E-news for the Construction Division Fall 2011

Constructing for Fire Safety Still a Major Focus for Research

Steve Storts

The annual observances of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York serve as a constant reminder to the engineering community that building construction is often key to human survival in any natural or man-made disaster. As investigative analyses have shown, the major root cause for the structural collapse of the WTC twin towers in 2001 was excessive heat levels generated through the fiery explosion of projectile aircraft and their unspent fuel reserves.

During the course of the WTC investigations, construction industry and fire protection professionals began new research aimed at curbing or preventing mass structural failure from heat levels at elevated temperatures. Since 2009, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Engineering Laboratory has been examining the adhesion properties of spray-applied fire resistive materials (FRMs) for structural steel. The performance of these materials—specifically their dislodging upon impact from a debris field—was identified as a key factor in the failure of the steel framework of the twin towers.

NIST points out that the adhesion properties of FRMs at high temperatures, which are vital for modeling and performance predictions, were not available in 2001. Providing this necessary measurement science infrastructure for FRMs will ultimately allow the forecasting of their performance during standardized testing by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and actual fire exposures, in addition to the adoption of performance-based code requirements sourced in science and engineering.

For the NIST Engineering Laboratory, this project poses major challenges. FRMs change dramatically during exposure to high temperatures, including mass losses, dimensional changes (shrinkage and expansions), chemical reactions, and microstructural modifications effecting mechanical properties. To expedite research, attention is being focused on applying an NIST-developed fracture mechanics approach to FRM adhesion at elevated temperatures. Building on the success of a recently completed consortium where the new adhesion test methods were developed and commissioned, these techniques will be adapted to measure FRM temperature dependence.

Another NIST research project, also initiated in 2009, is looking at the total building envelope in terms of fire resistance design. Although current building codes specify fire ratings of individual building components and assemblies from standard fire endurance tests, such as ASTM E-119, NIST contends that there are no accepted scientific measurement tools to evaluate the fire performance of entire structures—including connections—under realistic fire scenarios. “The state of the art in measurement science to predict structural performance to failure under extreme loading conditions, such as during an uncontrollable fire, is lacking,” agency officials admit.

As an alternative to current prescriptive design methods, NIST recommends the development of performance-based standards and code provisions to enable the design and rehabilitation of structures to resist actual fire conditions, in addition to the development of tools, guidelines, and test methods necessary to evaluate the fire performance of the constructed project as a whole system. For instance, the agency says a key recommendation resulting from the WTC investigations was that careful consideration should be given to the possibility that certain design features, such as long-span floor systems and connections that cannot accommodate unusual thermal effects, may adversely affect the performance of the entire structural system under abnormal or excessive fire conditions.

NIST’s new technical approach is incorporating a broad range of knowledge concerning fire load, material response, and overall structural response to elevated temperatures. Building layout, windows and ventilation, construction materials, passive and active fire protection systems, and the amount and location of combustibles will be included in this approach. Recent technical advances will also aid in this research by providing the ability to forecast both the development and propagation of building fires and structural system performance at elevated temperatures.

Another closely aligned initiative, the Whole Building Design Guide, a program of the National Institute of Building Sciences, is addressing the need for new facilities and renovation projects to be designed to incorporate efficient, cost-effective passive and automatic fire protection systems—systems that are effective in detecting, containing, and controlling or extinguishing a fire event in the early stages. At the core of WBDG is the mission to creatively and efficiently integrate code requirements with other fire safety measures and design strategies to achieve a balanced facility that will provide desired levels of safety.

According to WBDG, the major components necessary for developing a successful fire protection design include: the design team; design standards and criteria; site requirements; building construction requirements; egress requirements; fire detection and notification system requirements; fire suppression requirements; emergency power, lighting, and exit signage; and special fire protection requirements.

At a minimum, all building construction requirements should address the following elements: construction type, allowable height, and area; exposures and separation requirements; fire ratings, materials, and systems; occupancy types; interior finishes; and exit stairway enclosures.

An advocate for whole building design, professional engineer Morgan Hurley, fellow and technical director of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, advises, “It is beneficial to involve fire protection engineers in a design at the earliest stages of planning, generally at the feasibility or concept design stage.” He cites the benefits: greater design flexibility; innovation in design, construction, and materials; equal or better fire safety; and maximization of cost/benefit.

“Designing from a ‘whole building’ approach does not require that design be on a performance basis,” Hurley explains. “It is necessary, however, that the design of fire protection-related systems be coordinated with each other and with other building systems and the overall building design.”


NeXt Generation of Leaders

Name: Michael Vianzon, PE 

Age: 31

Title: Project manager         

Company: Fuel Tech

Been There: Three months

# of employees: 150

Previous Gigs: Project engineer at Nalco Mobotec

How did you first get into engineering? My father was an electrical engineer and I enjoyed tinkering around the garage looking to fix things like the lawn mower, and fixing things around the house. My first internship was at a distillery and organizing spare parts was my main goal which gave me first hand experience with equipment.

If you weren’t an engineer you’d be ….If I wasn’t an engineer I would be a pilot of a Boeing 747 flying the transatlantic flights.

What’s your peak experience as an engineer so far? Project engineer on a successful installation of a pollution control system at a major power plant in Poland.

What do you value in the people you work with? I value hard work, honesty, and reliability in the people I work with.

What do you think companies need to do to attract younger generations into the engineering industry? Companies need to start putting more emphasis on the importance of professional engineering licenses. 

What does leadership mean to you? Leadership means a strong and honest idea that pushes people to be better than they are.

Leaders you admire? My father and grandfather.

Web site you can’t go a day without visiting? CNN, Google, and Weather Channel.

Something readers would be surprised to learn about you? I shook the Sultan of Brunei’s hand and his royal family in his palace.

You wake up tomorrow as CEO of your Company—what’s the first thing you’d change? I would spend the first 30 days just trying to get to know as many of the employees as possible and just listen to what motivates them.

Finish this sentence: In 10 years, I will have…graduated my first child out of grade school and hopefully help give them as much of an experience in the engineering field before college.

Book you can’t go a year without rereading? I have never reread a book, well, not for fun anyways.

Blog you can’t go without reading? The Huffington Post.

Facebook or MySpace? Facebook.

How do you strike a work/life balance? Engineering can take up a lot of time and the schedule is always changing. Every chance I get; I make sure I spend time with my family whether it’s a movie, dinner, or even just an evening walk in the park.

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Happenings on the Hill

NSPE attended a "Building Safety in the Face of Natural Disasters" congressional briefing, sponsored by the High-Performance Building Congressional Caucus Coalition and the Congressional Hazards Caucus Alliance. The briefing focused on the critical role of building codes in community resilience following disasters. Speakers included HPBCCC Cochair Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO-3), Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety President and CEO Julie Rochman, National Institute of Building Sciences President Henry Green, and Fairfax County building official and International Code Council Board member Guy Tomberlin.

NSPE is a member of the HPBCCC, a coalition of more than 100 associations and corporations that seeks to heighten awareness and inform policymakers about high-performance building issues, including new building technologies, enhanced U.S. economic competitiveness, and increased energy efficiency. The coalition provides guidance and support to the congressional High-Performance Buildings Caucus.

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A Field Guide For Inspection of Sewerage and Drainage Construction

 An inspector plays a crucial role in any construction project. The job demands knowledge, awareness, keen observation skills, and the ability to deal with contractors and project owners. “A Field Guide For Inspection of Sewerage and Drainage Construction,” published by the Professional Engineers in Construction, provides the inspector with the necessary knowledge to inspect sewerage and drainage construction projects.

The guide, specifically written to advance the mission of high-quality construction standards, provides a series of proven policies, established procedures and techniques, and helpful resources, including “Inspection Checklists,” that are applicable to construction projects on any size or scale.

NSPE members can purchase and download the guide at www.nspe.org/fieldguide.


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Get a Head Start on Your Fall Education

NSPE’s Fall Webinar lineup covers everything from Ethics to Career Development. Check out the list below to find the course you are looking for and fulfill your PDH requirements. Click on the title for the full course description.


Whistleblowing: What Are the PE’s Obligations to Report Misconduct?
November 9, 2011, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.S.T.), 1PDH
$149.00/ $99.00 Member Price 

Business Development

IT Solutions for AEC Professionals
November 3, 2011, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.S.T.), 1PDH
$149.00/ $99.00 Member Price

Harnessing the Power of Change
November 15, 2011, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.S.T.), 1PDH
$149.00/ $99.00 Member Price

How to Conduct Effective Meetings
November 29, 2011, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.S.T.), 1PDH
$149.00/ $99.00 Member Price

Strategic Planning
December 13, 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. (E.S.T.), 1PDH
$149.00/ $99.00 Member Price

Career Development

Career Transitions
November 10, 2011, 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. (E.S.T.), 1PDH
$49.00/ $25.00 Member Price

Visit the NSPE Website for all other Web Seminar Listings. [ return to top ]

Become a PEC Sustaining Firm

Become a 2012 PEC Sustaining Firm and ensure your firm is listed in NSPE/PEC’s online searchable directory. All new sponsors will receive an official PEC Sustaining Firm plaque for office display.

When your company becomes a PEC Sustaining Firm, it will help to support the efforts of Professional Engineers in Construction (PEC) as we strive to promote the hard-earned professional engineer (PE) designation and enhance the image of the PE in Construction.

As a 2012 PEC Sustaining Firm, you will link more business to your future while receiving the following benefits:

  • NEW! Free advertisement on NSPE Facebook and Twitter pages: Companies can provide a non self promotional tip of the day (250 words or less) to be featured on the NSPE Facebook page and twitter page with a direct link to your firm’s website and/or social media platform. Please email to pec@nspe.org.

  • Free Company listing: You’ll be included in a searchable directory that includes a complete description of your firm’s specialties. Let owners and other customers and partners find you! All PEC Sustaining Firms are listed at: www.nspe.org/PEC/Supporters.

  • Free Company Advertisement: Listing in an issue of NSPE’s PE magazine (circulation is over 50,000) and in PEC Reporter, a monthly electronic newsletter sent to more than 5,500 PEC members.

  • Valuable Discounts: 25% discount on ads in PE magazine, NSPE Update, NSPE Web banners, and job board postings.

  • Complimentary copy of A Field Guide For Inspection of Sewerage and Drainage Construction.  Recently published by the Professional Engineers in Construction, the guide provides the inspector the necessary knowledge to inspect sewerage and drainage construction projects.

Click here to fill out the Sustaining Firm online form. Your participation will not only help you reach potential clients and partners, it will also provide valuable support for our industry and profession. Please visit www.nspe.org/PEC for a complete list of PEC programs. 

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NCEES Seeks Volunteers for Fundamentals of Engineering Exam Content Review

NCEES is currently seeking engineering professionals to participate in a content review for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. The results of this survey will be used to update the test specifications for the exam, which is typically the first step in the process leading to professional engineering licensure. 

NCEES requires a cross section of professionals— including licensed professional engineers, academics teaching engineering courses, and engineer interns— from all engineering disciplines to complete an online survey about the fundamental knowledge and skills necessary for an engineer intern to work in a manner that safeguards the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

"These studies help NCEES ensure its licensing exams remain relevant to current professional practice," explained Director of Exam Services Tim Miller, P.E. "The value of this content review depends on the number of people who participate, so NCEES is eager to get input from as many engineering professionals as possible."

 The survey can be completed in 30-45 minutes. Responses must be received no later than December 5, 2011. For more information, e-mail FEcontentreview@ncees.org.

Online survey for FE exam content review.


NCEES is a national nonprofit organization composed of engineering and surveying licensing boards representing all U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rice, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. An accredited standards developer with the American National Standards Institute, NCEES develops, scores, and administers the examinations used for engineering and surveying licensure throughout the Unites States. NCEES also provides services facilitating professional mobility for licensed engineers and surveyors. Its headquarters in located in Clemson, S.C.

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2011-12 PEC Executive Board












PEC Young Engineer Representatives

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NSPE members can enjoy special pricing and great discounts on a wide range of HP business products you use every day, including printers, tablets, PCs, servers, and so much more! Plus, NSPE members receive free US ground shipping*, flexible financing and leasing options, a specially trained sales team, and award-winning service and support. For questions or to order by phone, call 1-888-202-4465 and mention code NSPE. To shop online, visit www.hp.com/go/nspe.


Engineers, architects, and other design professionals can now update their continuing professional development and increase their productivity using state-of-the-art educational programs available through SmartPros. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that online learning costs one-third less than off site, classroom training and consumes half the time. Consistent with this estimate, users of SmartPros programs enjoy the convenience of immediately accessible CD-ROM and Web-based training that allows for just-in-time learning-24 hours a day.

CE completion at your fingertips! From green building techniques (including LEED) to legal and discipline-specific topics, you'll find the excellence in course content you demand, delivered in a highly interactive online format. NSPE members enjoy a savings of nearly 15% off regular course pricing. To learn more, visit RedVector online or call 813-202-8460.


PDHengineer understands how busy you are. That's why they offer web-based learning to fit your schedule. You can choose from a library of nearly 2000 hours of self-paced, online courses and complete them in the comfort of your home or office—and print your certificate of completion on the spot!  NSPE members can get acquainted with PDHengineer by taking their popular Engineering Disasters: Kansas City Hyatt Catwalk Collapse course for free! To take advantage of this offer, visit their Web site and use passcode NSPE508. Call 877-500-7145 for more details.

If you would like to sponsor the next edition of PEC Reporter, contact the Professional Engineers in Construction for more information.


For more information on how to become a PEC Sustaining Firm click here. 

Halverson Constuction Co Inc

Lloyd Consulting + Engineering Inc

Industrial Specialty Contractors, LLC

Frank Gurney Inc

Edward E Gillen Co

Allied Contractors Inc

Blitman Building Corporation

Buchart Horn Inc

Fagen Engineering LLC

Glynn Geotechnical Engineering

D'Annunzio & Sons, Inc.

Paric Corporation

Richard W Rauseo PE Consulting Engineers

Dalton Olmsted & Fuglevand

John N Puder, A Division of Moretrench

Zachry Construction Corp

Lecon Inc

Suberroc Systems SUBSYST

Paul J Gallo Contracting Inc

Stansell Electric Company Inc

Zep Construction

Trumbull Corp

Century Electric Inc

Rohde Soyka & Andrews Consulting Engineers PC

Rohde Soyka & Andrews Consulting Engineers PC

Sebastian Contracting Corporation

GECO Engineering Corp

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Mayberry Electric Inc

Judy Construction Company

AC Corp

Free Contracting Inc

Alber & Rice Inc

BEC Engineering LP

Henderson Electric Company

Drury South Inc

Abriola Co

KTA, Inc.  Consultinig Engineers

Stephen A Estrin & Co Inc

George Harms Construction Co

ABC Paving Co Inc

Ready Electric

Metromont Corporation

Tamrio Inc

Cogdell Spencer Erdman Company

The Rubicon Group

Doka USA Ltd

The Crom Corporation

Rice Lake Construction Group

Hamernik & Associates, Inc

CBD Design and Construction

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Code Consultants Inc

S Seltzer Construction Corp

Harper Industries, Inc

Broaddus & Associates

Trade Construction Company LLC

Lundy Construction Co Inc

Big M Constructors Inc

Bridges & Co, Inc.

White Cloud Engineering and Construction Co

J Fletcher Creamer & Son Inc

Peter Basso Associates Inc

Five Oaks Associates LLC

Notch Mechanical Constructors

RB Construction Group

Construction Industry Advancement Program of NJ (CIAP)


Pembroke Construction Co Inc

Kerr Greulich Engineers Inc

Fuellgraf Electric Co

Fred Weber Inc

Project Development Services Inc



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