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Part 3: 3 designers, 3 continents, much in common

To celebrate the year of the designer, we talked to professionals located in three corners of the world – Denmark, Australia, and the USA. 

We wanted to know what makes them tick. How they ended up in structural design and what inspires them? What makes them get out of bed every day? What are their goals? Even though the continents and business environments vary, there were many common denominators. See if you can spot them.

Shawn A. Graham: Leading the Way in Design Innovation

Shawn A. Graham works as Vice President of the Building Structures Division at Whitney Bailey Cox & Magnani, LLC in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At work, he enjoys variety and problem-solving with his team. In his free time, team play takes on different forms: Shawn is an ice hockey player, along with being a hockey and softball coach for his 6 and 4 year old daughters.

“I loved building with Legos and Lincoln Logs as a kid and always liked math at school. One day my Dad showed me an old blueprint book of his from high school and it prompted me to take a Computer-Aided Drafting Class in high school. From there, I went to Pennsylvania State University and majored in Architectural Engineering with an emphasis in Structures.”

Shawn adds, “I spent the first 12 years of my engineering career working for an engineering company in Maryland, near Washington, DC. Over the years I have gained experience in structural design and project management.  I have also been the Engineer-of-Record for numerous projects from office, retail, parking, mixed-use, educational, and residential projects from renovations to adaptive reuse of buildings.”

Designing economic structures through innovation and technology

“Today my work consists of overseeing an engineering team, quality control, strategic planning, and business development. For us, no project is too small or too large – the variety of projects keeps things interesting and helps us in taking a fresh look at any challenge. We strive to design economic structures through innovation and technology. Our relationship with Peikko and DELTABEAM® is a good example of this.”

Shawn loves a good challenge: “I really like problem-solving. Seeing a conceptual design on paper come to life in the form of a real structure is exciting every time. It is really inspiring to contribute to society by creating safe structures for people to live, work, and enjoy life in”, says Shawn.

“A structural engineer is the link between architectural creativity and a safe, economic structure. A quality structural engineering firm brings value to a project team, through communication, coordination, and attention to detail.”

“I’m proud of all my projects from small to large projects and new to renovation projects. If I had to pick one, I’d say the recently completed Bridge on Forbes Apartment project in Pittsburgh. It was a DELTABEAM® project with an irregular floor plan that required us to think outside the box with how we meshed the advantages of the DELTABEAM® system with concrete/masonry shear walls and steel braced frames. This project is a great example of the benefit of spending the necessary time required to bring creativity to life in an economical, detailed, and innovative way”, says Mr. Graham.

My future plans are clear: To continue to grow the Pittsburgh WBCM office that my boss, Mike Wuerthele, has built over the last 20 years with the support of our home office in Baltimore, MD. He understands the importance of adapting to change and innovation in the industry. He has put a lot of hard work and dedication into developing and nurturing many client relationships over the years. My goal is to continue providing the excellent service that our clients have come to expect. My four cornerstones of success are: Work hard and play hard. Give credit where credit is due. Be honest. Keep innovating and learning new things.


 Read part 1: Riccardo Pedroni and part 2: Nerisa Balliu.

This article has been published originally at Connections 1/2020 magazine.