Senior Applications Developer Elcin Ertugrul, Associate Viviana Vumbaca and Vice President Marguerite Pinto are among the winners of the 2017 Women in Construction Award, given by Constructech magazine. Photo by Bess Adler.
With a firm-wide goal to drive change and innovation in the built environment, our people are always exploring new ways of working better and smarter. Recently, three Thornton Tomasetti employees were recognized for taking the architecture, engineering and construction industry in new directions through the use of technology.
Vice President Marguerite Pinto, Associate Viviana Vumbaca and Senior Applications Developer Elcin Ertugrul were among this year’s winners of Constructech magazine’s Women in Construction award. Now in its third year, the award singles out women in AEC fields who are breaking ground with new technological tools or processes designed to improve efficiency and productivity.
“It’s encouraging to see women in the workforce use technology in new ways,” Peggy Smedley, editorial director of Constructech magazine and president of Specialty Publishing Media, said in a statement announcing the award recipients. “Their out-of-the-box thinking extends to those around them and the projects they work on to set new precedents for innovation within their companies and the industry overall.”
Marguerite, Viviana and Elcin were honored at an Aug. 24 ceremony in San Francisco, California, that concluded Constructech’s Technology Day Conference (Elcin, who is expecting the arrival of a new baby any day, wasn’t able to attend the event.)
Marguerite Pinto and Viviana Vumbaca at the Construtect 2017 Women in Construction awards ceremony in San Francisco, California. Photo by Chris Pinto.
“It was wonderful to see so many talented women being recognized for their contributions to our industry,” Marguerite said. “And I am honored to be included among them.”
A leader in Thornton Tomasetti’s Forensics practice, Marguerite specializes in advanced analytics, vibration instrumentation and sophisticated modeling. She heads the firm’s experimental mechanics team, which uses technology to monitor and control structural behavior and provides structural testing services for challenging projects.
“She works collaboratively and selflessly across offices to solve large and often unusual problems,” Managing Principal and Forensics Practice Leader John Abruzzo said. “Quite simply, she manages to get things done.” It was John who nominated both Marguerite and Viviana for the award.
Marguerite has played an active role in many of the firm’s R&D initiatives, such as the use of 3D and 4D Forensics Information Models (FIM) to manage and analyze data gathered in the investigation of structural failures. More recently, she has been involved in the development of the Hummingbird Damper, which adapts NASA’s rocket stabilizer technology designed for use in skyscrapers to reduce sway. Thornton Tomasetti has the exclusive rights to apply the technology to tall buildings in the U.S., and Marguerite’s contributions are recognized in the patent.
Marguerite Pinto was instrumental in the development of the Hummingbird Damper, which is used in tall buildings to reduce vibrations. Marguerite and Senior Project Engineer Callum Norris test a damper unit installed in a residential high-rise in Brooklyn, New York.
“The fluid harmonic damper will revolutionize the tuned mass damper market,” Marguerite said. “Typical TMDs are heavy pendulums swinging or sliding or large tanks of water that reduce sway in tall buildings. The Hummingbird Damper is much smaller and much less expensive.”
Viviana, who is also with Thornton Tomasetti’s Forensics practice, is the firm’s expert in scanning and surveying technology. She uses laser scanners, drones and photogrammetry to analyze and evaluate data to develop condition assessments of various types of structures.
“She travels to many of our offices to solve specific problems when typical assessment tools are not effective or when data provided by others is questioned,” John said.
Thornton Tomasetti was recently called in to investigate the condition of a roof at a California warehouse. The evaluation of the nearly 7 acre roof included checking for connection gaps for more than 30,000 joist hangers.
The team needed to find a way that would be faster and less intrusive to the tenant’s business operations than erecting scaffolding or the use of lifts to inspect various sections of the roof. Viviana performed multiple laser scans to create a 3D image of the warehouse, and a series of high-resolution photos were taken of the joist hangers. Viviana developed a software app that enabled the engineers to gather and process information accurately and quickly through the use some 60,000 photos. For those areas in need of repair, the app could be used determine the appropriate gap measurement and compile the data in a detailed report, complete with illustrations and sketches. She also developed a method for training staff in the use of the app and for gauging their accuracy.
Viviana Vumbaca was recognized for her expertise in scanning various structures, such as this damaged bascule, or moveable, bridge.
“This process allowed us to obtain the necessary measurements 10 times faster than if we had taken measurements directly on site,” Viviana said. “This resulted in not only an accelerated schedule, but considerable savings for the client.”
Elcin categorizes her work as an intersection between architecture, engineering and computer science. She is part of the firm’s CORE studio team that develops and prototypes web applications for enhancing collaboration within the firm as well as with our clients and project partners. She has developed several suites of custom tools for parametric and analysis software, including Grasshopper for Rhino, Dynamo for Revit, ETABS, SAP2000 and Revit.
“Elcin’s work helps Thornton Tomasetti push the envelope and challenge traditional ways of working,” Principal Robert Otani, who oversees CORE studio and recommended Elcin for the award, said. “These custom tools keep us firmly positioned as an innovator in structural design and allows us to meet the needs of our clients in a more efficient manner.”
Elcin is currently involved with several projects. She serves as the lead developer for a number of ETABS and SAP add-ins that range from basic geometry manipulation to specialized analysis tools, and has been integral in the creation of a 3D viewer web application called Mirar, which can export models from Revit or Grasshopper that can be shared via the internet. Elcin has also been instrumental in the development and prototyping of Konstru, a cloud-based platform that allows project team members to track, share, collaborate, and update data across popular modeling and analysis software tools.
“Our team has evolved from creating more advanced parametric design workflows to developing software-neutral custom web applications,” Elcin said. “As a result, our engineers are able to make informed decisions and provide clients with feedback early in the design process. And if there are changes, we are able to update the analysis model quickly with our interoperability tools.”
In addition to breaking new ground on the technology front, the editorial staff at Constructect magazine looked for candidates who are pushing open doors for the next generation of female AEC professionals.
“Diversity is key to staying competitive for any firm, especially those like Thornton Tomasetti that are committed to innovation,” Elcin said. “We see so many bright young women entering our industry, and being able to share my knowledge and experience and to support them in their career growth is quite rewarding.”
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