John Zils

Senior Structural Consultant, Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP

Lessons Learned
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Friday, April 15, 2016– 4:30 pm

Location: Whitaker Lab 303, Lehigh University,5 E. Packer Avenue, Bethlehem, PA

John Zils, Senior Structural Consultant, Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP, Chicago, IL: Since joining Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) in 1966, Mr. Zils has served as structural engineer on numerous projects ranging widely in scope and scale. He worked as senior structural engineer for the 10-story Fourth Financial Center Bank and Office Building in Wichita, Kansas, and the 110-story Sears Tower in Chicago. For the King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, John was involved in overseeing a large group of structural engineers working on all portions of the large scale project including the innovative Haj Terminal, which is the largest terminal membrane roof structure in the world.  As senior structural consultant, Mr. Zils oversees many projects and works closely with the project engineer and engineering team, primarily at the beginning phase of the project and again near its final stages of completion.

John has published numerous articles on structural engineering topics and is the recipient of many awards from the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Institute of Steel Construction, and the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois, to name a few.

Lessons Learned. Fazlur Khan was a visionary and innovator in building design during a very exciting period in the evolution and development of tall building and long span structural systems. Upon joining Skidmore Owings & Merrill in 1960, Dr. Khan immediately recognized that the computer could provide unprecedented analytical and design power that would revolutionize the design profession.  He convinced SOM to purchase a computer for the structural department which then provided him with the means to explore structural behavior in great depth and develop the many innovative structural systems attributed to him. What may not be as well-known about him was his unique ability to mentor, motivate and teach all who came in contact with him to include not only other structural engineers but architects and clients as well. 

During my early and formative years as a structural engineer, I had the enormous benefit to work with Faz on numerous major buildings to include the Sears Tower in Chicago and the Haj Terminal in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The experience and lessons learned during this 16-year period (1966-1982) were invaluable and provided me with a foundation and approach to my career as a structural engineer and architect. This lecture will attempt to articulate some of these lessons and ideas using various projects to illustrate the lessons learned. Dr. Khan was an innovative and brilliant engineer but his legacy will also include the impact of his ability to communicate and teach these lessons to all of us. Even though his professional career of 22 years was relatively short, his impact on the building profession and those who came in contact with him is enormous.

The Dendrite and Graphite of a Grey Cast Iron Structure