SAN FRANCISCO—The third annual Structural Engineer’s Buildings Conference & Expo, held last month at the Grand Hyatt in San Francisco, not only offered education, the latest in products and services, and endless networking opportunities, but it also provided thought-provoking discussion on the issues and technology impacting the future of the structural engineering industry.

The conference kicked off on Oct. 9 with a pre-conference seminar focusing on building information modeling (BIM). BIM Fundamentals provided discussion and education about this emerging technology, with presentations on how structural engineers can benefit from BIM by reviewing its concept, discussing how it will affect business, evaluating current BIM technology—including testimonials from existing users—as well as exploring the legal issues and risks associated with BIM. Various speakers declared BIM the way of the future, encouraging engineers to take advantage of it sooner rather than later. While some attendees are already using BIM on their projects, others came to learn more about the technology they intend to incorporate into their practice.

"As a building owner, there is a lot to be gained by using BIM," said Heidi Pross, P.E., manager of structural engineering at Target, headquartered in Minneapolis. "Since Target owns the building from cradle to grave, we’re taking a hard look at how BIM can benefit us not only during design and construction, but also for the entire life cycle of the store."

The full conference began on Oct. 10 with nearly 200 attendees and more than 20 exhibitors. Presented by ZweigWhite, in association with Structural Engineer, the event included a variety of keynote presentations from some of the industry’s most renowned figures, including Steven Tipping, S.E., president of Tipping Mar + associates; Mark Sarkisian, P.E., S.E., partner of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP; S.K. Ghosh, Ph.D., president of S.K. Ghosh Associates Inc.; and Lee Slade, P.E., senior principal and executive director of Walter P Moore’s Structural Engineering Services Group.

Charles H. Thornton, Ph.D., P.E., chairman and CEO of Charles H. Thornton & Company, LLC, and founding principal of Thornton Tomasetti, opened the conference with his presentation, "How technology is changing the role of today’s structural engineer." He called the event a "leadership conference," noting the changes taking place in the industry such as BIM, and the role of the structural engineer in recruiting future talent. "This is probably the best time to be a structural engineer in the last 50 years, in my opinion. Let’s take that opportunity to become leaders," said Thornton.

Plans for next year’s conference are already underway. A pre-conference BIM seminar will be held on Oct. 1, 2008, with the full conference and expo following on Oct. 2-3, at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta. Visit for more information.