Master builder bends wood to his will

Via Vancouver Sun By Jenny Lee

Flexibility key to engineer Gerry Epp’s innovative structures, which include Richmond Olympic Oval

Tsingtao Pearl Visitor CentreNorth Delta engineer Gerry Epp dreams of Michelangelo. His head is filled with the glory days when engineers were architects, poets, builders and sculptors — when da Vinci and Michelangelo scrambled on scaffolds, calculated arches, designed cathedrals and conferred with craftsmen.

“Michelangelo was a master builder,” Epp said. “There was no such thing as separate engineering. He was an architect, thinker, builder and instruction giver.”

He was the perfect blend of art and science. And Epp, born into the separation of disciplines that started to appear in the late 19th century, wanted to turn back time.

He got his chance in 1997 when his engineering firm, Fast + Epp, was working on the Vancouver Aquarium with architect Bing Thom.

“He wanted these hybrid timber-stainless steel trusses and he wanted this warp-proof, unusual structure, so we designed it and did our best at optimizing it,” Epp said. Epp and business partner Paul Fast “went out to market to see who could build it and it was coming in over-budget. It was too risky. So I went to Bing and I said, ‘What if we build it?’ We rented a shop and set up a whole company.”

Without a doubt, the business model is risky.

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