Wind Load Standards Pioneer Harris Dies at 90

ASCE 7 Wind Loads Subcommittee emeritus member Gilliam “Gill” Harris, a wind load standards pioneer who specialized in establishing such codes for metal buildings, has died at 90.

Harris, P.E., F.SEI, F.ASCE, helped write the first wind load standard in the late 1950s. His wind tunnel research on low-rise buildings at the University of Western Ontario in the 1970s is still the cornerstone for wind loads used today in building codes throughout North America.

Harris began his career in the metal building industry in Houston in the mid-1950s. In 1962 he moved to Columbus, Missouri, to join what eventually become Ceco Building Systems, and rose to become director of engineering. In 1987, he became director of research and engineering for the Metal Building Manufacturers Association. In 1993, he became an industry consultant, continued to lecture and act as a technical witness, and served on the ASCE 7 Wind Loads Subcommittee. He founded a consulting company, Gilliam Harris Engineering LLC, in 2002.

“Gill was a practicing engineer’s engineer. I saw him develop solutions the old-fashioned way, by sitting down and thinking them through and then explaining his solution in a very simple way,” said Larry Griffis, a fellow ASCE committee member.

“His pioneering work with computers … jump-started the industry,” said Lee Shoemaker, P.E., MBMA’s current director of research and engineering, remembering his friend. “With his push for the adoption of sensible codes and standards, he made sure [metal buildings] could be competitive with other structures.”

Harris was elected into the first class of the Metal Construction Hall of Fame in 2012.

A constant focus on fixing problems of any type, plus a love of music, made him a Renaissance man. As a jazz trumpeter, he formed Dixieland jazz and big bands over a lifetime, the last called Big Band Theory, which played public and private shows in his hometown of Columbus.


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