Abacus Architects, Inc.


Professional Engineer / VP - Civil Engineering


BS in Civil Engineering, Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI (1996)

Professional Credentials

Professional Engineer in Wisconsin


Joel’s love of construction in high school led him to civil engineering, a profession he determined would allow him to remain involved with construction but also utilize his interests in math and science. After working at several engineering firms in Sheboygan following college, Joel joined with his good friend Paul Mentink to become one of the founders of Abacus Architects in 2003. In his role as an in-house civil engineer, Joel is able to give clients a determination about storm water requirements, setbacks and topography at the early, planning stage of a project, when site issues can best be managed. Joel’s leadership on these matters inspires clients with the confidence to move projects forward.

On working with him

“I love the challenges that new projects bring. Understanding the expectations of the client and then meeting them to make the client satisfied is what drives me.”

On his favorite project

“Subdivision work is enjoyable because you’re taking a piece of property, evaluating its aesthetics, and designing to bring out the best use of it. You turn it into a great thing for the client, community, and homeowners.”

On his own time

“I’m very involved with my church and its school, having served as an elder and a deacon. I’m also the firm’s main contact with the local Chamber of Commerce. My wife and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in 2015, and enjoy watching our four kids play sports. No surprise, I love yard work and landscaping.”

On relational architecture

“My goal is to get to know clients, understand who they are and what moves them, and as we work through projects to build personal and professional relationships with them.”

The Van Ess family selfie

An attempt at a family pic

A throwback of the Van Ess kids

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