In this episode, I talk with Keith E. Kesner, Ph.D., P.E., S.E. (IL, HI), project director at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, about the intersection of project management and the field of existing structures, including the challenges, trends, and future directions of engineering repair and rehabilitation practice in the next five to 10 years.
***The video version of this episode can be viewed here***
Here Are Some of the Questions I Ask Keith:
- How did you accumulate 30 years of experience working with existing structures?
- How important do you think internships are for shaping a career, and what advice would you give students looking to make the most of internship opportunities in today’s competitive job market?
- What are the typical reasons, from a project management standpoint, for initiating repairs and rehabilitation in existing structures?
- Can you discuss the changes you’ve observed in your career regarding existing structures?
- What do you think about artificial intelligence entering civil engineering, particularly with new surveying and damage assessment methods like using AI in roadway surveys?
- Given the upcoming release of new documents from the American Concrete Institute (ACI), how do you anticipate these changes will impact the management of projects in your field?
- Looking ahead five to 10 years, can you share more insights on where you see the repair and rehabilitation practice in your industry going?
- What gets you excited about structural engineering?
- What about dealing with asset management planning, project management, and cost management in revolutionizing a whole city’s infrastructure intrigues you the most?
- What advice would you offer to engineers engaged in repair and rehabilitation projects, whether they’re just starting their careers or have a decade of experience, on how to begin, sustain, and advance in this field?
Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode About the Role of Engineering Repair and Rehabilitation in Sustainable Development:
- Keith Kessner’s 30-year engineering career started unexpectedly during his undergraduate years when a jobless break led him to a specialized engineering firm. Diverse projects kept his work engaging, leading to valuable connections and a graduate program at Cornell.
- In engineering education, you’re not just learning science — you’re developing problem-solving skills for diverse fields like Fortune 500 firms, engineering companies, real estate, project, construction management, and even finance, providing versatile career paths beyond traditional roles.
- Fixing issues in existing structures, when viewed from a program management perspective, is mainly about preventing disruptions and maintaining smooth operations. Addressing problems promptly, like leaks in a parking garage, not only ensures safety but also avoids negative impressions and potential shutdowns. Growing trends, like ordinance-driven inspections in places like New York City, highlight the increasing importance of program management in driving these projects.
- The big change in dealing with existing structures is realizing they’re unique, especially as building codes evolve. Now there’s a focus on specific requirements for repairs and maintenance tailored to aging and historic structures. Organizations like the American Concrete Institute have adapted by developing specific codes for existing structures.
- The integration of advanced technologies like big data and artificial intelligence is reshaping civil engineering, offering precise and proactive approaches to asset management. Using tools such as LiDAR surveys, drones, and corrosion sensors, engineers can efficiently survey structures, identify areas of concern, and predict potential issues. This data-driven strategy enhances the precision of investigations and allows for effective resource management, marking a significant advancement in the field.
- The upcoming changes in American Concrete Institute (ACI) documents aim to enhance engineering practices and safety for existing structures, providing more flexibility for design professionals with the use of materials like FRP and glass fiber bars. A notable shift might be seen in the next decade with a growing interest in a design-build approach for projects involving existing structures, potentially impacting project management practices more significantly than the ACI codes and standards.
- In the coming years, anticipate more design-build repair projects, bringing challenges in managing risks for existing structures, especially in coastal areas. It’s crucial to reassess survey methods, embrace new technologies, and develop ordinances for effective project and program management in planned repairs and maintenance.
- The excitement in structural engineering comes from delving into the history of iconic structures like Franklin Field, where moments like FDR’s nomination occurred. Each day presents new challenges, from innovative designs to learning from mistakes. Collaborating with inspiring mentors and colleagues, such as Randy Poston and Larry Kahn, adds joy to the technical aspects. Beyond the technicalities, it’s the blend of history and teamwork that makes structural engineering truly exciting.
- Revamping a city’s critical infrastructure, like Amtrak’s billion-dollar plan for century-old bridges in Connecticut, comes with the challenge of maintaining services during upgrades. Beyond material costs, the key is strategic engineering to avoid disruptions in rail or road projects. Managing public expectations during construction is crucial for ensuring safety and long-term functionality.
- For engineers entering repair and rehabilitation, seek mentors and engage in professional organizations for diverse learning and networking. Embrace continuous learning beyond formal education, as real-world challenges may call for unexpected aspects of your knowledge.
More Details in This Episode…
About Keith E. Kesner, Ph.D., P.E., S.E. (IL, HI)
Keith E. Kesner, Ph.D., P.E., S.E. (IL, HI), is a project director with Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, Inc. in New York, NY, USA. He joined Simpson Gumpertz & Heger in 2023 and has 28 years of professional experience. He has authored or co-authored over 150 technical papers and presentations on a variety of engineering topics.
He has received several awards from the American Concrete Institute (ACI) for his technical contributions to ACI, which have focused on the development of technical standards for repair of existing structures, most recently the ACI Henry C. Turner Medal. He currently serves as a trustee of the ACI Foundation, as a member of the ACI Technical Activities Committee, the ACI Codes, Standards, Advocacy, and Outreach Committee, and on ACI Technical Committees 228, Nondestructive Testing, 318-C, Safety, Serviceability and Analysis, 364, Rehabilitation and 562, Evaluation, Repair and Rehabilitation of Existing Structures. He is a former chair of ACI 562 Evaluation, Repair, and Rehabilitation of Existing Buildings. He is also a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the International Concrete Repair Institute.
His interests include nondestructive testing and the development of methods for evaluation and repair of existing structures. He received his BSE in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, in 1992, and his MS and PhD in civil and environmental engineering from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, in 1998 and 2003, respectively. He is a registered Professional Engineer in several states and a registered Structural Engineer in Illinois and Hawaii.
About the Host: Matthew Douglas
Matthew currently serves as the operations leader for the Engineering Management Institute. As a leader, Matthew’s goal is to ensure the efficacy and efficiency of the Learning and Development group. As a civil engineer by trade, Matthew has developed a passion for construction and stormwater management by way of maintenance and rehabilitation services. Matthew has also had experience working for private consulting firms and public agencies and has even held the role of an educator. As such, he loves to lead, build, mentor, and help those in need.
Most recently, during his time working for the public sector, Matthew took on the role of a public works operations manager. There he led quite a few public infrastructure rehabilitation projects and implemented new asset management technologies at a very young age. It is here that the passion for “fixing what’s broken” developed. He now uses his talents to lead EMI’s Learning and Development – Operational procedures, train engineers, and co-host podcasts.
Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, Inc.
American Concrete Institute (ACI)
International Concrete Repair Institute (ICRI)
American Society of Engineers (ASCE)
Connect with Keith E. Kesner, Ph.D., P.E., S.E. (IL, HI), on LinkedIn
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you can share on the role of engineering repair and rehabilitation in sustainable development.
Please leave your comments, feedback, or questions in the section below.
To your success,
Engineering Management Institute