From building small forts as a kid to working on complex structures in his career, Patrick Hassett has always been passionate about bringing solutions to life.
Engineer Patrick Hassett remains intrigued by the variety of ways projects can use steel.
As a child, Patrick Hassett spent a lot of time building things in the backyard with his brothers. Something grabbed his attention.
“We would be building these little forts, and it came to me that if I turn the boards vertically, they're a lot stronger,” says Hassett, the president of Hassett Engineering near San Francisco. “As simple as it sounds, when you're 10, 12 years old, it was something that really changed the way that I viewed building something—that I had an understanding of the strength of the different pieces.”
That strong interest in structural stability ultimately led Hassett to a career in erection engineering. That involves ensuring structures are stable during the construction and erection process, when huge pieces of steel are being lifted and moved to help put something together. His involvement in various structures has given him a firsthand look at the value and variety of uses that steel has in a project.
From the backyard to prime time
Fast-forward a few decades, and Hassett's work has been seen worldwide. One of the latest examples is the roof at the $5.5 billion SoFi Stadium outside of Los Angeles, which football fans around the world got a view of during the televised National Football League's championship game in February 2022.
That roof covers a million square feet and is made up of 1,000-ton pieces of structural steel. Hassett gets technical as he describes the challenges of lifting the sections while letting them rotate properly—and at the same time keeping track of the geometry of the overall project, which resembles a giant ring.
“We knew that as you go around this ring, if you're not right on the money on all the pieces it's going to be very difficult to put the last piece in,” Hassett says. “And I think we were within five-eighths of an inch at the end of this, after the entire ring was erected. So, it's pretty amazing. It was really fun.”
Hassett grew fascinated with steel while walking past the high-rises taking shape along the San Francisco skyline years ago.
An early love of steel
Throughout his career, Hassett has been intrigued by the variety of ways in which projects can use steel. He remembers walking past the numerous high-rises taking shape along the San Francisco skyline when he was a young engineer working for a consulting firm.
“I'm watching this process, and I was just fascinated with steel coming off the trucks,” he says. “And then the steel was built up into preassembled pieces that basically went from the truck straight into the building. They were just taking that steel and erecting it. And I just knew right away, that's what I wanted to do.”
Hassett spotted an ad in a local paper for a project engineer for Herrick Corporation—the company involved in building several of the projects. After Hassett applied and got the job, his boss immediately asked him to begin work doing connection design for a 75-story building in Los Angeles.
“I've always been really fascinated with steel, and I think my favorite part about it is that it's sleek, it's strong, and the shapes are so efficiently designed,” he says.
Hassett listens closely to what others are saying so he doesn't miss a chance to learn something new.
Sustainability is the future
Hassett's career continued to progress, so he decided to branch out by starting his own firm in 1995. He's risen to many engineering challenges since then, such as erecting 25 stories of steel above a theater that was being built. He says the advances in design technology have helped tremendously, but often there's also an element of just figuring it out in the field. He adds that it also helps to partner with a steel provider upfront to help determine potential solutions, including addressing the increasingly important role of sustainable building materials.
Looking forward, Hassett says he believes sustainability will drive many project decisions—another benefit of using steel, especially recycled steel such as Nucor's. “The low carbon footprint and the reduction of greenhouse gases are huge,” he says. “Anyone who's not able to recognize that is probably not paying attention or doesn't want to. If you think about the generations that are coming, we've got to at least start the process, with sustainability being a key word.”
He's also excited about the use of SpeedCore rather than reinforced concrete core, because it allows you to connect steel to steel and then pour concrete later. It's a process that can potentially reduce erection times by 43%, according to the American Institute of Steel Construction.
Still learning—and passing it on
Recalling that first project in Los Angeles, Hassett admits he was confident, even “kind of cocky,” but he was also smart enough to lean on the experience of others who worked at the firm.
“I was listening to everything. Like a sponge, I was soaking everything up,” he says. It's a lesson he brings to his work even now when he's mentoring younger engineers. “If you can listen and have some respect for what everyone's saying—whether that's the guys in the field, all the way to the managers of the engineering department—you've got to take advantage of that and learn from it.”
Hassett is still learning with every project he touches. “You go through all this planning to erect a building, and to get out there on site and to see it happening,” he says. “I'm still learning things now every time I get out on a job site. That's my favorite part of it.”
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