Mining for Gold...
Celebrating 50 Years!
As we embark on our 50th Anniversary year, we have a new project to add to the nearly 100,000 we’ve completed since 1971.
No engineering prowess needed.
This project will focus on YOU -- our employees. You are the most important piece of CTL | Thompson’s success, and that has been true since my father, Bob, founded the company. Your predecessors and current co-workers have and continue to trailblaze our path to success.
In a monthly series, we will highlight stories from CTL’s rich past, along with commentary and predictions for our present day and future success. We’re calling the series “Mining for Gold,” because we have so many precious and rich stories that highlight our industry-leading expertise and entrepreneurial culture and reiterate how we live out our values of thoughtful, time-tested and thorough engineering.
CTL added structural engineering to our mix of services in 2005with the acquisition of Secure Foundations and Engineering. It was a natural next step for our growing business and client base, and we jumped at the opportunity.
As we’ve mentioned in nearly every Mining for Gold edition, clients benefit from our ability to collaborate across disciplines. This attribute might be best illustrated in our structural department’s work. For instance, if the geotech team hits a snag in the field, the structural department can provide insights quickly, without the more formal reporting method a third-party engineer would require. Even routine projects move faster — when a structural department team member can walk down the hall to hear about a not-yet-finished soils report, the team can start the initial foundation design based on preliminary findings, keeping the project moving at a brisk pace.
We sat down with Denver-based department manager Chris Lytle recently. He credits our breadth of expertise for many of his department’s returning clients and says collaboration plays into CTL’s “great niche.”
Lytle was one of many top structural engineers who joined CTL through the Secure acquisition. At the time, he was managing Secure’s Denver operations. Since then, he has remained in Denver, overseeing our structural engineering team and its steady growth.
Whatever comes our way
Though Lytle and his team played an integral part in many of our “big splash” projects like Kwajalein and Diego Garcia, the team’s bread and butter is structural modeling and foundation design for residential projects.
The team tackles about 100 projects per month. Approximately 80% of those jobs are residential.
The projects can range from a smaller fix, completed in a day, to projects that take 3-4 weeks or even 3-4 years. Lytle notes the average project length is one week, a pace he enjoys because of its variety and the chance to solve new problems.
“We take on whatever comes our way,” he said. “Solving today’s problems prepares us for future challenges, which is critical in the rapidly changing residential market.”
Speaking of a can-do attitude, you won’t be surprised to hear that structural engineering is yet
another CTL team known for its entrepreneurial spirit and problem-solving acumen. Lytle says it pays dividends, particularly from former clients who may hear “not possible” from their existing engineering firm. They come back to CTL because they know that for our team, anything is possible.
“I take it personally when I can’t solve a problem,” Lytle said. “When surprises come up, we try everything we can to get the project back on track and avoid costly design.”
We didn’t learn THAT in school
While Lytle enjoys the rapid-fire volume of our residential work, he also likes to sink his teeth into a challenge — though in a few cases, the more operative word is “fangs.” One of Lytle’s most complex problems was when the Denver Zoo tapped him and the structural team to design and test a shipwreck feature for its polar bear exhibit. The structure had to look like it was crashing to the ground while being sturdy enough to withstand wear and tear from the world’s largest land carnivore.
The polar bears are just a few of our happy furry and feathered clients — hippos, penguins,
elephants, giraffes and rhinos have upgraded, natural-style habitats at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, thanks to CTL. (Read more on that in the Colorado Springs edition.)
We also recently tackled a project for the two-legged community that speaks to our cross-discipline approach. The Denver Fire Department tapped CTL to check the material strength of its burn house after an accident in a Massachusetts fire training facility. Bud Werner jumped in to help test materials for their strength under fire, literally. The structural department then did its work to confirm the Denver structure could withstand fire even in a weakened state.
Attracting the best
So what’s next for our structural engineering group?
Lytle just hired his 10th engineer in Denver, but his goal is to add a structural department to every CTL location. We all recognize the value of our collaborative approach, and we see it working in Denver, Colorado Springs, Summit County and Glenwood, where we have in-house structural engineers.
Whatever the future holds, we’re betting on the structural team’s continued success and carpe diem spirit. And we know that whatever happens, we can count on Lytle to “keep calm and carry on.”