Engineering tip, steel erection: if it’s taut, it’s carrying load

I’ve got the fancy degrees on the wall. Even have myself a professional engineering license or two in a couple of states. I guess that makes me a smart guy.

Well, I guess.

Yes, it’s true that having the knowledge to work fancy mathematical equations is of value and necessity to ensure things stay standing and to protect human life. But, do not ever underestimate the power of common sense.

In graduate school, I took a course on the stability of structures. It was way over my head and better suited for the kids who had way more book smarts than me. But, one thing that course did teach was a little bit of common sense.

The professor was one of the most dominant in steel design in the country. He literally helped write the AISC Steel Manual. He’s a steel genius. What resonated to me was the one day he said to the class “if you’re ever in the field and you see a steel cable connecting two columns, and it’s tight, don’t ever cut it. If it’s taut, it’s under load. If you cut it, the entire structure could come down.”

So simple. Such powerful information. Information like this makes a complete engineer.

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