed in a building. The fibers in the concrete take the place of the additional reinforcements.
Ultra-high-performing concrete is used in the transportation industry on bridge applications. It is used to make the connections simpler. Combining ultra-high-performing concrete with precast elements can significantly speed up the construction process.
There are two main benefits to using ductile concretes. They increase the construction speed by making things easier to build. They are also highly durable because it is difficult for water and more aggressive corrosive substances to move through the concrete system.
A wide range of tests is done on ultra-high-performing concrete. Structural tests are done to evaluate the individual components subjected to monotonic or cyclical loading. Tests are done to see how different factors can influence plastic hinge behavior with these materials. Experimental testing is necessary but expensive. Numerical simulations are used to supplement the experimental tests performed. Durability testing is done by subjecting different specimens to aggressive chloride environments to see how they perform in situations like freezing and thawing.
Getting involved with professional organizations is an interesting and rewarding...
TSEC 59: Starting Your Own Engineering Company (What You Need to Know)
In this episode, we talk to Michael Howell, P.E., SE, president and owner of Arrow Engineering. Mike is a licensed structural engineer who has experience as both a contractor and a designer. He specializes in providing engineering services for design-build projects and has experience in several different types of projects. We talk to Michael about starting your own engineering company.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Michael:
When and why did you decide to go into business?
What would you say are the most important attributes of a successful engineering business?
How do you remain people-focused and prioritize the needs of your employees?
What are some of the most rewarding and least rewarding aspects of starting your own engineering company?
What would you say is the difference between self-employment and growing a business?
What effects did the COVID-19 pandemic have on small startup businesses?
What advice do you have for our listeners who are maybe thinking of starting an engineering company, especially in these tough times we are living in?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Starting Your Own Engineering Company:
If you feel as though you do not fit well into other firms’ systems, maybe starting your own engineering company is the right path to take. You might find things in the company you work for that do not make sense or need updating. Look at the business side of things and see if you have a passion for it. If you do, then start looking for opportunities where you can start your own engineering company.
Getting an MBA (or other advanced degree) may help you in getting to know the business side of an engineering company. Combining it with your past engineering experience will be an advantage for you and your engineering company.
When starting your own engineering company, success will look a lot different to you than to a company that has been around for 50 years. Be an expert, be passionate, and be a servant. To be an expert, you and your team must strive to be well-educated and continually be engaged in the concept of life-long learning. If you are going to be successful at anything, you must be passionate about it. You became an engineer to serve. If your engineering company does not embody the servant attitude, then it will not be very successful.
Engineers are well-equipped to be independent and to be professionals. We strive to be experts in our fields and businesses. If you employ high-caliber engineers in your own engineering company, then it is your company's purpose to allow those engineers to be the best that they can be. Know what their goals are, where they want their careers to be, what type of projects they want to work on, what their philosophy is, and why they chose to do this profession. It will help you understand what they feel successful about and what makes them motivated.
If you are thinking of starting your own engineering company, you must be prepared to work twice as hard and longer hours than what you are currently doing. The best part of having your own engineering company is having employees. Having a team that you can help to grow and be successful is very rewarding. Even the hard days, the late nights, the long hours, and the weekend work have been rewarding. The most difficult part of starting your own engineering company is not having any rulebooks or guidelines that you can follow. You are the one who makes the decisions, and that can cause you to feel self-doubt and insecurity because you are responsible for your lifestyle and income.
To leave the company you work for and become self-employed is a commendable decision to make. There is, however, a big difference between being self-employed and trying to grow a business.
TSEC 58: Innovation and Product Testing in Engineering
In this episode of The Structural Engineering Podcast, we talk to Annie Kao, PE, Vice President of Engineering at Simpson Strong-Tie about innovation and product testing in engineering and why seismic retrofitting is so important in structural engineering.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Annie in This Episode:
What would you say makes a good engineering leader?
What is your involvement in the research and development sector of Simpson Strong-Tie?
You are also responsible for innovation across all product lines at Simpson Strong-Tie. What does that entail?
Can you tell us more about the product testing and training that is done at Simpson?
What are some of the latest advancements in construction technology that have a direct impact on the structural engineering industry?
Why is seismic retrofitting important in structural engineering?
What advice can you give young students out there that might consider pursuing a career in the engineering industry?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Innovation and Product Testing in Engineering:
A good engineering manager should always be available to help grow and challenge their teams and provide opportunities for their team to advance in their careers.
Simpson Strong-Tie is passionate to come up with solutions to help improve the building process by looking at how they can use a product in a different application to improve how things are put together.
Barclay Simpson, who was the founder of Simpson Strong-Tie, had 9 principles of doing business that was turned into the principles Simpson Strong-Tie still follow today. One of those principles is innovation, which includes not only thinking of engineering, but the manufacturers, sales teams, and how pretty much anyone in the company can be innovative.
Structural engineers are extremely good at understanding the details, as well as the big picture of any project. Testing products gives you a good insight as to why there are certain limits and safety factors involved in product testing, which will, in turn, help structural engineers to provide their best guidance on how a product will behave out there.
There is a huge opportunity to use so much more technology and gain efficiencies and capabilities in the engineering industry that we have not used.
Simpson Strong-Tie has a division of building technology that investigates how they can work with builders and contractors to help them in the planning phase, which will in turn speed up the construction phase.
Buildings are designed for life safety and as you go through retrofit requirements, you should think about what you are retrofitting to. It is important to determine if you want to retrofit towards the building code standard or the performance level standards and understand the benefits of retrofitting a building.
It is hard to convince people that maintenance is something that you should invest in and plan for but is key to ensuring the essential infrastructure of our communities remain available, even after catastrophic events.
The sky is the limit for talented engineers to establish themselves as there are so many ways to pursuing your passion in engineering. Volunteering at industry associations provides you with so many opportunities to learn and work on committees, be part of initiatives and help organize and create a vision for events that will ultimately benefit your career as a structural engineer tremendously.
More Details in This Episode…
About Annie Kao, PE
Annie Kao, PE is the Vice President of Engineering at Simpson Strong-Tie. She loves structural engineering and connecting with the community about it, which is why she considers herself very fortunate to work for a company that innovates ex...
TSEC 57: Structural Engineering and the Surfside Building Collapse
In this episode, we talk to Emily Guglielmo, P.E., SE, the past president of the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA) and the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California (SEAONC), about building safety in response to the recent Surfside building collapse in Miami a few weeks ago. She will also talk about a structural engineer’s role post-collapse and how the collapse will affect our building codes.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Emily:
As a structural engineer, what was your first reaction to hearing about the collapse?
Can you explain what a structural engineer's role is post-collapse?
What were some of the major causes of the Surfside building collapse?
Will building codes change because of this?
As a profession, structural engineering is often overlooked or misunderstood by the public until something like this happens. Why is that?
Will this lead to innovations? Materials or otherwise?
Have you heard of any other regional interests that have come from this disaster?
What is non-ductile concrete? Is that what happened in the Surfside building collapse?
Is this 40-year recertification a national IBC requirement? Should it be?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Structural Engineering and the Surfside Building Collapse:
The Surfside building collapse was a heart-breaking event, and as structural engineers, it affects us professionally and personally. The NCSEA felt compelled to be proactive and answer questions asked by the media and public on the day of the Surfside building collapse. They offered support to the structural engineering profession and the community.
The first role of a structural engineer post-collapse is to assist with search and rescue and help the first responders to work through the safest possible conditions. The next role is the forensic and technical investigation into the cause of the collapse. The third role is when a structural engineer gets involved to make any changes to the building codes, how drawings are permitted, the quality assurance process, building maintenance, and licensure requirements.
It would be irresponsible for structural engineers to speculate and answer questions on the causes of a collapse before the review is complete. A responsible response would be to say that it is very likely that there is no one cause for the collapse but multiple compounding factors that led to the collapse.
Tragedies like the Surfside building collapse could bring about many changes depending on the outcome of the investigation. The changes will not be single-pronged solutions and could affect things like building codes, construction practice, and methods of inspection.
The role of a structural engineer is not well understood by the public because you are covered up. You are usually the skeleton — the bones of a structure — and people do not see the work that you do. Structural engineers do not do a great job at fully celebrating their successes or being intentionally visible. When a collapse happens, the public then realizes that structural engineers have a critical role in building safety. Your role in keeping the buildings safe and communities functioning is vital.
We are going to see innovations or maybe a push on some existing innovations. They will probably be about concrete repair and restoration, material durability, and new technologies for building evaluation.
Most of the regional structural engineering offices are getting the same questions from the media, which are,” What happened?” and “Can this happen here?” The public is concerned about what could happen in their communities. As structural engineers, we have a captive audience now, which is something that you do not normally see.
TSEC 56: From Engineer to Successful Business Owner
In this episode, we talk to Peter Vanderzee, President and CEO at LifeSpan Technologies, about his career journey and experience transitioning from electronics to chemical to environmental to geotechnical and then finally to structural engineering. He also shares some great strategies and tips for the startup engineering business owner.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Peter:
You moved from electronics to chemical to environmental to geotechnical and then finally to structural engineering in your career. How were you able to switch between so many different engineering disciplines, seemingly with ease?
What are some of the pros and cons of working for the government, big businesses, small businesses, and startup companies?
What are the key skills engineers must develop to succeed with any employer?
What were the biggest challenges you faced after starting LifeSpan Technologies?
How about your biggest disappointments and successes with LifeSpan Technologies?
After 50+ years working, did you have a satisfying career, and are you planning to retire, or are you planning to continue working?
What advice would you give young engineers when starting their careers?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Going from Engineer to Successful Business Owner:
There are many challenges to face if you are thinking of becoming a business owner. Staffing can be a problem because you will need to find people who are willing to help you get the company off the ground. You have to decide if you will need third-party financing or not and you will need to find someone who will design and configure your hardware and software.
Marketing can also be a challenge, especially if your company’s niche is not something mainstream. Marketing and engineering are two different roads. Marketing requires non-conceptional and non-linear thinking and can be difficult to develop the value proposition so that it becomes a compelling story. You must find what it is that you are going to tell your potential clients that will make them take out their wallets and hand you money.
If you want to become a business owner, reduce the risks by thinking of a way that you can get it started with no overhead. It will have a big impact on who you choose to work with you, and you will need to use subcontractors to get the work done in the beginning. Use the media to spread your marketing message instead of paid advertising.
Allow your customers to support your marketing funds and grow the business by doing personal visits, conferences, and presentations. Find a compatible firm in your area that would be willing to do installations for you. The firm would provide you with working capital and dramatically reduce your risks. Avoid doing competitive bidding and instead do sole source procurements.
Find a way to explain how your customers will achieve a return on their investment in your marketing, messaging, and value proposition. Let your client understand that if they use your solution and the structure you are monitoring is in better structural condition than thought, a major repair or replacement can be deferred. It produces a substantial financial benefit for the owner.
It is a good idea for a business owner to keep a record of the successes and failures that your company experiences as it will help to make plans for the future of your company by having guidelines to deal with the good and the bad things that can come across your company's path.
Marketing and innovation are the only two areas in a business that creates value. The foundational principles that you learned as an undergrad are crucial if you need to move your business in multiple discipline directions. There are key concepts that are similar in the various fields and ...
TSEC 55: Tilt-up Construction and Tornado Storm Shelter Design
In this episode, we talk to Mark Kaiser, S.E., a senior associate at RLG Consulting Engineers, about tilt-up construction and shelter designs. He elaborates on the difference between tilt-up and precast and also talks about what he thinks the future holds for shelter design.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Mark:
What is the difference between tilt-up and precast?
Is tilt-up construction cheaper than pre-engineered steel buildings?
Can you please elaborate on your involvement in tornado storm shelter design?
What would you say the future holds for tornado storm shelter design?
Can you talk about one challenging project that you have worked on that benefited your career as an engineer?
What can engineers do to be better communicators, and what benefits do you see from improved communication?
What advice would you give structural engineers considering doing work in tilt-up construction?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Tilt-up Construction:
Tilt-up construction is where the exterior wall is cast on-site, face-side down on a casting bed. The reinforcing and embed plates lifting inserts are laid out, and the concrete is poured. When the concrete reaches around 75% of its strength, a crane then lifts the panels, tilting them up off the ground, and places them in their final place. It is then temporarily braced to withstand construction loads. The interior steel frame of the building is erected and tied in with either the roof or floors diaphragm.
Tilt-up walls make construction a lot faster than conventional construction methods because when you cast your exterior wall, it includes the gravity system, lateral system, and perimeter. Once it is in place, you need to do the interior steel frame, and you are good to go.
For construction purposes, the lifting and rigging engineer looks at the lifting loads and the temporary wind force that will be placed on the panels while they are being hoisted up by the crane. They determine how the panels should be lifted and if additional reinforcement is needed to lift the panels into place.
Precast and tilt-up construction are similar. Precast means that the panels are made at a particular plant and then shipped to the site. This method has size constraints because you have a limit to the width and weight that can be transported to your job site. Tilt-up is made on-site and is better for making larger panels. The site plan needs to include enough room to cast the panels on-site, and then lift them into place.
Architects have been getting creative and pushing the boundaries with tilt-up construction in terms of their vision for the building. This can be done with precast, but it is not as creative as a process. Precast has many pieces and joints, which lends itself to needing more long-term maintenance. There are a lot fewer joints and pieces that you need to worry about in tilt-up construction.
Pre-engineered steel buildings are limited to single-floor structures. Tilt-up construction buildings can be used for up to six-story structures. A pre-engineered building will always be cheaper than tilt-up buildings, but you will be limited in the kind of building you can build.
Because of the 2015 IBC, it has now a code requirement that any essential facilities and group E occupancy must have storm shelters as part of the construction if you fall into a 250 mph wind zone. The 2014 ICC 500 standards for tornado and hurricane storm shelters give you a wind map that illustrates where that wind zone is. Tilt-up projects can serve as a storm shelter if they are constructed properly. A precast approach can also be used for storm shelters.
Sections of existing structures can be transformed into storm shelters. We are building buildings that are providing life...