ASCE Honors Harris as Distinguished Member

James R. Harris, Ph.D., P.E., F.SEI, Dist.M.ASCE, NAE, president of J.R. Harris & Co., has been honored with inclusion by ASCE in its 2020 class of Distinguished Members for his eminence in standards development, research and leadership in the structural engineering profession.

Harris has designed or evaluated thousands of structures, from dwellings and high-rise buildings to industrial facilities, excavation bracing, buildings in the highest seismic zones, renovations of historic buildings, and many others. His background spans all types of construction and structural materials as well as management of all design disciplines.

His pioneering, innovative research has focused on the loading and response of structures, particularly earthquake and snow loadings. A second focus is on improving the formulation and use of engineering standards. He is an active member of several standard-producing committees. He is past chair of ASCE/SEI Standards Committee 7 and participated on the ACI Committee 318 and the AISC Specification Committee.

headshot of Harris

As a practicing structural engineer and leading supporter of the move toward limit state design and uniform reliability-based loading requirements of all structural design standards in the U.S., his voice was essential for harmonization of load requirements to occur. The fact that ASCE 7 “Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures,” ACI 318 “Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete,” and AISC’s “Specification for Structural Steel Buildings” and “Seismic Provisions for Structural Steel Buildings” all have the same load requirements for limit states (strength) design is due largely to Harris’ efforts.

As an expert in the behavior and design of structural systems subjected to extreme events, Harris was a member of the team that investigated the damage sustained by the Pentagon following the September 11, 2001, terrorists attack.

He has also been a persistent advocate for performance-based engineering (PBE) since his tenure at the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST), and was an important contributing member of the Masonry Society’s formation, advancing a fledgling organization 30 years ago into a professional society to represent professional activities in masonry.

Among his awards, he includes election to the National Academy of Engineering in 2005 for contributions to the development, improvement and implementation of modern standards for the design of buildings.

Read an ASCE Journal article by Harris.


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