Where did civil engineering take you? Leading the professional pack: Ron Klemencic
For Lyles School of Civil Engineering alumnus Ron Klemencic (BSCE '85), competition drives innovation, and he's not interested in losing his lead any time soon.
Through his project and technical experience, Klemencic stands at the forefront of the construction engineering industry, especially in the advancement of performance-based seismic design methodologies, development of innovative structural systems, execution of cutting-edge research undertakings, and involvement with code development and enhancements.
This past spring, Klemencic was recognized with the Engineering News-Record's Award of Excellence for championing public-domain research and development that advanced the design and construction of buildings.
Now serving as chairman and CEO of Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Klemencic has been the structural engineer-in-charge for more than 175 buildings over 27 stories high (the tallest being 112 stories) in 19 countries. Overall, his firm has completed projects in 47 states and 54 countries with an aggregate construction cost of $99 billion.
The firm — and Klemencic especially — continually seeks out new ways to design and construct buildings around the world. The motivation for all this, he says, is his strong desire to win.
"I'm an incredibly competitive person," he says. "And, to me, winning in engineering is coming up with 'the next big thing' — the next idea. I don't know why, but I've always had the competitive streak in me — and in business, you always need to stay ahead of your competition."
Asked how he feels the competition is going, he says: "The scorecard is certainly favoring us at the moment, but it's a game with no end."
A recent effort to expand his repertoire includes working with Purdue Civil Engineering faculty, graduate students and staff at the Robert L. and Terry L. Bowen Laboratory for Large-Scale Civil Engineering Research. Led by Professor Amit Varma, director of the Bowen Laboratory, a team of academics and industry professionals is developing a better method and guidelines for optimizing design — and speeding construction schedules — for high-rise buildings.
The three-year project aims to generate experimental data and numerical models using concrete-filled composite plate shear walls (CF-CPSW). In addition to speeding the construction process (and decreasing costs), the research could result in more creative options for skyscraper designs.
"Working with Purdue on this was not a difficult decision," Klemencic says. "In addition to it being my alma mater, I knew Professor Varma had been involved in similar research before. He and the rest of the civil engineering faculty are all among the world's best professors and researchers."
Recalling his own time as a student at Purdue, he says he could not have picked a better school to coach him up and prepare him for all that he has accomplished.
He also does a bit of coaching of his own. For the past 25 years, Klemencic has been involved in lectures at Purdue and several other institutions around the world, including Cornell University's School of Architecture, Art and Planning; Georgia Tech; Illinois Institute of Technology; Universitat Stuttgart in Germany; Delft University in the Netherlands; and the University of Melbourne in Australia.
Klemencic says he is especially proud of the efforts made to educate and inspire the engineers of tomorrow and hopes one day to work either alongside them, or — perhaps — even compete against them.
"I come from a family of educators; it's in my blood," he says. "It's incredibly fun and satisfying to engage with students — and I look forward to seeing what they will accomplish one day in the future."