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“Everything that can be invented has been invented!” This notorious quote has been attributed to Charles H. Duell, who was the commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office in 1899, but there is no evidence that he actually said this. And, why would he say that during a time when approximately 20,000 patents were issued each year? The Patent Act of July 4, 1836, required that each patent issued be numbered and recorded with the U.S. Patent Office.

By 1870, approximately 105,000 patents had been issued. Four decades later, in 1911, patent number 1 million was issued. Today, more than 7 million patents have been issued, with no end in sight. Patents, however, do not push the envelope of progress, ideas do. And I believe that it is safe to say that we are far from finished with good ideas.

One person who transformed an industry with his ideas (and yes, he patented them, too) was a daring, young,Austrian-born, German-trained engineer, Anton Tedesko. Read America’s first thin-shell barrel roof: A world record-holder, by Richard Weingardt, P.E. to learn more about this innovative engineer and how he brought the European concept of thin-shell concrete construction to America in the early 1930s.

High-rise leverages high-strength concrete: High reactivity metakaolin improves performance, by Richard Zap, CSI, of the Engelhard Corporation, and Michael Chusid, RA., FCSI, describes another pioneering idea within the concrete industry. The authors describe a relatively new type of pozzolanic supplementary cementitious material and the first 23-story high-rise to use it.

Beyond new inventions, many talented professionals are dedicated to improving established processes. This month’s Structural Engineer contains Solution to a stair problem: Reducing the costs of conflicting tolerances for building slabs and installing stairs, by Bruce A. Suprenant, Ph.D., P.E. This article describes who defines stair tolerances, how they are measured (or not measured), and why these create conflicts for the contractor. The author also suggests a method for addressing this problem, if the industry chooses to do so.

Also in this issue, the American Institute of Steel Construction’s Chief Structural Engineer Charles J. Carter, S.E., P.E., explains the improvements to one of the organization’s standards in The 2005 AISC Code of Standard Practice: An update reflects the current structural steel industry. Although this document is not new to the industry, the fifth edition addresses many new needs of the changing design and construction field.

Finally, our cover story, Parking partnership: Contractor and engineer collaborate for success in San Diego, by Shamini Wijay, P.E., and Andrew Raufi outlines how re-inventing the engineer-contractor relationship improved their performance on the city’s new parking structure.

As is evident by all of the articles in this month’s issue of Structural Engineer, inventions and improvements are ideas that will never end.