Curtain wall Engineering

Curtain Wall structural engineering, often referred to as “providing calcs” or “doing calculations” is far more. I started as a structural engineer in the cladding and curtain wall field in 1984 and I’ve been involved ever since, focusing on facades in total, expanding from structural engineering outward to all aspects of exterior wall systems.

Providing curtain wall structural engineering “calculations” vs. providing value-based structural and systems engineering are related, but are two different things. Properly performed, value-based structural engineering of curtain wall systems involves optimizing metal, assessing viability and ease of installation, looking for benefits in system performance that can save installer’s and fabricator’s time and money, minimize risk and more. “Good” structural engineering involves more than cranking out a set of calculations from a set of shop drawings. The work should be collaborative (there I go again with the collaboration theme) and if properly done, can save many times more than the cost of the fee. I can name many examples where clients saved tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars in material, in shop and field labor, in shipping, project management time, and more. I also want to point out that minimizing risk and providing thorough, vetted, experienced, due diligence structural engineering pays dividends down the road, which lowers insurance costs, improves performance, and makes a subcontractor’s or fabricator’s work and business more desirable and profitable.

I’ve got buckets and chapters and truckloads more of observations, experiences, insights and technical inputs to write about in subsequent discussions and blogs on this topic. Remember, never did such a “small” line item in a bid, have such a broad impact as design and engineering. It is the point through which all other work flows and takes place. “Good engineering” can make a job better. “Bad engineering” can break the job beyond the point of repair.

For now, choose your engineering firm wisely, and be collaborative.

We All Need Adventure


It’s my experience that we all need adventure. We may not know it, but it’s true. I am talking about regular, planned, adventure that is completely outside of our normal day-to-day routine. While things like child rearing, tackling a new project, and working on the house are all worthy challenges, those aren’t the types of adventures to which I am referring. I am talking about real-life, out of the box, challenging adventures; backpacking, learning a language, rock climbing, traveling to a new country or culture; you get the idea (think “bucket list.”)  For example, some of mine have included a missions trip to Haiti, backpacking Yosemite with a group of guys (finding our way above), spending 3 weeks in Ireland driving on the wrong side of the road, running marathons (yes that qualifies) and more. Each of these events have adventures within that are totally unplanned. These experiences invigorate our lives and imaginations. They contribute more to our education and experience that we can know; they are unaccredited educations and degrees in life, culture, mind expansion.

We can take mini-adventures within the context of our daily lives, and plan for bigger adventures on a regular basis. One of my friends (in the blue shirt above) plans them quarterly.

It’s been too long since my last foray into the wild; since I planned some new quest. I’m ready for a new adventure. How about you?


My space is professional services; design, engineering and consulting for the built environment; specifically building Facade systems and building enclosures – the “curtain wall”. My observation though, is much of what I will be writing about on this topic applies to other realms, systems, spaces, whether building, product or otherwise. This is the first in a series of posts on the topic; sharing my experience, questions and observations.

My position is simply this: the best value to the end-user or owner, and to all constituents in the supply chain & process, is generated in collaboration. My struggle is that the “old mentality” of “throw it over the wall” is still used by many. What does one expect in design of constructed systems and products when working in silos and in a linear manner? How about “less than optimal results.” Clients and businesses that “get it” are increasing their level of collaboration and using technology to leverage interaction. Too often in  our work, tyranny of the urgent is the rule of the day. However, investing the time proactively in ongoing, seamless, real-time, shared collaboration yields better results and lower costs downstream.

Collaboration takes place in different ways, but one key is driving integration. We must pull each other into the space of a shared reality to really collaborate. This creates empathy, understanding, fewer assumptions, lower risk, better results. It gets to the finish line quicker. In a fragmented, and disruptive supply chain in the building industry, even within specific areas of expertise, value generation can be as simple as driving real collaboration.

I will continue to post on this topic and I welcome comments, feedback, & dialogue.

In the meantime, start or keep collaborating.

Reflections on Today – The Value of Connecting

Today’s breakfast was a reminder of the value of meeting new people and networking with those of different backgrounds – an educational experience as valuable, or more, than most classrooms. My Doctor organized a breakfast for the purpose of discussion, networking and relationship building. It included the Dr (an MD); a young CMO of a financial services firm; a PhD Educator and Medical Research Business owner; a sage and former CEO of a private then Publicly traded company; an ex-farmer turned prolific real estate owner; a college grad fresh off a trip to Latvia, the Balkans and Israel; then me, a Professional Engineer and A/E Services business owner. 5 men and 1 woman (the PhD). I could have listened to their experiences for more than the 2 hours that we broke bread and shared discussion.

There are always great dynamics and diverse experiences in these groups that are mind-expanding. Someone once said that the only things that really change us are the people we meet and the books we read. This includes the “experiences we have.” Today confirmed that statement.

This was a mini-retreat, a walk through the world of others, a sharing of knowledge and experience. Every time I do this I wonder why I don’t do it more often and why I allow myself to be stuck in the normal routine of each day.

Break routine. Do something different. Meet new people. Step out of your comfort zone. It’s an enriching experience.