Modern skyscrapers aren’t typically rectangular. Instead, they take more organic shapes, flowing into the heavens like cresting waves or rising flames, all curves and unusual angles.
It’s more than just amazing architecture. “No serious developer or owner builds boxes. The commercial real estate market is so competitive that a high-rise building design must be iconic to draw the tenants,” explained SUNY Broome alumnus Lee Herzog.
Non-standard shapes, however, pose real challenges when it comes to cleaning or maintaining the building’s surfaces. For more than 40 years, Herzog has designed façade access equipment systems for skyscrapers.
It’s a niche field – only four companies in the world build these systems — and it’s taken Herzog all over the globe multiple times over. In fact, he has accumulated just under 6 million frequent flyer miles via United and American Airlines alone, he said.
“Years ago, an old high school friend said I was the most internationally known Windsor High School graduate. Then we had a graduate who was an astronaut,” he said, referring to Windsor graduate Douglas Wheelock. “They said, ‘You’re now number two!’”
From Windsor to Baku
Lee Herzog’s story begins in a small house on Mason Avenue in Binghamton. As a child, he contracted polio in his throat during the 1949 epidemic, which landed him in bed for six months. When he returned to school, his constant coughing led officials to send him home – for two years. In order to get him back in class, the family moved to Windsor.
After graduating from Windsor High School, he joined the Navy in January 1955 and served for almost four years. After he was released, he headed to Broome Tech, and graduated from the college’s Electrical Engineering Technology program.
The program involved a good deal of work, and it could be a bit lonely at times. There were around five veterans taking EET classes at the time, and they formed their own social group.
“Some of them were married, and two to three of us were single. We’re going to a different drummer, and we’re too old for the rest of them,” he remembered.
After graduating, he accepted a position at Link Aviation in Hillcrest as a technical writer, but only remained a year before heading out to the West Coast for a fresh started. After applying to aerospace companies, he landed a position in Torrance, California, for nine years before transitioning into façade access design.
He entered the field in the 1970s as Citadel Engineering – a name that may be familiar to Broome Tech grads as the title of the college’s yearbook. He eventually sold the company to an international firm, but continued to manage it for several years before starting his own consulting firm.
During his career, he designed access equipment for skyscrapers of all descriptions – the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Jin Mao in Shanghai, and the Bank of China Tower and Two International Finance Centre in Hong Kong, just to name a few. He’s also designed equipment for unique architectural projects, such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Disney Concert Center in Los Angeles, the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago and the Princeton Library in New Jersey, and also designed an access system for the U.S. Air Force Minuteman Missile Silo program.
The strangest project he’s worked on: the Flames, a set of three skyscrapers in Baku, Azerbaijan, built to symbolize fire rising to the sky. “The only time I saw it on television was on The Amazing Race,” he said.
Through the years, he has given back both to his field and to the larger community. He served on the American National Standards Institute’s Safety Requirements for Powered Platform Maintenance committee and as a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ National Board of Safety, Codes and Standards. His design on the Burj project in Dubai earned an honored mention for innovative design from the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), and he has also spoken at CTUBH seminars in both Chicago and Dubai. He also volunteered as Los Angeles County Reserve sheriff’s deputy in the Mounted Enforcement Unit for 17 years, retiring as a captain in 1995.
At SUNY Broome, we often say that “you can go anywhere from here.” Lee Herzog’s journey has show just how far a SUNY Broome education can take you: 6 million miles – from Windsor to California, and then Shanghai, Dubai and beyond.