Meet the inventor

SkinnyBraces fill a need that their inventor, structural engineer Thor Matteson, saw for years: an efficient bracing method for vulnerable soft-story buildings that could fit into congested garages in vulnerable buildings in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mr. Matteson has specialized in designing earthquake “retrofits” for 10 years, and even wrote a 250-page book about it: “Earthquake Strengthening for Vulnerable Homes.”

Before he established his own practice, Thor designed wood-framed structures including custom homes and commercial buildings, and the occasional log or straw-bale house. His experience in wood construction led him to see that the construction of wood-framed “shear walls” (the structural components that brace most residential buildings to resist wind or earthquake forces) was greatly misunderstood; he wrote a book about that, too: “Wood-Framed Shear Wall Construction—an Illustrated Guide”

Mr. Matteson has served on several teams of engineers composing guidelines for strengthening homes to resist earthquakes, contributing to US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and California Earthquake Authority (CEA) guidelines for bracing “cripple walls” and removing dangerous chimneys.

In addition to the above, Mr. Matteson co-founded the Earthquake Bracing Academy, a non-profit organization established to teach effective earthquake strengthening methods. He also presents training sessions to private home inspectors on what to look for in earthquake retrofit systems.

Mr. Matteson has crawled under hundreds of houses in the SF Bay Area, and has been called as far away as San Diego by clients who would trust no one else to engineer the retrofit system for their house.

The idea for SkinnyBraces began to form in 2011, and gradually—after thousands of hours of analysis and design, dozens of tests, and two US patents—evolved to the current system. We continue to refine the SkinnyBrace system and are currently designing further improvements to be tested soon.

Not your typical day at the office, but the inventor is not a typical engineer.

Not your typical day at the office, but the inventor is not a typical engineer.