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Tilt-Up Awards > David L. Kelly Distinguished Engineer Award

The David L. Kelly Distinguished Engineer Award recognizes those individuals or firms whose commitment to engineering excellence has allowed for industry advancement and achievement.

The award honors the career-long commitment of Dave Kelly, former Chief Engineer of Meadow Burke, to the constant evolution of engineering solutions for the tilt-up industry. A past president, board member, ACI 551 committee member and inspirational mind of the tilt-up industry, Kelly solved many of the most intricate designs and construction requirements asked of the tilt-up methods to enable contractors to erect massive panels of both height and weight.

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Is there a person or company that you know embodies the spirit of this award? Click on the nomination link below and submit them for consideration. Entries must be received by June 1st.

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Recipients by Year

Ed Javanbakht

Eddie Javanbakht, the deserving recipient of the 2023 David L. Kelly Distinguished Engineer Award, epitomizes the spirit of engineering excellence and unwavering commitment. With over five decades as an ambassador of tilt-up construction, Eddie has elevated the industry through his safety presentations and unparalleled customer service. His dedication transcends competition, as described by his nominator Scott Collins, who hailed Eddie as one of the friendliest and most gracious personalities in the field. As the driving force behind Prestige Tilt-Up Consulting, Eddie brings together a seasoned team of engineers and designers, pooling over 100 years of combined experience. His approach to engineering tilt-up panels, considering the intricate interplay of factors like lifting loads, panel design, and reinforcement, reflects a pursuit of excellence that aligns seamlessly with the ideals of the David L. Kelly Distinguished Engineer Award. Eddie Javanbakht’s legacy is one of remarkable contribution, forging new paths for engineering in the tilt-up industry and leaving an indelible mark on its evolution.

Karen S. Hand

Karen has been serving as President of Needham DBS since July 2018. She oversees the operations for the Kansas City office. Earning her master’s degree in Engineering Management, Karen has been focusing her efforts on business development, marketing and sales for the firm.

Karen graduated from the University of Missouri Rolla in 1993. She worked at Butler Construction, designing steel structures in the Pre-Engineered Building industry for 4 years. She was first introduced to the hardwall building system while working at Butler Construction. She was responsible for designing the steel hybrid PEMB systems to fit into the tilt or precast wall systems. She used open web joist, open web girders or solid web 3-plate frames, horizontal eave trusses and standing seam roof components to complete the building shell. At Bucon, she worked on national accounts for Roadway Package Systems, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Ace Hardware and others.

Karen began working on the concrete side of tilt-up construction upon joining Needham DBS in 1998. She gained experience using tilt-up working with Jeff Blasi when he established the Kansas City office for Lithko Contracting. She attended her first TCA event in Baltimore, MD for the 2001-02 TCA Symposium. This is when she first met David Kelly. Having been trained by Jeff Needham, a David Kelly protégé, she sought him out for introduction as an inspiration and mentor to the tilt-up industry and continues to spend time with him throughout the past 20 years of her involvement in the TCA.

Attending the Symposium in 2002 inspired her to make tilt-up construction her primary focus in design and sought education and training to become an expert in her field. She has experience with design and detailing of specialty applications for tilt-up panels. Karen understands construction methods because of hands-on experience and the close relationships she develops with her design-build clients and contractors.

Karen has been serving on the TCA Board of Directors since 2018, Executive Committee since 2020 and will serve as President in 2023.

Named a Top 20 Influencer in the Tilt-Up Industry by the Tilt-Up Concrete Association in 2020, 2021, 2022.


James Williams

The 2021 recipient of the David L. Kelly Distinguished Engineer Award is James Williams. James has long been an established leader in the tilt-up industry. The wider industry was introduced to him and his work through the Tilt-Up Achievement Awards Program where his firm was awarded their first in 2008. His winning entries then and now showcase great innovation in tilt-up, including many firsts for the state of Utah; the first 3-story and 4-story class “A” office buildings, the first million square foot tilt-up structure, and the first fiber mesh reinforced composite tilt-up buildings. Recognizing the impact James was having on the industry, the TCA presented him with the Irving Gill Distinguished Architect Award in 2010.

As both an engineer and architect, James has been a unique and valuable voice for our industry. James is one of 14 who serves on the ICC General IBC Code Development Committee and has been instrumental in the development of the 2021 and the 2024 building codes. He is the chairman of the National HUD Resiliency, Seismic, and Earth Task Group. He has served two code cycles for the International Green Building Standard and has been appointed by the Governor of Utah to serve on the Uniform Building Code Commission Advisory Committee. James has served on the AIA’s National Codes and Standard Committee, the AIA ICC Prescriptive Code Task Group and has also served on the executive board of directors for the Tilt-Up Concrete Association for 7 years. Through his participation he has simultaneously improved his own work and the work of countless others, across disciplines, affecting meaningful change.


Pinnacle Structural Engineers

Pinnacle Structural Engineers was founded in March of 2005 by Donald Greive, P.E. and Adam Cryer, P.E. In 2006, Pinnacle added David Jones as a Senior Vice President to head up the production department. Pete Dean, P.E., was promoted to Senior Vice President in 2019 and Heath Michel, P.E. was promoted to Vice President in 2020.

Their work and expertise related to tilt-up engineering is highly regarded in the industry. Through collaborations facilitated through the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, the firm has been involved in community efforts to design and build the Fort Bend Veterans’ Memorial, extensive research into the use of fiber reinforcement for tilt-up, establishment of the TCA’s young professional’s collaboration (Tilt-Up Industry Leaders of Tomorrow) and has had employees serve on international convention host committees in Houston and Dallas. The firm has authored multiple pieces for Tilt-Up Today Magazine and has been awarded more than a dozen Tilt-Up Achievement Awards. Cryer served as a panelist for the first ever Tilt-Up Future Think event in Dallas and Founder Donald Greive, P.E. currently serves on the TCA Board of Directors.


Scott Collins

Scott Collins has worked with Meadow Burke engineering since 1996 and has been the Chief Tilt-Up Engineer since 2008. He served on TCA’s Board of directors from 2013 to 2018 and is currently a voting member of ACI 551 - Tilt-Up Concrete. In 2012 Scott coauthored TCA’s bracing guidelines and recently was a principle reviewer for the 2018 edition. He is also responsible for the lift designs of the world record tallest (111’-9”) and heaviest (404,000 lbs) panels.

Scott has contributed to multiple articles and convention presentations for TCA over the years. He is responsible for the lifting and bracing design of the Korean War Veterans Memorial that was dedicated at the 2010 TCA Convention in Kansas City and the Armed Forces War Memorial in Sugar Land, TX dedicated at the 2013 TCA Convention in Houston. Scott also served on the 2014 TCA Convention (San Francisco) host committee.


Thomas Taylor

Thomas Taylor, P.E. joined Frank Chappell & Associates, the predecessor firm of Datum, in 1959. By 1963 he assumed leadership of the company and incorporated the firm as Datum Engineers. Since that time, under his leadership, Datum has grown into one of the most respected structural engineering firms in Texas.

Mr. Taylor is known in the industry and professional circles as a design-oriented innovator. He has been practicing “The Art of Structural Engineering” for over 50 years. Thomas participates in the conceptual design phase with the architects to help assure their vision is achieved. In 1983, he was made an Honorary Member of the Dallas Chapter American Institute of Architects in recognition, “For his creativity in development of innovative structural systems and for his pursuit of excellence in structural design.” In 1997, the Dallas Chapter of the AIA awarded Mr. Taylor with the Consultant Award, and the Texas Society of Architects elected him to Honorary Membership, “In recognition of his achievement in providing structural solutions that are practical and appropriate to architectural expression.” He was honored with the Neiman Marcus Downtown Renaissance Award for his “energy and vision that has helped reshape and develop downtown Dallas.” Thomas was also elected to The University of Texas Academy of Distinguished Alumni - Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering.

Mr. Taylor is very active in civic affairs. He served as Vice President of Programming for the Greater Dallas Planning Council, Architectural Forum Board, and the Preservation Dallas Board. He served on the Board of ThanksGiving Square, the Dallas Urban Rehabilitation Board, the Board of Victim’s Outreach, and for six years the DART Board. Mr. Taylor also functioned as the Junior Warden and Senior Warden of Incarnation Episcopal Church.

In 2016, Taylor wrote “Tilt Wall and the Creative Process” in which he addressed, through the eyes of an engineer, how Steven Holl guided the creative process which led to the use of tilt wall construction for his canonical Chapel of St. Ignatius. In great detail, Taylor describes the working relationship between the contractor, Holl and himself and the way in which tilt-up was introduced and received. He writes, “I feel this one simple directive on a small chapel in Seattle changed the course and direction of tilt wall construction for the entire industry.”


Laurence J. Smith

Laurence Smith, P.Eng. is a senior structural consultant with Lindsay Construction Limited and is this year’s recipient of the David L. Kelly Distinguished Engineer Award. During his 30+ years with Lindsay, Laurence served as an estimator, construction manager, senior design engineer, vice president, and director/owner. He began working with the firm in 1987 while still studying at the University of New Brunswick. After completing his Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering he joined them full-time in 1990.

Following 13 years of designing and constructing Pre-Engineered Metal Buildings, Laurence’s focus shifted to the art and formation of tilt-up concrete. Since then, Laurence has become an essential resource for Lindsay offices throughout Atlantic Canada. Laurence has knowledge and proven value for projects in the design stage and building stage of development. He can often be seen using steel, concrete, wood, or combinations thereof to perfect the structure, functionality, and aesthetics of a project.

Since beginning his career, Laurence has completed many new building projects, yielding more than 5,550 panels for the company. Personally, he has erected 5,000 of these and designed 4,150. At the height of his career, he has helped to bring tilt-up concrete to Newfoundland, completing 38 buildings inclusive of 1,010 panels and the province’s very first 3-story panels by Design-Build methodology.

Laurence has been and remains a tremendous ambassador for the tilt-up industry. He has conducted tilt-up seminars in his local market, including Dalhousie University, ACI Atlantic, Nova Scotia Community Colleges, and the TCA/ACI Tilt-Up Technician Course; he was also a presenter of the “Basics of Tilt-Up Engineering” talk at the TCA Tilt-Up Convention and World of Concrete. Laurence was also a leading influence in helping grow Tilt-Up Today from a 4-page newsletter to a top-tier magazine while also improving the transition between TCA presidents, increasing the importance and effectiveness of this one-year term.

Laurence maintains a license to practice engineering in all four Atlantic Provinces and is a past president (2005-06) of the TCA. Amidst all of his accomplishments, Laurence is perhaps happiest on the construction site. Putting on his hardhat, gloves, safety glasses, and boots he can be found setting panels and working alongside Lindsay Tilt-Up crews. In everything that he does, Laurence endeavors to transfer his knowledge to a new generation of design engineers and field staff, and for this he is extremely valued.


LJB Inc.


John Hart


Timothy Mays

Timothy W. Mays, Ph.D., P.E. is an associate professor of Civil Engineering at The Citadel in Charleston, SC Mays graduated with a 4.0 GPA for all three of his college degrees, which include a B.S.C.E. degree from the University of Memphis in 1996, a M.S.C.E. degree from Virginia Tech in 1997, and a Ph.D. in civil engineering from Virginia Tech in 2000. He was asked to speak at two separate graduation ceremonies and in 2000, his comments were read into the Congressional Record by Senator John Warner of Virginia.

While pursuing his graduate studies, he was one of ten civil engineering students nationwide selected by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as NSF Graduate Research Fellows. With more than thirteen years of experience as a consulting structural engineer, he remains active in the design arena designing buildings, bridges and marine structures. His has won two design awards for his work with buildings.

Mays recently served as executive director of the Structural Engineers Associations of South Carolina and North Carolina. He currently serves as National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA) Publications Committee Chairman. He has received three national teaching awards, from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). He has also received both national (NSF) and regional (American Society for Engineering Education) awards for outstanding research. He is a past recipient of the NCSEA Service Award and Virginia Tech’s Young Alumni Award. He is a prolific speaker who sits on several code-writing committees and his areas of expertise are code applications, structural design, seismic design, steel connections, structural dynamics and civil engineering aspects of anti-terrorism.

In 2013, Mays collaborated with TCA member Joseph J. Steinbicker, P.E., S.E. on the newest publication from the TCA, which is the third in a trilogy of resources covering the architecture, engineering and construction of tilt-up. Engineering Tilt-Up contains basic engineering principles and code interpretation as well as in-depth analysis of a tilt-up structure and its components. Adhering to the latest codes and standards, the book serves as a one-of-a-kind resource for tilt-up engineers looking for an excellent summary of standard practice in tilt-up and alternative ways to seek code compliance. Since its publication, Mays has traveled the United States presenting the content and promoting the book. Mays is a new member of the TCA’s education committee and is currently developing a block of engineering curriculum for the TCA to distribute to colleges and universities. The TCA, along with Mays, will offer Engineering Tilt-Up as a webinar series later this year.


Joseph J. Steinbicker

Joe Steinbicker, PE, SE, began working in the tilt-up industry in 1976 and founded Steinbicker ∓ Associates, Inc. in 1982. Over time, Steinbicker saw the need for proprietary software that could assist his team in delivering tilt-up designs more efficiently. Steinbicker & Associates began developing their own technology and software to do just that. The result is a software package which has been utilized on hundreds of tilt-up projects to effectively deliver structural designs and drawings. In 1989, he founded Tilt-Up Design Systems, LLC (TDS), and now brings that technology to market as Tilt-Werks®. With more than 32 years of experience in the design and construction of structural steel, precast and tilt-up buildings, Steinbicker and his team have been responsible for the design of more than 900 tilt-up buildings encompassing approximately 65,000,000 square feet throughout the Eastern United States, Puerto Rico and Canada.

“Joe has been very active in the industry with the TCA, ACI and other facets of the industry, however, it is the impact he had on tilt-up in Florida and many other parts of country that warrant this recognition,” said Bob Theisen, Jr., Chairman/Founder of Tilt-Con.


Jeffrey R. Needham

This year's recipient, Jeffrey Needham, P.E., has been instrumental to several efforts undertaken by the TCA in the past year. A founding member of the TCA, Needham donated and oversaw his staff's time as the engineering lead on the Korean War Memorial for Kansas City. Perhaps even more significantly, Needham served as the chair of the TCA's appointed Natural Disaster Task Force that investigated the collapse of a Home Depot in Joplin, Mo. after taking a direct hit from an EF-5 tornado.

Needham's leadership on the task group led to a comprehensive report that investigated the cause of the collapse and identified five general recommendations that focus on increasing building safety in catastrophic storms through enhanced building performance and/or use of shelters. The recommendations also stress the inherent strength and durability of tilt-up construction and recommends the TCA develop responses that take advantage of this performance.

"The award is especially significant to me," said Needham. "Dave Kelly was a mentor to me early in my career, and I hope that in some sense this award recognizes how the TCA has served to develop the people in the industry. I hope I can in turn help the next generation of engineers and leaders move the TCA forward."


Philip Kopf

This year's recipient, Philip Kopf, has been committed to promoting Tilt-Up as a preferred method of construction. He has served the industry unselfishly by maintaining active participation and consistent input on various ACI and TCA committees focused at improving both the design recognition of Tilt-Up and the parameters to which it is promoted. Kopf served on the TCA Board of Directors for 15 years, during which he served two terms as TCA president to provide leadership to the direction of the industry. His service also included participation in the TCA's Seismic Task Force, AFRL Blast Testing Program and a variety of other initiatives that aimed to set standards or answer key industry influences.

"I am humbled and excited to receive this award," said Kopf. "This award has special meaning to me since Dave Kelly is a friend and mentor to me in this industry. Throughout my career, I have always sought to invest back into the industry that has provided so much help and support for me over the years. I am truly honored that my years of professional practice are being recognized."


Mark Johnson

This year’s recipient is Johnson Structural Group, Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla. The firm has received more than a dozen TCA Achievement Awards in recent years and has been heavily involved with some of Tilt-Up’s most recognized projects. Noted for always willing to push the elements of Tilt-Up beyond the perceived limits of the system, their award winning designs feature spandrel panels, load bearing multi-story panels, non-load bearing cladding panels and panels that lean out of plane. Their approach to the adaptive use of Tilt-Up makes Johnson Structural Group, Inc. a true reflection of David Kelly’s vision of the Tilt-Up industry.

“Receiving the David L. Kelly Engineering Award was a surprise and quite the honor for both me and my staff,” said Mark Johnson, president of Johnson Structural Group, Inc. “Being relatively young in the engineering and Tilt-Up business (12 years), this award is the biggest achievement we have accomplished to date. Since the company’s inception, we have always had a passion for the Tilt-Up process and have worked with many outstanding Tilt-Up companies to develop new techniques and design ideas. These new ideas are reflective in many of our Achievement Awards and the David L. Kelly award is confirmation that we are making an impact in the industry. We are extremely honored to receive this award from TCA and we are excited about how we see the Tilt-Up industry growing and progressing over the next few decades.”


BBM Structural Engineers

BBM Structural Engineers (formerly Burton, Braswell, Middlebrooks) is a well-known engineering leader in the Tilt-Up industry, as evidenced by their perennial involvement in many award-winning projects. BBM also has committed significant energy to the betterment of the industry through involvement in such activities as the ACI 551 Tilt-Up Concrete Committee to develop state-of-the-art industry practices through construction and design guides. The dominance of Tilt-Up in the state of Florida is certainly partially credited to the engineering expertise and creativity demonstrated by the founding partners of BBM.

Alan Reay Consultants Ltd.


John W Lawson


Jeff Griffin


Gerry Weiler