Rensselaer Professor Michael O'Rourke Honored for Influential Snow Loading Research

May 2, 2011

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Dr. Michael O’Rourke

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American Society of Civil Engineers Recognizes O’Rourke With 2011 Moore Award

Structural engineering expert Michael O’Rourke has won the prestigious 2011 Walter P. Moore Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

The award cites O’Rourke’s “significant and career-long contributions to the development of structural codes and standards which have advanced the science of snow load engineering both nationally and internationally.” Accurate snow load data is critical for preventing the roofs of buildings from caving in under the weight of snow.

“We congratulate Dr. O’Rourke on this well-deserved recognition and high honor from the American Society of Civil Engineers,” said David Rosowsky, dean of the School of Engineering at Rensselaer. “For decades, Mike has been a stalwart voice in the field of structural engineering and design for hazards. He is indisputably the national leader in the area of snow loading, and his extensive research continues to inform building codes around the world. We are honored to count him among the outstanding engineering faculty at Rensselaer.”

The ASCE presented the award to O’Rourke in mid-April at a conference in Las Vegas. O’Rourke is a faculty member in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rensselaer, and is affiliated with the university’s Center for Earthquake Engineering Simulation.

O’Rourke joined the Rensselaer faculty in 1974, after serving as instructor and professor for four years at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. An active researcher at Rensselaer, he has led 18 snow loading research projects sponsored by different organizations, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), National Bureau of Standards, and Metal Building Manufacturers Association.

In collaboration with his students and colleagues, O’Rourke has authored more than 40 peer-reviewed journal papers and conference proceedings on the topic of snow loading. In his time at Rensselaer, O’Rourke has advised 61 master’s degree students and 10 doctoral students – 22 of those theses were on different aspects of snow loading on building roofs.

O’Rourke recently completed the ASCE Snow Guide for the 2010 version of the ASCE 7 Load Standard. Primarily written for practicing structural engineers, the book presents design examples of the proper application of code provisions related to snow loading. The book also includes a “Frequently Asked Questions” section with advice on snow load issues not covered by the code, such as drift loads for unusual roof geometries.

O’Rourke has been chair of the ASCE 7 Snow and Rain Loads Committee since 1997, and a member since 1978. He was a co-organizer of the first two International Snow Engineering Conferences, the organizer of the sixth, and served on the organizing committee for many others. He is an associate editor of the ASCE Natural Hazards Review, and was editor of the Proceedings of the 4th U.S. Conference on Lifeline Earthquake Engineering. In 2001 he received the ASCE C. Martin Duke Lifeline Earthquake Engineering Award.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology, O’Rourke went on to earn his master’s and doctoral degrees in civil engineering from Northwestern University.

For more information on O’Rourke’s snow load research at Rensselaer, see:

Contact: Michael Mullaney
Phone: (518) 276-6161

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