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Highland Manor Receives Excellence in Structural Engineering Award

by Jessica Pairrett 15. November 2016 09:18

Community Safe Room Wins Top Honor Among Projects Constructed Under $5 Million

Highland Manor Community Safe Room received a 2016 Excellence in Wisconsin Structural Engineering Award, in the projects less than $5 million in construction costs category, from the Structural Engineers Association of Wisconsin (SEA–WI).

This project challenged R.A. Smith National’s structural engineers with finding a solution for the 450 residents of the Highland Manor Mobile Home Community in Madison, Wis., who lacked safe shelter during severe weather events, such as tornadoes. Working collaboratively with precast engineers at Spancrete, the team designed a safe room meeting strict standards that resist extreme wind pressures associated with a tornado event. The design team’s creativity and teamwork in overcoming significant design challenges resulted in the largest freestanding safe room in Wisconsin that serves as a model for future shelters and safe rooms.

"The project was a successful team effort from initial design through building construction. We credit this overall successful project to excellent working relationships, cooperation and communication among all team members,” said Kim Spoden, AIA, Assemblage Architects.

In the photo (courtesy SEA–WI): David Boldt, the project’s structural engineer, explained how this award-winning project grew to become the largest freestanding safe room in Wisconsin.

Additional Information
The Highland Manor Community Safe Room represents an innovative, forward-looking approach to preventing fatalities during severe weather events. In order to qualify for $1.2 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant funding, the building had to meet FEMA P-361 requirements. These design criteria are intended to provide a superior level of life safety protection against the extreme wind speeds and flying debris associated with tornados. Although FEMA’s guidelines are beyond what most engineers will need to consider for upcoming projects, the related International Code Council ICC-500 requirements may soon become mandatory in Wisconsin for certain types of common structures. This facility meets both ICC-500 and FEMA P-361 requirements, demonstrating it is possible to create a large-scale safe room in a cost-effective manner.

As a safe room, Highland Manor can hold up to 845 individuals. When not harboring community residents during severe weather, the facility functions as a park shelter and community meeting room, making it usable by residents throughout the year.

"It has allowed residents to get involved with their community by becoming volunteers on the safety team, giving many a sense of purpose in their community," said the Highland Manor Homeowners' Association.

Judging and Awards
A jury of SEA–WI professionals selected award recipients based on five general criteria, including: the structural design’s creativity; technical innovations used and their influence on the project’s design; the design’s ingenuity for efficient use of materials and labor; how unusual problems were solved by the design; and quality of execution. The Highland Manor project, led by a collaborative and forward-thinking design team, effectively fulfills each of these criteria.

SEA–WI presented the 2016 Excellence in Wisconsin Structural Engineering Awards during their fall technical conference held on Friday, November 4. Award winners made presentations highlighting the challenging aspects of their projects.

In the photo: Highland Manor residents gathered together at the grand opening of the Community Safe Room.

R.A. Smith National Named a Best Firm to Work For

by Jessica Pairrett 17. August 2016 11:53

Zweig Group Best Firms 2016

Firm Ranks No. 21 Among Engineering Firms in the Nation by Zweig Group

R.A. Smith National, Inc. was selected as one of Zweig Group’s Best Civil Engineering Firms to Work For for the fourth consecutive year.

The firm ranked No. 21 out of 40 in the civil engineering category. This list recognizes the top civil engineering firms in the United States and Canada based on their workplace practices, employee benefits, employee retention rates and more. R.A. Smith National has been recognized eight times as a Best Firms to Work For by Zweig Group.


About R.A. Smith National

Employees at R.A. Smith National enjoy a client-focused, collaborative culture in a family atmosphere. The firm employs a staff of 196 and is currently hiring for a variety of positions throughout its offices in Brookfield (corporate headquarters), Madison and Appleton, Wis.; Naperville (Chicago), Ill.; Irvine, Calif.; and Oakmont (Pittsburgh), Pa.

R.A. Smith National is a consulting engineering firm, providing multi-disciplinary services to local, state and federal governments and the land development industry nationwide. Comprehensive services also include civil engineering, structural engineering, development management, surveying, construction services, transportation engineering, ecological services, landscape architecture, irrigation design, water resource engineering, geographic information systems (GIS), visualization and 3D laser scanning.

“Our staff is highly dedicated—you can see excellence in their work and in what they deliver to clients. This award celebrates that success,” said Richard Smith, owner and president of R.A. Smith National. “This firm and all our talented individuals continue to amaze me—and I’m its president.”

Wendy Wolfgram, human resources manager at R.A. Smith National, added, “Each individual working together as a whole, with a commitment to excellence and successful client projects—that’s what this award reflects.”


Additional Information

Zweig Group will announce this year’s winners at the 2016 Hot Firm and A/E Industry Awards Conference on September 22 and 23 at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. For more information about the Best Firms to Work For Award, please visit zweiggroup.com/awards/best-firms-to-work-for/.

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