March 5, 2021

Square Feet | The 30-Minute Interview: Thomas Z. Scarangello

The company is known for skyscrapers and sports facilities; its projects have included 11 Times Square, the new Meadowlands stadium, and Yankee Stadium. It was also hired for the Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia, billed as the next building to be the world’s tallest.

Q According to your bio, you’ve spent your entire career at Thornton Tomasetti.

A It was my first job out of school — I was hired as an entry-level engineer. I didn’t think I would be there for the rest of my career, but I got lucky that two things occurred: that structural engineering turned out to be my passion, and that the firm grew the right way for me. I never hit a wall; if I wanted to try something new, there weren’t barriers.

Q And that has included forensic work.

A One of my first projects was at the Hartford Coliseum, which collapsed in the late ’70s. More recently, we got a call to help start the investigation into the stage collapse at the state fair in Indianapolis.

Sometimes the work is in a disaster area, and sometimes a building is just in distress. From every natural disaster, and even man-made ones, you always come out with lessons.

Q Do you know yet what happened in Indianapolis?

A Clearly there was strong wind that precipitated something. Whether it was a level of wind that no one anticipated or some flaw, that’s why we get called in to get a better understanding and avoid these things in the future.

Q Switching to New York, how did the city’s high-rise buildings hold up during the recent tropical storm?

A They held up well. Building curtain walls also fared well, with a few exceptions of leaks from wind-driven rain. It would take a much stronger event to significantly impact the high-rise building stock.

Q One of Thornton Tomasetti’s specialties is skyscrapers. How do you ensure that these buildings are safe and secure from an engineering standpoint?

A You look at the strength characteristics — you want all the structural components of the building to be strong enough to respond to the largest forces, whatever that might be. In certain parts of the world the dominant force may be seismic forces, and in other parts it might be hurricane winds or other events. So we have to determine what’s the largest force that this building is going to feel. There’s a whole series of checks that we have to do.

We also work very closely with geotechnical engineers who test the soil conditions, and we do borings and other things. And we’re constantly evaluating different materials, whether it’s steel or concrete.

Q Have you ever worked with an architect who got too carried away in his or her designs?

A I hate to say it, but that’s the challenge. That’s what we love. We don’t do a lot of very standard 20-story rectilinear buildings.

Q How many projects are you working on right now?

A Well over 100. Our project starts are up around 20 percent over the same time last year.

New York is probably around 5 percent of the projects. I’m the engineer of record for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. And I’m working on the Hudson Yards right now.

Q Let’s talk about Hudson Yards.

A We’re working with Related and KPF, the architect. Things are definitely ramping up, so we take that as a positive sign.

We’ve been kind of on and off working on the site since the mid-’90s. We studied that site for a baseball stadium. We were on when the Jets talked about doing their stadium there. And then we worked with the city when they started doing the whole planning for the yards, helping them, because it’s a complicated site with the building over an active rail yard, so there’s a lot of structural challenges.

Q How big is your sports stadium business?

A It’s probably about 15 percent of what we’re doing. The first sports project that I worked on was in 1990 — it was an arena in Anaheim, Calif. — and I probably personally worked on 20 to 30 between the time we did that project and we did the recent ones in New York.

In New York, we had all these older stadiums that hadn’t been renovated, so when they finally started to come online, people would walk in and go, “Wow, look at this!” Well, you should have gone to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Anaheim or San Francisco…

Q Do you have a favorite project?

A A boy from the Bronx who gets to be the engineer of record for Yankee Stadium — it doesn’t quite get better than that!

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=9d2b6113c6a3cb81e6c7cb63841d8737

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