ORIGIN: Starting the Conversation

Embracing Differences

02.24.14 by Greg Poston
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In a scene that is played out most mornings in our house, my wife is up bright and early ready for the day.  She has already been putting together a plan for the day and is excited to see me drag myself out of bed.  She wants to immediately begin to explain her plans and ideas to me.  However, I am not the morning person she is.  I am just trying to drag myself into the kitchen for that all important first cup of coffee.  While she is ready to start getting things done, I have to try and remind her – in as kind of a way as I can manage right out of bed – that I just need my wake up time.  My wife and I couldn’t be more opposite when it comes to our sleep schedules…

She is an early riser but prefers to crawl into bed shortly after we tuck in the kids.  On the other hand, I am most productive and efficient in the evening.  At times this can be a frustration in our marriage because we are ready to go at different times of the day.  She pushes me to get up and get going every morning, while in the evening, I am ready to make plans and tackle the chores.  But we aren’t letting these differences stop us; we are learning to embrace them and using them to become more productive together.  I will stay up later and get the dishes done and loaded into the dishwasher, and Mary will get up the next morning and unload the dishes.  When we focus and work within our own strengths, we can be more productive and not let our differences frustrate us.  It’s when we synergize that we get the most accomplished.

Architects and engineers can often be this way too.  We think about things differently and approach our jobs with a different mindset.  Architects main concern in the design of a building is the function and form. They are focused on creating amazing and impressive buildings.  They bring these ideas to the structural engineer who then shifts the focus toward our mindset – creating the most efficient and economical structure.   As a structural engineer, we tend to prefer a regular shaped building that results in a simplified design. Much like my wife and I, we can find that working with these differences can be a frustrating task.  But once again, it’s the synergy between us that allows for these projects to become reality and gives us the most wonderful buildings in the world.

I have found that on many projects, we layout a simple and repetitive structural system only to find that the architect needs to shift – or even eliminate an important column.  Or their design results in long cantilevers to produce the building form that the architect has envisioned.  When we learn to respect each other’s strengths, we can come up with a solution that is acceptable to both.  Embracing our differences allows each of us to bend our own thinking. It could be that we decide on an alternate load path to open up a space or even position a structural element, such as a column, to allow the architect to work that element into the form and the function they desire.

The architects create the beauty we see in the world’s buildings that can put people in awe.  While the structural engineer ensures that those buildings are safe and can stand the test of time.  It’s only together that these projects become a reality for all to enjoy.

“Without engineers nothing would stand up; without architects, we would not want it to.”  – Michael Carley

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Greg Poston, PE


Greg received his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree from Texas A&M University and his Master of Science in Civil Engineering degree from the…

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