My meeting with the president... of the Dominican Republic, that is

September 2012 » Columns » COMMENT
Daniel A. Cuoco, P.E., F.ASCE

Last month I had the privilege of being invited to the Dominican Republic to give a seminar on "Designing for Sustainability and Vertical Growth." To properly cover the sustainability part, I asked one of my Thornton Tomasetti colleagues, Wolfgang Werner, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, to join me. Wolfgang is a vice president and the Eastern U.S. regional leader of TT's sustainability practice. I focused on the vertical growth part by talking about the structural design of tall buildings.

The six-hour seminar was co-sponsored by CRONOS (www.cronosc.com), a training and consulting firm, and Funglode (www.funglode.org), a private non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening democratic governance and sustainable development of the Dominican Republic. Both organizations are based in Santo Domingo. The seminar was held at the El Embajador Hotel in Santo Domingo. The event was well-publicized and was attended by 350 architects, engineers, contractors, academics, students, and government officials. Since the room had reached maximum capacity, additional people had to be turned away.

The tallest buildings in Santo Domingo are in the 30- to 40-story range. However, there are a number of towers in the 50- to 70-story range that are planned for future developments. Like most other major cities, there is a keen interest in sustainable design and green buildings.

One of the seminar attendees was Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernández. The sponsors had advised us that he was planning to attend, and when special security personnel entered and cleared a place at our table, the audience started to get a sense that someone important would be joining us. President Fernández then walked in and the audience greeted him with a standing ovation.

On the evening before the seminar, Wolfgang and I had the great honor to be invited by President Fernández to meet with him in his personal quarters at the National Palace. He is at the same time extremely intelligent (a Juris Doctor degree with honors in 1978) and very gracious and humble. He had spent some time in his youth in New York City, and was very interested in the collapse mechanism of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11. He was also interested to discuss how tall buildings are designed to withstand seismic forces, and a comparison of the use of concrete versus steel.

President Fernández explained that the seminar we were to give the next day was very important to satisfy the "thirst for knowledge" of his people and that he would surely attend. We spent close to an hour chatting with him. It was a great experience.

Daniel A. Cuoco, P.E., F.ASCE,
dcuoco@zweigwhite.com


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