Architectural engineer recognized with inaugural national award


By Ashley J. WennersHerron

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The National Institute of Building Sciences presented John Messner, the Charles and Elinor Matts Professor of Architectural Engineering at Penn State, with the inaugural NIBS Distinguished Service Award at its annual meeting on Sept. 28. Messner was one of six members and organizations to receive recognition from the national organization.

NIBS is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization established by Congress in 1974 to identify and resolve challenges in the construction of residential and commercial buildings. Members include representatives from a variety of stakeholders in the built environment.

“NIBS is at the forefront of leadership in national infrastructure, bringing government, industry and academia together to elevate our nation’s infrastructure into greater resilience and solve the grand challenges of our built environment,” said Sez Atamturktur, Harry and Arlene Schell Professor and head of the Department of Architectural Engineering. Atamturktur was elected to the NIBS board of directors earlier this year. “Dr. Messner exemplifies the strong national leadership and service we expect from Penn State architectural engineering faculty and is consistent with our land-grant mission.”

Messner joined NIBS 10 years ago to co-chair a committee developing technical standards for Building Information Modeling (BIM), which focuses on the development and use of structural data to support the lifecycle of buildings and infrastructure projects across the country.

“The national BIM standard helps everyone speak the same data language to facilitate clear communication between all the groups involved from design to construction to operations,” Messner said. “My contribution, along with other volunteers, involves developing a process to help project teams organize their plan for sharing information to develop a common understanding, so that ideally every project organization’s software can understand the information.”

Messner currently serves as chair of the standards project committee, which acts as the voting body for the standards that define BIM, now in its fourth iteration. Previously, he served on multiple committees and subcommittees, including as vice chair and chair of the BIM Council, which leads the effort.

“In addition to these service activities, our research group has conducted several studies on the creation of standards,” Messner said, explaining that the BIM Council produced a guide to help organizations implement and adopt building information modeling. “Three chapters in the current BIM standard are from our group, meaning that our work was validated and accepted as the national standard. Now, we’re looking at how people have advanced their practices based on our work so that we can incorporate it into the next version.”

He also directs the Penn State Computer Integrated Construction Research Group, which leverages technology to transform processes and improve the construction industry, according to Messner. The group comprises faculty and students from architectural engineering, as well as members of Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant — a BIM participant that works to embed the standards in the delivery and management of facilities across the University. The research group also hosts the most recent version of the BIM execution guide, which has been downloaded about 60,000 times so far.

“Our research group has accomplished a lot, and none of it would be possible without our students,” Messner said. “While I’m honored to receive this award, recognition belongs to all members of our research group.”

Messner was nominated for the award by a former student. Issa Ramaji, who is currently an assistant professor of construction management at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. Ramaji earned his doctorate in architectural engineering at Penn State in 2016. After graduation, Ramaji completed postdoctoral training with Messner.

“Dr. Messner has made significant contributions in advancing digital technologies in the building industry throughout his career,” Ramaji said. “In his various roles at NIBS, he has served as a leader in the development and implementation of several standards and guidelines nationally and internationally. He is an inspiring figure who has educated, advised and lead several generations of students and professionals.”


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