Ben C. Gerwick Jr., an innovator in advancing the use of prestressed and pretensioned concrete and one of ENR's Top 125 People , died at his Oakland, Calif., home on Dec. 24. He was 87.

Ben C. Gerwick Inc.

Gerwick was born in 1919 in Berkeley, California and received his degree in Civil Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley in 1940.

Following service in the U.S. Navy, he joined Ben C. Gerwick, Inc., a marine and construction firm founded by his father in 1926.

In the early 1950s, he became interested in the potential of prestressed concrete and converted the company's existing precast concrete manufacturing plant into the new technology of pretensioning. Early work included the development of prestressed concrete piles that the firm also installed.

Later the firm developed the deflected-strand process for pretensioned bridge girders, the precast match-casting process, and pretensioned railroad ties.

Gerwick founded a specialized San Francisco-based consulting engineering practice in 1971. It continued the former construction company's name of Ben C. Gerwick, Inc., after the original company was acquired in 1967. He taught civil engineering at UC Berkeley and consulted on prestressed concrete bridges and structures worldwide.

Gerwick's consulting firm became affiliated with COWI Consulting Engineers and Planners, Copenhagen, in 1988. Gerwick helped develop offshore concrete oil platforms in the North Sea, floating concrete structures for cryogenic gas storage, and the first long-span cantilever segmental bridge in the United States. His work on offshore platforms led to extension of prestressed concrete to offshore structures for the arctic and subarctic waters to resist sea ice and icebergs.

"Ben has been the ethical and professional compass for our company and for a great many engineers in our profession," stated Robert Bittner, president of Ben C. Gerwick, Inc.