For almost 35 years, Steve Tipping advanced the science and art of structural engineering, pioneering creative yet pragmatic design solutions for a broad, diverse range of projects. His inventions and accomplishments in seismic retrofit design were especially crucial to the building inventory of the earthquake-prone Bay Area. At the same time, his emphasis on constructability culminated in an unparalleled expertise in cost- and resource-efficient solutions.
Instilling the spirit of innovation in his staff, Steve led Tipping Structural Engineers to win 41 local, regional, and national awards for excellence in structural engineering. He pioneered the use of vertical post-tensioning to deliver self-centering capability to concrete walls; TSE has applied progressive iterations of this lateral system to the design of bold projects such as the SF Public Utilities Commission headquarters, the Rene Cazenave Apartments, and UC Berkeley’s Campbell Hall. Steve designed a novel retrofit system for 680 Folsom (completed in 2012) in San Francisco; he was inspired by the centuries’-old Japanese pagoda, in which a central spine (shinbashira) pivots in a stone well during an earthquake, controling the movement of the building. And in 2017, SEAONC, SEAOC, and NCSEA, through their respective Excellence in Structural Engineering award programs, recognized Steve’s idiosyncratic seismic isolation solution for the second eponymous Tipping Building, at 1908 Shattuck Avenue.
Steve earned a B.S. in civil engineering from Clemson University in 1969. He then embarked upon his engineering career as first lieutenant with the US Army Corps of Engineers at Fort Sill, OK, soon thereafter completing a tour of duty in Vietnam. After working for several Bay Area engineering firms, he founded Steven Tipping and Associates in 1983, renaming the firm Tipping Structural Engineers in 2014.
Steve served as a board member and president (2002–2003) of SEAONC and was inducted as a fellow of the organization in 2004. In 2006 he was selected by Engineering News Record (ENR) as a "Top 25 Newsmaker" for developing a simple, corrugated-metal shear-wall assembly that promised great potential in lowering construction costs and improving the seismic performance of multiunit housing projects. (This research project also earned him an Excellence in Structural Engineering Award in 2009 from SEAONC.) Steve was once again included in ENR's "Top 25 Newsmakers" in 2013, this time for his post-tensioned concrete-core shear-wall innovation as it contributed to the great success of the SFPUC headquarters. The following year, Clemson's Department of Civil Engineering selected him as the recipient of their 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award.
In the spring of 2018, Steve was posthumously welcomed to Clemson's esteemed Thomas Green Clemson Academy of Engineers and Scientists, established "to give special recognition to alumni and friends of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences who have made major contributions to their professions and have brought significant distinction to the college and university." And two months later, SEAONC posthumously bestowed on Steve the prestigious H.J. Brunnier Lifetime Achievement Award.