Engineer’s fire protection research takes him to the dizzy heights of America
8:54am Tuesday 22nd January 2013 in News
A MECHANICAL engineer with a passion for high-rise buildings could help shape city skylines.
Bolton-born Lembit Kerks is due to release a report on the structural safety of North America’s most iconic skyscrapers.
Mr Kerks, who specialises in fire safety, won funding for a two-month trip around Canada and the USA from the Winston Churchill Fellowship Project.
The 61-year-old’s interest in fire started while he was an apprentice at Mather and Platt, in Radcliffe, in the late 1960s, and for 25 years he has also trained many fire officers from Bolton and Manchester at North Trafford College.
Mr Kerks, from Great Lever, said: “The main aim of the trip was to look around the high-rise buildings and look at their structural protection and how they make the buildings safe.
“The UK is continuously revising plans, so I wanted to look at the building design in North America and how they cope with the effects of fire, wind and earthquake resistance.
“Also of equal importance are the protective measures being used to mitigate risks against terrorist actions such as explosions.”
He added: “It made me realise how relatively low Manchester buildings are in comparison.”
Mr Kerks, who now lives near Cheltenham, enjoyed the trip of a lifetime with his wife, Heather Jean.
He said: “We saw Niagara Falls, visited the Grand Canyon and cycled over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. They were real highlights for us.
“Even though I live in the south of England now, the North West and Bolton always pull me back. Mainly for my brother and sister, who still live there.”
The report will include structural assessments of many iconic North American buildings including the John Hancock and Willis Tower buildings in Chicago, Empire State Building in New York, Aon building in Los Angeles and the Maritime Plaza building in San Francisco.
Mr Kerks is an associate lecturer at the Fire Service College in Gloucestershire, having previously been head of fire safety studies at North Trafford College in Manchester and trained firefighters at the centre in Chorley.
He is due to finish his report at the end of this month and intends to present his findings to the Association of Specialist Fire Protection.
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