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Norman W. Rimmer, P.E.: He brought metal building solutions to the construction industry's forefront

2014 Metal Construction Hall of Fame

Norman  Rimmer Pic Low Rez

Norman Rimmer, who passed away in 2008, was a leading influencer in specifications, codes and standards adopted by metal building manufacturing companies industry wide. Rimmer was a founding member of the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA) technical committee. In addition, Rimmer proposed, drafted and advised on specifications, codes and standards for the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) and ASTM. At the time, not many experts from the metal building industry were active in these organizations. Through his involvement, he sought to bring metal building solutions to the forefront of the construction industry.

A Butler Bastion

Rimmer's career in the metal building systems industry began in 1947. He joined Butler Manufacturing, Kansas City, Mo., after he served in World War II and graduated from the University of Kansas, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering. In his 56 years at the company, Rimmer rose from junior engineer to structural group supervisor to manager of design services to chief engineer.

Dave Evers, vice president of R&D at Butler says Rimmer, "Had a real practical knowledge of engineering, more than just calculations. He had a real feel for what he was doing, that always impressed me about him. Also, he was a great mentor for the new engineers. He took a lot of time with a new guy and mentored them in design practices. You never felt uncomfortable talking to Norm."

Fellow Metal Construction Hall of Famer Donald Johnson worked for and with Rimmer at Butler for more than 30 years starting when Rimmer was the team supervisor of engineers and draftsmen. "I knew Norman quite well; he was a great boss," Johnson says. "I think one of his biggest accomplishments is that he supervised and developed a structural engineering department that was the envy of the industry. This had a lot to do with the preeminence of Butler in the industry."

"For Rimmer, it was important for the metal construction industry to be recognized as being on the forefront of building engineering, structural design and construction. Rimmer consulted on steel building design codes and served on standards organizations as an industry representative."

Dave Evers, vice president of R&D, Butler Manufacturing, Kansas City, Mo.

Important Achievements

One of Rimmer's achievements is his role in the low-pitch rigid frame building patent, which was filed in 1959. Today, the low-pitch rigid frame remains the preferred framing system for metal buildings. The low-pitch rigid frame building was based on a 1:12 roof slope, a change from a 4:12 roof slope that had dominated the industry. "Going to a lower slope presented some design issues that had to be resolved with analysis," says Evers. The patent incorporated features for lifting and assembling the frame. This patent also was the impetus for the development of higher-quality panels; a 1:12 roof slope required panels that fit properly, or the building was at risk for leaks.

Additionally, Rimmer assisted in the design of the Butler alert hangar, which was used by the U.S. military during the Cold War. "That was a big deal," Johnson says. "We had to put a lot of things together in Rimmer's department. When the alert alarm went off, both ends of the hangar had to flip up to allow the fighters to fire their engines inside the building and take off from there. We had to design metal doors that could open in just a few seconds. We made more than 100 all over the country. When the fighter planes were updated (and significantly lengthened) we had to redesign all of the doors."

Birth of the MBMA

Rimmer attended the first meeting of the MBMA technical committee in April 1957. As a founding member of this committee, he was tasked with determining technical issues facing the industry and developing an action plan. In an article on the 50th anniversary of MBMA, Rimmer remarked: "We all realized that our main competition was other forms of construction. We just wanted a chance to bid on more projects because we knew we had a good solution."

In 1962, Rimmer became second chairman of the MBMA technical committee. He served in this position for 10 years-leaving an indelible mark on the organization. Rimmer promoted the metal building industry to independent consultants and codes and standards organizations, which were previously reluctant to acknowledge metal construction as a viable alternative to conventional construction. "The whole rigid frame design was somewhat new to the design community, so his role was elevating both the image and the acceptance of metal buildings," Evers says.

Personal

Rimmer was a proud military veteran, having served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. In addition, he was active in his community and church. He enjoyed spending time with his family at his cabin near Idaho Springs, Colo. The cabin was a Butler building, which he erected himself. Faith was a cornerstone of Rimmer's life. He was a devout member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and for many years, Rimmer was a priest at the South Crysler Restoration Branch in Independence, Mo.