Pioneering the Future of Structural Engineering with Technology and Innovation


Technology and InnovationTechnology and InnovationIn this episode, we talk with Peter Johann about the evolution of technology and innovation within the field of structural engineering. We discuss the latest tools, the impact of Building Information Modelling (BIM), and how artificial intelligence is shaping design and construction.

***The video version of this episode can be viewed .***

Engineering Quotes:

Technology and InnovationTechnology and Innovation

Technology and InnovationTechnology and Innovation

Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Peter:

  • Did you already know programming before getting your master’s in design, or did you learn it afterward, and if so, how?
  • Did you ever imagine you’d miss designing structures as a structural engineer, or do you view your current role as a fresh way to contribute to the industry and find a new purpose?
  • Does your role involve focusing more on the overall vision and guiding the team, similar to project management, rather than being heavily involved in engineering tasks?
  • Did you quickly opt for a software solution when facing pain points, or did you take a more thorough approach to understanding market needs?
  • How did you go from researching the market to gaining traction in the AEC industry, especially since you initially started with uncertainty and transitioned from engineers to business owners?
  • Could you provide an overview of the software your team developed, including its functionality and how it addresses the identified market need?
  • Has anyone dealt with these specific beam conditions before, or do we need to ask around the office or refer to previous sets for guidance?
  • Does this tool let you search for details like “wood to ledger connection” and tag materials, making it easier to find what you need?
  • How do you envision AI being applied to structural engineering in the future?
  • How can AI improve its ability to fix problems in structural engineering without being fully developed?
  • Do you think structural engineers will start learning to code, blending both roles or do you think they’ll remain separate?
  • How did integrating your software with Revit come about and how did technology influence this process?
  • What specific benefits have architects and engineers seen from your software in terms of streamlining their workflow and solving their biggest problems?
  • Could BIM potentially aid in streamlining workflows and addressing pain points?
  • Do you offer free demos for engineers who are interested in your services?
  • Have you noticed a common pain point in the architecture engineering market, where firms seek solutions for managing details and challenges, including those related to BIM and Revit issues?
  • Wouldn’t you need to hire software engineers or skilled coders for more complex tasks?
  • What is your current role, what skills have you acquired, and how have you transitioned from a structural engineer to a COO?
  • How did you initially feel about engineers needing to sell their services, and how has your perspective on this evolved?
  • Can engineers with introverted tendencies benefit from their problem-solving mindset and attentive listening skills in sales roles?
  • Do you have any last pieces of advice for fellow engineers?

Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Pioneering the Future of Structural Engineering with Technology and Innovation:

  • Before starting their software company, Peter lacked coding skills and felt too young for entrepreneurship. However, he realized that building a software company involves more than coding. With accessible learning resources and his co-founder’s technical expertise, they found success despite their initial doubts.
  • Peter missed aspects of his previous job but recognized a unique opportunity to try something new. Despite initial hesitancy, he knew he could return to his old field if needed. Ultimately, he decided to seize the opportunity and pursue the new venture.
  • Gaining perspective is crucial. Transitioning from a day-to-day grind to taking ownership of your work can ignite motivation. Assuming full responsibility often leads to greater satisfaction and a stronger work ethic.
  • Starting with a simple idea to solve a problem at their company, they created a basic web platform for accessing Revit details. Feedback from users helped shape it into a comprehensive detail management platform, exceeding their initial vision. This highlights the importance of starting with a basic product and refining it based on user input.
  • Starting a new business can be tough at first. But getting into a top accelerator program like Y Combinator can be a game-changer. It provides essential guidance and funding, helping fledgling companies grow quickly and gain direction.
  • Pirros, a detail management tool, is a web-based application with Revit integration. It aims to simplify detail library management, offering both standard detail creation and easy access to past project details. This streamlines workflow and boosts efficiency for firms.
  • Many face the frustration of spending precious time searching for details in software, only to come up empty-handed or settling for less-than-ideal solutions. This cycle leads to wasted time and compromises in design quality.
  • Pirros simplifies detail library organization by grouping details based on material or type. While project archiving may lack refined organization, their robust search engine extracts relevant information from various sources, ensuring quick access to suitable details.
  • AI serves as a tool, not a fix-all solution. While it aids in tasks like code development and architectural design, its use in structural engineering is limited due to industry niche and lack of tailored solutions. Despite benefits like streamlining model debugging, widespread integration is uncertain.
  • AI isn’t a magic fix-it tool. Instead, it excels at pinpointing potential issues and guiding users toward solutions. This approach holds promise for improving practices in structural engineering, helping professionals identify and address problems more efficiently.
  • Starting a software company is much easier now due to the availability of third-party tools and vendors. This means less coding is required compared to a decade ago. Similarly, future advancements may allow professionals in fields like structural engineering to create without extensive coding knowledge.
  • The engineering industry has shifted from AutoCAD to Revit due to its widespread use and unique features like separate detail views. However, Revit’s complexity and Autodesk’s market dominance lead to frustrations, including compatibility issues between versions. Despite its flaws, Revit remains deeply ingrained in the industry due to a lack of competition and needs improvement and innovation.
  • In the Pirros platform, users can select and export details to Bluebeam for markup, and then share them with drafters. This simplifies collaboration between engineers and drafters, a feature less common in the architectural industry where individuals handle their detailing.
  • Their platform simplifies the process of pulling details from old Revit models, saving time for drafting teams. Breaking models into individual files, eliminates the need to open and upgrade entire models, resulting in quick upgrades for specific drafting views. This streamlined approach is particularly beneficial for accessing details from older projects.
  • For a complete understanding of the platform’s capabilities, sign up for a demo on the website. Seeing it in action provides a clearer picture than just reading about it, allowing you to grasp its full potential and workflows.
  • Few structural engineering firms create their software due to challenges like a lack of dedicated staff and high maintenance costs. This highlights the benefits of using software as a service solution, which offers scalability and easier feature development.
  • Firms often depend on a single person to create in-house software, like a co-founder dedicating years to its development. But when that person leaves, the software may become unusable without someone to maintain it.
  • In smaller companies, titles matter less as everyone juggles multiple roles. The focus often revolves around sales, with a significant portion of time spent understanding client needs and pitching solutions. Beyond sales, there’s involvement in product discussions, marketing strategies, and employee management, showcasing the varied responsibilities within such organizations.
  • In smaller companies, roles like the COO often blend as everyone wears multiple hats. The primary focus usually centers on sales, involving extensive efforts to understand client needs and pitch solutions. Additionally, there’s active participation in product discussions, marketing strategies, and employee management, reflecting the diverse responsibilities inherent in such organizations.
  • Success in sales isn’t just about natural talent but understanding customer needs and learning through practice. Prioritizing motivation and willingness to learn over specific experience, sales roles offer a variety of tasks that help individuals discover their strengths and preferences, ultimately leading to personal growth and the pursuit of unexpected passions.
  • In sales, listening matters most, regardless of whether someone is introverted or extroverted. Overcoming the initial challenges, like making cold calls, takes self-motivation and persistence. Although it can be tough at first, with practice, individuals become more comfortable and resilient, allowing them to handle any task, regardless of their personality type.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things; the best learning comes from doing. Whether it’s personal or professional, taking action teaches valuable lessons. Trying something reveals your preferences and capabilities even if you’re unsure or introverted. Invest in your career, especially in your early 20s, as it’s a significant part of life. Putting in the effort now can lead to big rewards later.

More Details in This Episode…

About the Guest: Peter Johann

PirrosPirrosPeter Johann is a dynamic and accomplished professional in the field of engineering, currently serving as the COO and Co-Founder of Pirros since August 2022. With a keen eye for innovation and a passion for operational excellence, Peter has played a pivotal role in steering Pirros towards success in a relatively short period. Before embarking on his entrepreneurial journey, Peter honed his technical and design skills as a Design Engineer at KPFF Consulting Engineers from August 2020 to August 2022. His work there involved tackling complex engineering challenges and contributing to the firm’s reputation for delivering high-quality engineering solutions.

Peter’s academic background is as impressive as his professional endeavors. He holds a master’s degree in Structural Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he gained in-depth knowledge and expertise in the latest engineering techniques and technologies. Before his advanced studies, Peter earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Michigan College of Engineering. This solid educational foundation has equipped him with a robust understanding of engineering principles and practices, enabling him to excel in his career and make significant contributions to the field.

Throughout his career, Peter Johann has demonstrated a commitment to excellence, innovation, and leadership. His journey from a skilled Design Engineer to a visionary COO and Co-Founder of Pirros showcases his dedication to his profession and his ability to drive positive change within the engineering sector.

About the Host: Mathew Picardal, P.E., SE

The Structural Engineering ChannelThe Structural Engineering ChannelMathew is a licensed engineer, practicing on structural projects in California, with an undergraduate degree from Cal Poly Pomona and an M.S. in Structural Engineering from UC San Diego. He has designed and managed various types of building structures, including residential wood apartment buildings, commercial steel buildings, and concrete parking structures and towers. He also hosts the new YouTube channel “Structural Engineering Life,” through which he promotes the structural engineering profession to engineering students who are not familiar with the industry perspective.


University of Michigan
Y Combinator
Connect with Peter Johann on LinkedIn

This Episode Is Brought to You by PPI

PPIPPIPPI has helped engineers achieve their licensing goals since 1975. Passing the FE and PE exams can open doors to career advancement and new opportunities. Check out PPI’s wide range of prep options, including Live Online courses, on-demand courses, and digital study tools, to help prepare you to pass your licensing exam. Check out PPI today at to see all the options available for FE and PE exam prep.

Please leave your comments or questions in the section below on pioneering the future of structural engineering with technology and innovation.

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To your success,

Mathew Picardal, P.E., SE.
Host of The Structural Engineering Podcast


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Originally posted 2024-03-21 14:36:28.

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