Tom Peterson, P.E. Lectures at MN State University

Eden Prairie, MN (November 7, 2012) – Tom Peterson, P.E., Senior Forensic Engineer, was recently invited to share his insights into the science of forensic structural engineering at Minnesota State University in Mankato, MN. Speaking to a full house of engineering students in a senior-level structural analysis class, Peterson provided an overview of this unique slice of engineering as well as case studies outlining the investigative and problem solving process.

“I welcome any opportunity to give a little something back to the academic engineering community. I was heartened by the level of interest and knowledge on display in the classroom. If my experience with these future leaders of the engineering and construction industry is representative of the talents of the next generation, then the future is indeed bright.”tp1
Tom Peterson, P.E.

Peterson’s lecture focused on the broad scope approach to forensic engineering including the following concepts:

  • The Claim
  • The Client
  • The Analysis
    • What went wrong
    • Who’s responsible
    • How to resolve

In addition, Peterson was recently published in Minnesota Claims Magazine September/October 2012 issue for his article titled Is This Structure Worth Saving? Sharing his expertise on the assessment of partially damaged structures; he explains how to discern if structural upgrades are necessary and justified; Tom also provides guidance on how to interpret local requirements for structural building shell modifications based on applicable building codes.tp2

“A common scenario faced in our industry is assessment of a partially damaged structure to determine the viability of saving all or some portion of the remaining building shell and if the damaged portion can be repaired with “like” means and methods that were originally employed. Interpreting the requirements for structural building shell modifications based on applicable building codes can be a challenging and frustrating endeavor. The building official with jurisdiction is a key member of the team.” – Tom Peterson, P.E.

Proper code reference materials include:

  • The International Building Code (IBC) Chapter 34 on “Existing Structures”
  • The International Residential Code (IRC) Appendix J on “Existing Buildings and Structures”
  • The applicable State Building Code
  • The 2000 Guidelines for the Rehabilitation of Existing Buildings (GREB).

Keys to determining if structural updates are (1) required and (2) justified include:

  • First, try to categorize the project as an alteration, reconstruction, rehabilitation, renovation or a repair as defined in Section 3403 of the IBC as different requirements apply.
  • Define the project based on code definitions to help establish a starting point and to determine if “unsound” or “dangerous” conditions exist.
  • Engage the building official(s) having jurisdiction early in the process to clarify their requirements and what, if anything will need to be submitted for a permit such as an engineered set of repair drawings and specifications.
  • Note: it is possible to provide a convincing argument to the building official for consideration of alternatives and/or negotiation.
  • Review any applicable building codes; review specifically codes with focus on the Rehabilitation of Existing Buildings.
  • Remember that above all else, the overriding objective is to safeguard the general welfare of the public and restore the structure to a safe and sound condition.

About Tom Peterson:
Peterson, P.E. is a Senior Forensic Engineer with Pie Consulting & Engineering. He is a licensed structural engineer with a wide range of expertise including evaluation of retail, commercial, and industrial facilities both as a design engineer, and as a consultant in structural design review and failure analysis. Tom has worked on projects throughout the United States and the Caribbean, and has provided emergency response and recommendations on building failures in catastrophe events. He specializes in civil engineering design including site planning, soils, and grading/drainage approaches for land development.

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