Tough Jobs: Architectural Repairman

Tough Jobs: Architectural Repairman

You thought your job was hard? Imagine having this one.

Luke Malm, 31, is your modern-day man on a wire, often spotted as a fleck in the skyline.

Last January, you might have caught Malm dangling over the clock face towering above Minneapolis City Hall, when he was sent out to identify points of rust and weathering for restoration reasons.

“You always work up to the top floor of the tower,” he says. “It’s a really nice office to have. You can kick your feet up a bit.”

Malm is a senior associate at the Minneapolis office Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc., a company that employs engineers, architects and material scientists to conduct field tests and lab work on structures ranging from clock towers to road bridges (including the collapsed I-35W bridge). Malm trained as an engineer, but his rockclimbing hobby also has helped him in his high-altitude career.

For the past six years, he’s worked on structural maintenance and research projects across the country, from the Washington Monument to Alcatraz. Last October, he even stood atop the St. Louis Gateway Arch—a rare feat on the bow-shaped structure, which was hardly designed as a balance beam.

Despite such daredevilish labor, Malm doesn’t get bonus pay and high-risk insurance. All he needs is the safety checks his team provides. “Honestly, I feel safer up there than on a 20-foot extension ladder. My bonus pay is the view.”