James O. Jirsa, Ph.D., P.E., Dist.M.ASCE, NAE, a teacher, researcher, and engineering society leader, has been named to the 2017 class of ASCE Distinguished Members for his contributions to the development of reinforced concrete construction through research, mentoring, and professional activities, and in particular to the fundamental understanding of bond and anchorage in concrete and their impact on seismic design.
Jirsa has contributed significant new knowledge, insights, and models that have improved the design and construction of reinforced concrete structures. Early in his career, he focused his attention on the behavior and design of beam-column joints. Motivated by damage to concrete structures in the 1971 San Fernando earthquake, he conducted pioneering experimental studies into the behavior of such joints to resist forces induced by lateral earthquake and wind loads. For many years he participated in and led the American Concrete Institute’s committee on beam-column joints, which developed state-of-the-art guidelines that have been incorporated into the ACI-318 Building Code.
A second research focus of Jirsa’s has been on bond and development of steel reinforcement in concrete structures. There existed an industry need for more reliable models and requirements for reinforcing bar development lengths, particularly in structures subject to cyclic loading. His studies provided new data and models to improve the requirements in seismic applications. In addition, he conducted some of the first research into anchorage of epoxy-coated reinforcements to improve the life-cycle performance of bridges and other structures subject to deterioration in harsh environments.
Another area where Jirsa made significant research contributions was in the seismic repair and rehabilitation of structures. Beginning in the late 1980s, he collaborated with practicing engineers from California to develop new strategies and design details to repair and retrofit seismically deficient nonductile RC structures. This was at a time when seismic retrofit and assessment techniques were first being formalized. Research and development had intensified following the 1989 Loma Prieta and 1994 Northridge earthquakes, and as with his earlier research, Jirsa responded by leading the ACI committee on seismic retrofit from 1991 to 1996 to formalize guidelines on repair and retrofit. His early research on seismic repair and retrofit influenced development of the FEMA 273 guidelines for seismic rehabilitation of buildings, which later formed the basis of the ASCE 41 standard on rehabilitation.
Jirsa, in 1988, was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for significant contributions to research on behavior and design of structural reinforced concrete, and he has served as chair of Section 4–Civil Engineering. He holds the Janet S. Cockrell Centennial Chair in Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. He received ASCE’s Walter L. Huber Research Prize, is an honorary member and past president of ACI, and has served on its Board of Direction and chaired the ACI Technical Activities Committee. He is also an honorary member of EERI and served on the Board of Directors.
He has supervised 53 Ph.D. and 124 M.S. students and published over 110 refereed journal papers with his students and colleagues.