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Joe Burns
Managing Principal, Thornton Tomasetti, Chicago
“Tall and Supertall Buildings: Structure and Skin Performance”

There are many challenges and opportunities in designing the structure and skin of high performing tall buildings. Examples from different regions highlight responses to wind effects, building movements and tolerances. BIM Modeling is a new tool to assist in evaluating performance and sustainability, as well as assist in constructability. All of these suggest new areas of research to improve the performance and sustainability of tall buildings, which will be included in this presentation from a structural engineer / architect with over 30 years expertise in the design of tall buildings.


Named to ENR’s Top 25 Newsmakers for 2003, Joseph G. Burns is well known for his innovative structural design work with projects of significant magnitude. Joseph Burns graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1978 and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981, obtaining advanced degrees in Architecture and Structural Engineering. He has 25 years of international experience as a structural designer as well as an investigator and renovator of existing buildings. He specializes in the design of complex structural systems, including earthquake engineering and dynamic analysis. Mr. Burns joined Thornton Tomasetti, Inc. in 1995. Thornton Tomasetti is a 550-person structural engineering firm with 12 offices in the United States and offices in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Hong Kong, London, Moscow and Shanghai, and is known internationally for creating innovative structural design on a wide variety of premier projects. Recent projects by Mr. Burns include the structural design for The Chicago Spire, a 600-meter-tall residential tower, Chicago, Illinois; structural design for Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, Masdar Headquarters Building, a 1.25-million-square-foot, seven-story commercial building for a zero carbon emission, green community, Abu Dhabi, UAE; and the design development of Project 2000, a 600-meter-tall, four-million-square-foot mixed-use building, Chicago, Illinois. Mr. Burns has been an active member of the design community. He has served as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Illinois Institute of Technology, and was named a KEA Distinguished Professor at the University of Maryland for Fall 2005. He has served as chairman of the Committee of Special Design Issues of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and is a member of several other engineering and architecture associations. Mr. Burns is a peer reviewer for the General Services Administration’s Design Excellence and Construction Excellence programs.

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