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RE: Sustainable companies

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I applaud your interest.  I am not aware of any firms that focus on this; most of the work I’ve seen is in checking off the boxes to satisfy LEEDs as incidental to the design process. There are a lot of engineers that would be happy to focus on sustainability, but it’s not a priority.  Just a function of the realities of the business of business.  


Remember, the Architect is selected by the owner on the basis of whatever criteria the owner establishes, and his primary focus has to be to design a building that meets the Owner’s needs.  The Structural Engineer is generally selected by the Architect on the basis of whatever criteria the Architect establishes, and it’s his job to ensure that the design meets the Architect’s needs.  The owner’s criteria is generally not too heavy (in my experience) on sustainability unless there is a mandate (gov’t) to consider it, and if it’s not important to the owner, it’s not going to happen.  Maybe the Architect can make it important to the owner, but somebody has to convince the money that it’s in their best interest to focus on issues that are not necessarily self-evident. The difficulty as the Structural Engineer is that you are third on the totem pole by definition and your ability to influence the owner is therefore limited, practically and contractually.


There are architects out there with the brass to push what they see as doing the right thing and the profile to convince clients that’s what they want to do.  Engineers that understand them and that will help them realize their objectives will be very valuable, but you have to have a very sound foundation in design to have the credibility you need to work in that arena.  You can’t just be about sustainability without the basic priciples.


I would encourage you to get the best general design foundation under you that you can (get your PE and probably SE licenses), and start looking now for like-minded designers and educating yourself on the issues.  I think that there will be demand for engineers who are able to take these things into consideration, but never as much as there is for # crunchers that can meet code.   That means you will have to get out there and make the contacts that will enable a career like the one you want.  If you want to work in a field that doesn’t exist yet, you’ll have to take some risk and make your own opportunities.


You probably already realize that, and that’s why you were asking for references, but as you work, you’ll run into people that think the way you do.  But you have to get out there.  Go to the AIA tradeshows and walk the floor. Talk to people.  Read books by architects on sustainable design and planning, and look at their firms. There’s some good stuff out there.


Good luck.





Shaun Dustin, MS, PE

Doctoral Candidate

USTAR Biofuels Initiative

Utah State University
4130 Old Main Hill
Logan, UT 84322




From: erik gibbs []
Sent: Friday, November 09, 2007 8:28 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Sustainable companies


I have been working at a structural engineer company for the past 2 years since I graduated and I like the work, but there are some aspects that I do not like.


I do not like engineering large, very large custom homes with a lot of wastefull architecture. For example, 5000 sf plus homes for a middle aged family of 2?? I also do not like a lot of the architectural aspects that are nothing but waste. Using 8x columns and beams for a trells is utterly BS, unless they intend on doubling the trellis structure as a heli-port.


I am interested in working for either a structural or architectural company that specializes in "function before form", or green design and building. I have looked but I have not seen many in Southern California.


What are your thoughts on sustainable structural engineering/ building and or what companies implement this design method?


Thanks for all the help that I have recieved from past posts.