TWM Contributor: David Holdener, PE, SE
Director of Structural Services

Reaching New Heights in Structural Engineering

Every few months, we sit down with one of our engineering or surveying discipline leaders to get an inside look at what it’s like to work at TWM and how we provide Exceptional Service. Nothing Less.

This month, we’re highlighting David Holdener and our structural group of engineers who focus on designing and optimizing structures for a sustainable future. From preliminary design through construction, TWM’s strong structural group understands how to apply their technical knowledge and expertise to deliver cost-effective, safe, easily constructible, and durable structural projects.

David, how did you get where you are today?
My career began with a solid foundation in education. I graduated from Missouri S & T (UMR) back in 2004, received my master’s degree in 2007, and began working at TWM shortly thereafter. TWM has been an excellent company to grow with professionally. We have great staff and I’ve had the opportunity to work on some very interesting projects throughout the years.

What are the biggest challenges facing the structural engineering industry?
Some of the biggest challenges are attracting, retaining, and developing skilled professionals to remain competitive and meet current demand. As urban areas expand and infrastructure continues to age, there will be a continuing need to build new structures and replace existing ones.

What do you see as the next big trend(s) in the industry?
Building Information Modeling (BIM), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and automation. These processes will, in theory, increase design efficiency and accuracy; however, the industry will need seasoned professionals to review and ensure designs meet the standard of care and are constructible.

What are the biggest obstacles to career growth in the structural engineering industry?
Two key challenges are having the ability to adapt to rapidly changing software/technologies and staying up to date on industry trends, specifications, building codes, and safety standards.

What are some tips for success in the field?
Networking is crucial – attend industry events, join organizations, and utilize online platforms to build a robust professional network.  Effective communication is key, encompassing both written and verbal skills, along with a firm understanding of project requirements.  Seek mentorship to gain insights and guidance.  Attention to detail is paramount for accuracy in calculations, drawing details, and quality control processes.  Finally, cultivate a strong desire for continuous learning, staying abreast of industry trends through professional development and remaining open to new ideas.

What is one of the most challenging projects you’ve worked on during your career at TWM?
The most challenging project I worked on was a curved girder erection plan for the approach to the MLK bridge in East St. Louis, IL. It was a very tight site that required close coordination with the contractor. This project was heavy in calculations for us too, requiring our team to develop 3D models of the structure and analyze each phase of girder erection to ensure stability.

Any final thoughts or words of wisdom?
Structural engineers are a vital part of the design and construction industry. Continued use of technology and other exciting changes within the ever-evolving realm of structural engineering are fueling innovative designs that will reshape the industry and our landscape.

About TWM’s Structural Group
TWM’s structural engineers are experts at solving problems and meeting challenges when designing bridges and structures. Working throughout Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee provides our team with a blend of experience and a broad perspective across all phases of structural projects, from project scoping and conceptual planning with alternative solutions, to specifications and estimates.

Our typical structural engineering projects include:

  • Bridge repair and replacements
  • Industrial structure rehabilitation
  • Box culverts and wingwalls
  • Bridge deck and superstructure replacements
  • Bridge deck overlays
  • Bridge inspections/load ratings and condition reports
  • Signature pedestrian bridges
  • Rails to trails conversion of old bridges
  • Pedestrian accommodations on roadway bridges
  • Curved girder and railroad erection plans and demolition plans
  • Temporary soil retention
  • Cofferdams and braced excavations
  • Jacking plans
  • Shoring/support
  • Formwork/falsework
  • Accelerated bridge construction (ABC)
  • Value engineering change proposals (VECP)

Read more about our structural engineering services. Visit our Projects page to explore some of TWM’s structural projects.