May 24, 2021
Welcome to episode 29 of Fire Code Tech. On this episode we are interviewing Marco Vargas. Marco is a NICET III in water-based systems and the owner of his own fire suppression design firm. In this episode we talk about Marco’s fascinating career in design as well as some trending topics in the industry like BIM. Marco gives some great tips on how to make sure your fire suppression system fits.
How did you find your way into fire protection?
What are some of the roles you held in your career?
Would you speak about constructability and what you look for to make a fire suppression system fit?
Would you speak about Dogfight Fire LLC?
What are your thoughts on BIM and where it is going?
Hello, all welcome to the show. I'm Gus Gagliardi, and this is fire code tech on fire code tech. We interview fire protection professionals from all different careers and backgrounds in order to provide insight and a resource for those in the field. My goal is to help you become a more informed fire protection.
Professional fire code tech has interviews with engineers and researchers, fire marshals, and insurance professionals, and highlights topics like codes and standards, engineering systems, professional development, and trending topics in the industry. So if you're someone who wants to know more about fire protection or the fascinating stories of those who are in the field, you're in the right place.
Hello. Well, welcome to episode 29 of fire code tech. In this episode, we have Marco Vargas. Marco is a fire suppression designer and contractor who works in the construction industry. Marco gets into everything, fire suppression. He has his own firm and he's a nice set level three and water based systems layout.
In this episode, we talk about BIM constructability and Marco's fascinating career. I like talking to Marco because he has great takeaways for how to hustle and. How to be an entrepreneur. It was really entertaining for me to talk with Marco as somebody who has pulled himself up by his own merit and his own ability to achieve and really accomplish some cool things.
If you're a fire suppression enthusiast, or you just want to hear about some good takeaways from professional development about somebody who has done it and made it as a professional, then you're gonna love this episode. Don't forget to subscribe. So you never miss an episode and follow us on social media.
Oh. And if you want to give us a five star rating review on iTunes, I would greatly appreciate it. Let's get into the show. Well, Marco, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. Welcome to fire code tech. Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here. Awesome. So I always like to get started with having people tell a little bit about how they stumbled into fire and life safety.
Well, I say stumbled in sometimes it's not a stumble, but. Oftentimes it is, but in my, in my case, it, it kind of was a stumble. I, uh, started a little bit, uh, around 2008. Um, and I was gonna school at the time, uh, for Archit architectural engineering. But, um, I was also working full time and I, I was never one to, um, look into getting student loans or anything like that.
So I I've just always worked since I was a kid. And so I was working full time and I just kind of found myself being, you know, stuck in this sort of forever timeline until I finally got my degree and, and, uh, be able to start looking for, for jobs and all that. So, um, uh, when I was parking cars at the Hilton hotel and downtown Austin, one day, I was like, you know what?
I'm, um, I'm just gonna start sending out my resumes and put on there, you know, Current student at architectural school looking for, you know, whatever position is available. And I started sending out resumes and, uh, sure enough, I, I, uh, I, uh, got in interviewed and hired with, uh, fire sprinkler company in Austin.
And, uh, I had already, I already knew how to draw on AutoCAD, thanks to three years of high school drafting, where I kind of, uh, um, got around having to, to do PE or anything like that by just taking the extended drafting course, uh, which ultimately paid off cuz it's what I'm doing now. But, um, uh, so for three years in high school, I was just messing around on AutoCAD and, and the one computer that was in the room and that was enough to sort of, you know, line draw, copy.
Um, The basic commands. Um, I had already sort of learned a lot of the basic commands and by the time I, uh, I left high school and started taking college classes and all that, I, um, I was showing my, a lot of, I remember, you know, there was one instance where I showed a, my professor, what a quadrant point was, cuz he was telling us, you know, to, to get the end point of a line directly on a circle, you gotta zoom in, you know, and you gotta just keep zooming on in.
And, and it was just so like that that's so bad. Yeah. So my early and you know, my early experience with, with taking, you know, classes for, you know, uh, computer engineering, I felt like I was already ahead in a way and not to say that I already knew everything. Which when we're young, we tend to think that anyway, but I was aware that I didn't know everything, but I knew enough to, to how a lot of people say to make me dangerous.
So when I was just going through these classes, I just found myself more and more like bored because even outside of class, I was always messing on AutoCAD, like just drawing either, you know, logos or just, just stuff, just messing with it. I, I enjoyed it. And, um, so that's, that's kind of what led to my frustration, um, with waiting on, on finishing school and just sort of, um, pulling the trigger a little bit early and, and start sending out resumes, which, you know, I figured the best thing that I could do was say, you know what, I don't have a full education yet, but I'm working on it.
And, uh, you know, giving a shot, which thankfully, uh, one design manager did. And, um, and I kind of. Um, got the ball and, and how do they say it? Got the ball and ran with it running and ran with it. There you go. So that's awesome. Yeah. I really appreciate that you had some hustle and you were like, I'm not waiting around to finish school.
I'm running circles, run the teacher. And why would I wait? You know, I think that, uh, it's, it's sad. I, I see in college students or, you know, people involved in secondary education so often that they wanna wait until they're, you know, done with college to do what they want to do. And. That's really not the way to go about it.
Uh, at least not in engineering or, uh, you know, in the F really probably fire and life safety here in most fields, probably. And most fields I imagine, but especially in fire protection, even if you can get your foot in the door as an admin or something, even if you're, you know, even if you're just learning about the monthly billings or inspection reports or something, you know, there, the, the industry and, and the trade is so vast that if you get good knowledge working knowledge in one aspect, even if it is, you know, understanding of, uh, from like, um, an admin position all the way up to engineering, I mean, there's a spot in a, in a fire protection company for pretty much anyone from varying backgrounds.
Yeah, that's a great point. And I feel like fire suppression companies are always hiring. So, I mean, there's a good chance that even if it was only on a trial basis, you know, uh, you could get a stab at opportunity. Um, if you showed that you were, you know, eager enough, I think there'd be a decent chance.
Yeah. And it, and it's a lot of, a lot of the trades. Um, a lot of the people who are managers and, and a lot of the companies that I've worked for a lot of them aren't college graduates themselves. A lot of them started off as installers. A lot of them started off as inspectors and, um, it's, it's very humbling to see, you know, when, when somebody who is just hungry for it, um, they, I don't wanna say they fall in love with the trade, but it, it.
It kind of grabs you where you realize that there's been this sort of unsung hero of construction. That's just sort of been there. Nobody thinks about it really. Um, and, but there's just so many opportunities in it that once you learn of it and you're like, okay, I can get specialized in, you know, X, Y, or Z, like whatever you want to specialize in, there's a spot for you in it.
So it's very, um, I, I enjoy it because some of my early career, you know, after, after I, um, got hired in, in Austin, I worked for the, a company there for about, I think it was close to eight months before I, I moved to Portland. Um, just to, just to go up there and follow my girlfriend around at the time. And, um, Working up in, uh, a company up there, you know, it really kind of opened my eyes to all, all those possibilities as well.
You know, once, once I went up there, it was, uh, it was so easy to just kind of, I don't wanna say easy, but it was, you know, I didn't have much experience, but I was able to get a job at a sprinkler company and, and they, they gave me another, you know, they gave me a shot and, and, um, and I just, um, I just continued learning there.
And the big thing is just when you make a mistake, you gotta, you gotta really own up to it. And not, not ever try to put anything off cuz in construction, if you make a mistake and you don't tell anybody about it, you're gonna find out, you know, a month and $20,000 later that you either lied or, or missed something.
So. Yeah, that's a good point. It's there's not much room for hiding in, uh, fire suppression contracting. Yeah. It really is just, uh, a abundantly, uh, obvious if you make a mistake, you know, if you double order something or, you know, you didn't understand the structure over here, so it doesn't fit. Uh, you know, uh, they're gonna find out exactly.
There's no more, there's no more kicking the can down the road when, uh, they're shoving pipe into a ceiling cavity. So pretty much. Yeah. I, I definitely know what you're saying there, but that's awesome. I love that exposition about how, uh, fire suppression and, and, you know, designing is, has such a, a good advantage for people to find work.
And that's something I've found as well. A lot of people with, uh, Um, no college or, uh, little college or, you know, like associate level degrees had, um, come up to really prominent positions in the company. And it was, uh, more of a meritocracy instead of somewhere where you had to have a degree to, to play, to play ball.
And so I, I thought that I had that, um, uh, impression as well, if you will. Yeah. And that's that? Yeah, that's what I was, uh, getting at when I moved to up to Portland. And I worked at that sprinkler company there. I mean, I worked with, with the great group of, uh, both men and women, um, up there, but you know, a lot of them not really college educated, a lot of them, you know, I mean, the, the work that some of these, some of these installers would do is just, you know, amazing to see.
And the. Uh, president of that company, the, well, the owner and president of the company, uh, he was this older guy and he had grown up in the trade when they were still hanging, you know, uh, six inch schedule, 40 pipe and threading it with threaded fittings on there. Like he was old, old school and, um, a lot of, and you know, he wasn't college educated either, but, um, and I, and I'm not, you know, saying that to, to say that a college education isn't important, but just the admiration that I, that I was able to, that I gained for these people who, um, who are, were sort of playing it, you know, playing the song by, you know, on a, on a different sort of tune or something.
They, they were. They were just working and they were getting work done. They were getting good work done, and people were feeding their families and everything was, was good, you know? And it just, wasn't the mold that I was taught, you know, growing up or after high school, you go to four years of college and then you get a job and all that stuff.
It's like, no, these guys they've been hanging pipe. Some of them while they were still in high school. And now that guy is the manager of this office or something like that. So it's, it was just very a, um, I got a lot of admiration for the trade because it, it, it kind of didn't pull any punches from, from that point of view.
Yeah. That's awesome. What one episode I did early on, uh, chase brown, he grew up in the trade and he was talking about how, uh, he probably wasn't following labor laws. Uh, you know, cuz his dad had him, uh, threaten fittings when he was in high school or, you know, before middle school had a bucket of fittings and he, he had him putting 'em together, but.
Yeah, that's funny about growing up in the trade. I, I like hearing about that, but yeah. So I'd like to hear more about, you know, kind of some of the other roles that you had up until this point in your career. Would you speak a little bit more specifically about, you know, your trajectory after you had that first fire suppression rule?
Um, yes. So early on, I really, they, they really, uh, the training that I got was really emphasized on the stock listing portion of, of, uh, the process. So I, um, I learned a lot about fittings and, and maximum pipe lengths and, and everything that, and all the valves that you would have to order all the sprinklers discussion plates.
Everything that that went with it is, is what I, what they kind of started me on. Learning my takeouts learning, because one of the things that I was taught is, you know, it doesn't matter if, if you can draw it, you know, but if you can't, if you can't put it together at an install site, then there's no point, you know, at that point you're drawing is just useless.
So that was really important. Um, a really important thing that I, that I learned early on. And, uh, so a lot of that, um, really kind of bled into the, the other areas as I was learning design, really sort of applying the, the available sort of, um, devices that, that I had to work with and, and what worked and what didn't, because ultimately, you know, we're trying to get a plan out to somebody that somebody's gonna have to look at and install, you know, from a sheet of paper that, that you drew.
So. Really focused on, on a lot of the, uh, the real world sort of, uh, things that you, that you'll find on, on a job site and what we have to work with. So a lot of the, the early stuff I did was, uh, was in stock listing. And then, um, after that, I got moved up to system surveying and then, um, you know, drawing existing systems, uh, so going out to different job sites, uh, trying different things and, and, uh, on a recent sort of LinkedIn post, I kind of, uh, uh, broke down how I, how I do my surveying.
Now, a lot of it's just done, you know, video surveying and finding key points to, to reference on my plan and all that. But early on, you know, it was, it was pulling multiple dimensions for a single pipe and especially walking into older buildings where, where the systems were just, you know, just no typical pieces anywhere.
No real sort of pipe schedule to follow. It was, you know, I don't know if you've, if you've ever done a whole lot of like retrofit kind of work or, or tenant finish outs, but mm-hmm, , there's some mold systems out there that are, that are pretty rough looking and surveying them and putting an existing system plan from something that looks pretty rough can be challenging.
So that was, um, that was sort of a lot of fun to, to learn. And early on, you know, since it was early in my career, it was fun to get, to put on a hard hat and the whole PPE stuff and go out onto the job site and do the whole, you know, you kind of you're, you're in it now. You're, you're, you're in the world, you're, you're doing it at that point.
So that was, that was really cool to experience. Um, and then got moved on to doing, you know, system remodels, uh, tenant finish outs. Learning, you know, uh, just simple things. Hey, one head off one outlet, unless there's two separate offices, then we can get another head for that office type of things. Um, really, um, sort of starting to dig a lot more into N FPA 13, which, um, which is that mostly what, what I've been working with for what, um, or for automatic sprinkler systems.
But, uh, so a as I was learning stock listing and what components are actually involved in the installation of fire sprinkler systems, I, um, was also learning, you know, N F P 13, uh, on top of that since, you know, I had never even heard of it at that point. So, um, and just always, um, always kind of, I, I mean, I fell in love with it.
I, it was, it was something different. It was something that, that, uh, I. I just kind of how you said earlier, you know, it just kind of like slid right into, and I wasn't even expecting it, but it, it just kind of happened. And, um, so as, as I started learning all that, I kind of took the cuz I learned a lot in that short time of the first company that I worked for before I moved up to Portland and worked with a company up there.
But taking that small knowledge with me, uh, up there was enough to really kind of keep me sort of moving forward and not getting scared and, and quitting or anything like that. It, it was, there was always something new to be learned and it always seemed like the people that I was working with were also always learning something new all the time.
So it just, it just never felt like, um, it just never felt like I, I was. Done learning or the, or, or the, there was like a sort of end to, to the possibilities of, of where you could go. I mean, there's always the end of a project, but I mean, I still, haven't done a project that's been the same, you know, and I've been doing this now for over 10 years and I've done projects where, where they've said, yeah, we're putting, we're building the same building.
They use the same plants, they just changed the title block and all that. And it's still completely different than the last one that we did. So, and I always joke about typical buildings cuz they almost never turn out typical there anything, but they're anything the front door's in the same spot, but that that's about it.
Um, and the good thing about the shop where I worked at in, in, uh, in Portland was they were, um, they had their own fabrication shop. So I was now in, in a world where, you know, I could literally say, you know, Hey, I need a, a riser piece, you know, a riser manifold, but I need the, the well to come out at this strange angle, cuz you know, it's an old building and you know, you name it.
So I was really able to, to, to work closely with the fabrication shop too, which was new to me and a lot of the companies up in the Pacific Northwest, they, they tend to run their shops that way. A lot of them won't send their fabrication out to like the big, uh, names like, like Ferguson or, or reliable or anything.
They just do it in house. So, and, and all that was something I had access to and sort of the best. And worst thing that happened was they gave me a key to the place that was, you know, the best thing for them. And for me physically. Probably not the best, but I was at the office all the time at that point.
I, you know, I was there before anybody got there, just clicking away, um, working on projects, um, trying to keep everything moving forward and, and the last one to leave, you know, working late and, and all that, because a lot of the, the learning that I was doing, I really didn't feel like doing it on the clock.
I felt, I, I always wanted to be a, a useful tool in a way when it came to, to design. So I took a lot of the responsibility of learning how to do the job on my own time, which is something that I, uh, unfortunately haven't really seen a whole lot of, um, in, in newer generations of people that I've worked.
Yeah, it's, uh, it's interesting. It's a hard thing to do, um, you know, to take that time, to learn, um, whether it be, I was always somebody who, um, was looking for the course was looking for the book, you know, to, to figure out how to do it. And that's one of the reasons why I started this podcast. Cause I was just, I was going crazy, trying to figure out how do I learn how to do my job better?
How do I get ahead? How do I, you know, short, how do I close this gap between, you know, what I read out of a code book and what I learned in school and, you know, uh, and then on the other end of that spectrum, uh, what it means to be a professional and not just a professional, but a excellent professional, you know?
Um, and so I resonate with that wanting to learn and, uh, having the integrity to. Strive to find that, um, just knowledge outside of work. That's something that, uh, yeah, I've had in my career and, and you have to, you have to be able to put in that time and, you know, it's, it's hard. I mean, and, and it was a little bit easy for me at the time I was, I was younger and I wasn't married and, you know, so I could see how, if, if somebody, you know, either has children or has a, a big responsibility outside of work, how it could be, you know, um, very, very challenging, but it's not impossible.
And, um, and I've seen, you know, direct comparisons in, in designers that I've trained, uh, in those who I, and I, I, I can just tell and, uh, who's putting in the time outside of work and who isn't. You know, as, as a manager, you can't really demand that of people, you know, people have their own lives and they have to live them how they live them.
But, um, there's, I could just kind of tell who did and who didn't end the ones that did tended to stick around, you know, so, yeah, I think it's interesting. Uh, at least I've seen it as a professional, whether it's in design or really any aspect of life, um, those who are willing to go the extra mile and keep learning and, and keep competitive.
I think I was just talking about this on the pod recently, I think. Oh yeah. I was like, I guessed on the pod for the first time recently. Oh, nice. And, uh, they were asking me what my, what my like big takeaway or big, you know, thing to promote would be for, for other professionals. And I was like, you gotta keep learning, cuz if you're not learning, you're not even keeping pace with.
You know, like just the inflation of knowledge in what you're doing. Yep. And then if you're not even on top of that note, learning at an accelerated pace, you're not even keeping up with those who are really good at what you're doing. So like if you're not, you know, learning at an accelerated pace in trying to be competitive on top of that, you're not in the game.
You're not really keeping at pace with, you know, the people who are gonna be the best at what they're doing and make the most money and, you know, have the best knowledge about the whole process. Exactly. And deep down, I wanna say that that was my desire, but most of it was, I was just really afraid of my inexperience and.
I was being involved in meetings where they're talking about money and that was the, the big eye opener for me, you know? Cause when you first start off and you're just training and just learning and all that stuff, it, you can get, you know, sort of enamored with certain processes and be like, oh look, you know, I can draw something in 3d and it looks like the real thing.
But once you start getting into the territory where you're sitting in, in meetings and they're talking about money and margins and hours and how it's all affecting and why, why aren't we at this percentage point when the number of hours that we forecasted should have put us here? Like that's when it all becomes real.
And that's when I don't care. If a designer can draw a fire pump that looks fancy in 3d, or if you give me a wire frame fire pump, if it passes, um, you know, uh, review and if, and, and if it's code compliant, then. Boom, you know, if the takeouts are right on your stock list, it doesn't matter at that point. So that was, that was a big sort of eye opening thing for me was this is, you know, to be a designer doesn't mean all you do is design.
You're designing stuff that gets installed that has other people attached to it. Um, that has money attached to it. That some of it is yours, but not all of it. And everybody still has to, you know, do their job and everybody else still has to get paid. And that was a big sort of, you know, driving force to me was if I don't get this stock list out, then, um, you know, um, I'm gonna change his name.
Uh but you know, Bob can't get to, um, you know, won't be able to go to this job site and work for the week and then he has to go home and then he doesn't get paid because I. Didn't, you know, get the list out in time. So a lot of that was a real big responsibility that I started sort of feeling, and it was, I never really felt it forced on me, but I just really, once I kind of got a big picture of it, um, the role of a designer really kind of, you know, uh, sort of opened me up to all that.
So, yeah. Um, man, that's really powerful. I know, I know exactly what you're talking about and yeah, like taking a look at the budget and the design hours, and then, you know, having your design manager, you know, ask you what completion point are you at in this design and, you know, when is this gonna be done as, and having those Frank sort of conversations.
Yeah. And then yeah, if the, if the foreman of the fitters aren't, aren't working, they're not getting paid. So it's, uh, You know, you that's definitely in your mind as you're yeah. Designing and yeah. Another good point. You had a couple points I wanted to, you know, circle back to, but one of 'em I just had like, flashbacks is you're talking about pump design.
And I was just thinking about how greater, uh, margin of certainty you need to have because of, you know, like just the way that a pump fits in a, in a design and how immovable it kind of is mm-hmm and yeah, I don't know. I just remember the first time I was, you know, designing a, a diesel fire pump and, you know, having to, um, settle that up and try to make it.
And, uh, just finding all that process so difficult. I, I was in the role so short of time, I never really got to feel comfortable with a lot of these things you you're talking about. Um, yeah. And, um, for, for something like that, one quick sort of note of advice that I'll, that I'll give on that is, you know, a lot of times fabricators, um, you know, the welds are, they can, they're pretty consistent, but sometimes they're, I mean, they're not a hundred percent precise, so what I've.
What I started doing a while back, um, and what I would do for any kind of fire pump that you're gonna be listing, um, which I mean, now they, now they have 'em on the, the ready to go slabs, where you just kind of connect to one point or the other, but in certain rooms where you have to build it, cuz the door isn't big enough to, to fit a whole, um, slab in there.
I've just started leaving the pieces, uh, plane end and, and cut 'em long. And then just, you know, leave a bunch of notes on the install plans that say, Hey, one of these ends is grooved and pull your measurement. And here's where the here's where we're gonna put the fire pump. And there's where the concrete pad is.
But the rest is, you know, and here's where all the valves go. Here's this piece. And here's that piece actually, you know, labeling the pieces for, um, the install, but just cutting 'em a little bit longer and leaving one end plane so that they know. So that way. You never get the phone call that says, Hey, your piece was too short.
We had to go back and get another 21 footer so that we can go back to the job site and cut it right. That way, you know, it's already cut long, a little bit, you get your right measurement and cut it to a precise length and it saves a, it saves a trip. And you know, and it also field installers are also pipe fitters.
So they, there is some fitting involved in a real perfect world. It would be awesome to be able to send out a, a complete, you know, stock list with everything ready to go. And they can just, you know, use the impact, drill to knock out all the couplings and go home. But unfortunately, like I said, I've never done.
I've never done two jobs that were the same and none of them have ever not involved some sort of fabrication in the field. So, yeah, that's a great point. Another point I wanted to talk about that you mentioned previously was. You know how to make things fit and how to make, you know, fire sprinkler designed constructable.
Um, that was a great, uh, pro tip on how to, you know, basically fashion your stock list to where you can have some flexibility. And I'm sure there's just a bunch of tricks to the trade, um, that come with time and, you know, reps, but mm-hmm um, yeah, I'd love to talk more about that. Um, idea, cuz I know it's so difficult.
Um, uh, you spoke a little bit about, you know, how to make, uh, what do you look for when you're, you know, verifying that yes, indeed. This design is going to fit or yes, indeed. That this is a functional design that can be fabricated and can be installed or maybe what are some common pitfalls would be a better question.
Uh, some common pitfalls that I've seen is, uh, it involves a lot of like riser, uh, using like riser nipples off of like your main piping off for your branch lines. Especially in, in some like BIM coordination, it, it tends to happen a lot. And I've seen more, um, of those mistakes happen on BIM projects, which has, they can have pretty, uh, catastrophic snowballing effects.
But, um, I have seen it to where, you know, you, there's a designer who's trying to fit a certain, you know, pipe bend or something, um, in, in the model just to get it to work. But either a fitting with that small of a takeout doesn't exist or they didn't take into account the additional welded piece that goes on top of your, or on the site or the, the outlet that just gets put on your main piping plus the fitting.
So. Really familiarizing yourself with, with what you have to work with is, is, uh, important because a lot, a lot of what the mistakes I've seen have been take out mistakes where you say, you know, if you got a plan and one elevation for one pipe is at, you know, 10 foot and then the other, the other pipe is at 10 foot four.
You know that there's no such fitting where I can get that next piece up only four inches because my back to back 90 on a four inch piece of pipe, if I use a fire lock fitting is eight inches. So that kind of stuff, where if I'm in a BIM meeting and they ask me, Hey, can't you move up that line four inches?
I'll say, no, I can't. Because my minimum takeout on that is gonna be eight inches to the center line. So that kind of stuff that really will. Sort of protect you from, uh, mistakes that can, you know, uh, cost you in, in the long run, because say that four inches is for a branch line and then your whole elevation is based on that.
And your main elevation is stuck and then you go to fabricate it and, you know, you'll get a field person asking you, Hey, how am I supposed to install this pipe four inches from here when you know, so that kind of stuff really, really, um, and, and not being afraid to, to, um, to be uncertain about certain pieces.
Like, uh, if there's, uh, when I'm fabricating, uh, when I'm making fabrication reports, if I'm working on multiple levels, like if, if it's like a two story building or something and, and we're going up, um, from one story to another, um, Say it's like a 12 foot sort of difference, uh, from one floor up. Uh, and there's a connecting piece between the second floor system and the first floor system, even though I know that if, if, uh, even if I know the elevations and even if all my plans, and even if I have a perfect building model that says, if I cut a piece exactly to, you know, 11 foot eight or whatever that it's gonna fit precisely, right.
Where it goes, I'm still gonna send out like a 12 foot six piece and say, Hey, field fab, this just, cuz I don't know exactly if they're gonna hang it right at the marker or not. So you have to leave in these sort of, uh, tolerances and, and um, and leave some things up to the job foreman whose job is to review their stock listing, um, review their plans and, and.
And, you know, make sure that they tell their installers, Hey guys, here's these pieces that, that we fabbed out long so that you guys can field cut these to ensure that we have a perfect fit and it's not gonna be either too long or too short or whatever. So, um, a lot of just really familiarizing yourself with, with, with what we have to work with, which is mostly pipe and fittings.
So straight lines and circles. It's not too complicated, but knowing the, the limitations, what will help you avoid a lot of those pitfalls? That's a great tip there, Marco. Yeah, I think, uh, you know, just to add on to your note about, about tolerances and, you know, everything looks good on paper, but you know, uh, people sometimes don't realize that there are.
Margins for error in pouring concrete or the way that building steel fits together. So having some of these, uh, tolerances or allowances in mind, I'm sure will help keep you out of, uh, sand trap. Yeah, for sure. But, so I wanted to talk about what you're doing now. Marco, I didn't wanna get too far into us speaking.
Um, even though I think I've already gotten us in that place without, um, letting the listeners know about, um, what you're doing now and, you know, to give context about, uh, your point of view and where you're coming from. Yeah. Would you tell us a little bit about, uh, dog fight fire? Yeah, sure. Um, I started dog fight fire in, uh, June of 2019 after, um, you know, being.
A designer, uh, after being a design manager at a company for the previous three years. And, um, it, it just, once, once you start, you know, going back to kind of like the money thing, which at the end of end of the day, it's kind of what we're all sort of in the trade for, in a manner of speaking, you know, where, where we all want monetary gain for our knowledge.
But, um, once I started seeing how the money was moving through, um, a lot of these companies and the amount of the amount of money that gets charged for design versus what some of the designers make can be, uh, pretty vast. depending on the experience of the designer, obviously, you know, designers paid what the, what they're they're worth, but just kind of seeing the bigger picture of, of being able to say, Hey, you know, if I, if I were on my own, I could be able to contract that entire amount for myself, which sounds totally selfish.
And I'm, I'm more of that, but, um, that's sort of what I kind of, um, started seeing and, and not necessarily at, at the company where I was a design manager for, but I had just kind of seen the trend and just being, been in enough meetings and seen enough reports to, to kind of see where, where I was versus where the company was selling my value for, you know, Using that time, you know, once I kind of figured out that I would eventually wanna be on my own, um, everything in my career has sort of been focused on, on getting to that point.
And there's still, you know, kind of like how we were talking about earlier, always learning. There's still stuff to learn. There's still a lot of stuff to relearn on top of that, you know, there's been, you know, I've been caught up with certain projects where you get, you get so caught up on like a high piled storage code application that you forget simple stuff.
And you didn't realize that you over spaced a sprinkler in a couple of rooms or something like that. So. Relearning a whole lot of things is also, you know, involved cuz how you mentioned earlier. Again, there's so much to learn and always something to learn. You might relearn something and not realize that you already, you know, went over it once or twice before.
Um, so what I started doing with what kind of inspired, you know, me to start dog fight was to be able to call my own shots for one and be a little more selective and not, uh, more selective of who I work with and not tied down to, um, just one specific company. So, um, that also, I, I felt would open me up to more opportunities to work on different kinds of jobs, jobs that I found a little more interesting, um, which.
You know, isn't always the case. Sometimes you take a job just cuz it's a business and you're not gonna turn away business. So if it's, you know, drawing a, a bunch of warehouses and you feel like you need to be drawing other stuff well, you know, until that stuff comes, you draw your warehouses. You know, you keep the, you keep the lights on.
So there's definitely a lot of that involved, but um, I'm at the helm, you know, and, and with me in charge, um, it's all on me. If it fails, it's it's my fault. And if, and if it succeeds, well, then I'm doing an all right job. So, uh, when I did start it, I, um, there's a sort of gray area in the Texas code that, that, um, that there's plenty of freelancers who are working, um, on their own and that they don't have the, the full Texas license that's.
In the code and where I get it from is in the code. It says any kind of planning, inspections, installations, or, or testing of fi anything, fire, sprinkler related, you need to have this license for. So the one that stands out to me is the planning part, which planning to me is designing. So, um, there might be different interpretations and, and, and all that out there for it.
But I always knew that I wanted to have the legit, you know, protection for it. So I went, I went ahead and I also, you know, paid for the insurance, which, which was costly and, um, and, uh, and got the license for the company. So as it stands, it's, uh, solely a design firm run by myself. But, um, the. The opportunities are there for me to explore inspections and which is kind of what I feel might be my next, my next, uh, venture and, and, and how I choose to expand the company and not necessarily continue expanding the design portion, but really kind of, I like to get my hands dirty on stuff too.
So, um, really, really kind of get, get out there as well. And, you know, and eventually the, the trucks with, with the employees and all that, but for now, um, just trying to do the best I can to, to design, um, the best work that I can for my clients. So, and by doing that is, is you have to be able to deliver on, on, on what you offer.
You know, you can't, you can't be a baker or call yourself a baker and your cakes are no good. You know, you gotta, you gotta really sort of wear the hat and, and do the job. Right. Which. Is, you know, a big thing to consider for anybody that, that is thinking that freelancing might be, um, might be a, you know, an easier way to do it.
If anything, it it's a little bit more difficult, but there are certain freedoms that, that you can't sort of replace at all by, by working at, at a, at an office or for an employer. So, um, dog fight has just kind of been been, you know, me just doing it on my own and, and trying to kind of see if my, my boat floats out in this ocean of, of an industry industry that we're working in.
That's awesome, man. I love hearing about that. And, uh, no, I don't, I don't think it's selfish for you to, you know, see the rate that, uh, your company pays and I'm sure now, as a business owner, you realize what all goes in to keep the lights on, but. I don't think it's selfish for you to say, Hey, you know, here's, here's my value.
You know, I might want to try doing this for, for myself and see how that goes. But no, uh, I wanted to just, uh, yeah, I really like the explanation about the impetus for dog fight and kind of what you've been getting into. But, so, uh, so you started dog fight and would you tell me before 2019? Uh, yeah, June, 2019, June, 2019.
So you've been at it almost two years now. And so getting close? Yes. Getting close to two years. And so you told us about like, the design stuff, but so do you also, uh, stock list and provide those services as well? Or is it mostly just the design part of it? No, no, I do. I do, uh, design and stock listing, you know, design, calc stock, listing, Asbuilt, everything that you would need to for, you know, turnkey plans, everything that you would need for, for permitting.
Um, and, uh, so yeah, I mean, beginning to end, I'm involved in projects even like with BIM projects, um, all the way to the end, which it's a little bit difficult, you know, to do sometimes cuz with BIM, especially it's, um, you have to work with different teams and not only are you working on a different project, but different subcontractors and there there've been, people might not be as, as ahead or, or, or.
You know, it's, it can get pretty difficult to work on, on BIM projects and stuff like that. But, uh, even on those projects, uh, once they're done, you know, stock listing and, um, and permit drawings and installation plans in the full nine. That's awesome. Yeah. I wanted to talk to you a little bit more about BIM, cuz I, I see as it's such a huge trend in the industry and uh, in my brief time as a fire suppression designer, I never was in a job that was like, uh, full 3d BIM.
I was almost always, um, on the smaller projects, it didn't have this kind of coordination. Um, no, like not very much like, uh, I never got to do a Highrise or anything like that. That would really just absolutely. Um, the 3d BIM coordination, but mm-hmm . Yeah. What are your thoughts on, uh, I've seen you post some funny memes about like, uh, coordination meetings and I know how tense they can get, but what are your thoughts on BIM and, and where it's going and, uh, your experience with it?
Um, from looking at it from a, uh, freelance designer standpoint, um, BIM is always going to be the toughest thing to put a price tag on, um, because the life of the project, even though it's it's, um, oh, the portion of the BIM project, even though it's determined by the project schedule, if you are fortunate enough to be working on a job with a project schedule, um, oftentimes more than often, it goes over that schedule.
And a lot of the changes that happen in BIM. Uh, you have to anticipate. So it's, cuz it's one thing to sort of look at a set of plans and then put a number on it and say, Hey, I can design that for you. For whatever X amount of dollars you wait for. The plans to get approved. Field guy takes the plans out and says, Hey, we can't hang the main at that elevation.
We gotta go down a little bit, you know, ad fittings here, we gotta move this branch line over and then we'll be good. That's one thing. But in BIM, you know, especially if you're working with certain, uh, contractors who have, um, meticulous demands, I mean, I've worked with a few, um, general contractors who start asking for.
Separate plans that aren't plans that would be required for, um, permitting process or for, for, um, stock listing or installation purposes. But they still want them say it's like a penetration plan or something, or a certain mockup, uh, of what, you know, a 3d rendering of what a riser room would look like or something like that.
That, and, you know, just because you can draw that or generate those plans for them doesn't mean it was accounted for in your initial, um, estimate. So approaching, approaching BIM, and from that regard is, you know, it's, it's really hard to put a price tag on it and you always have to anticipate that you're gonna be doing a lot of changes for it.
I don't wanna say for free, but a lot of that, you know, You can ask for a change order, but somebody can easily push they're easy to push back on and say, well, Hey, you know, it's a BIM project. You knew things were gonna change. So, um, as a whole though, I mean, it's, I mean, it, it it's pretty good. I, I don't wanna say that BIM has, has, uh, really, I mean, it's definitely changed the way things are done, but a lot of times it, I don't wanna, I don't wanna sound too negative about it, but more often than not, I work on, on BIM projects where we're still stuck in coordination and they're already putting a roof on the dang thing outside of the job trailer.
So it tends to get, they tend to get drawn out a little bit longer than, than necessary. And this is just in my experience and, um, you know, If there are any contractors out there who have a perfect, you know, um, schedule, you know, adherence and, and, and all their projects go well, then congratulations to them.
But from a freelance standpoint, that's one of the more difficult things to get involved with, especially if you are in a heavily involved BIM project. And you also have other contracts that are coming up, because again, you know, you have demanding, um, contractors who might say, Hey, we need you to change this and we need the changes done.
And your Mo your new model uploaded by tomorrow morning or by the end of the week, because, you know, for the next meeting. And so there's a lot involved in it. And the results from what I've seen are, I mean, they're, they're fairly good if. If what truly was BIM is what gets built. I mean, you were talking a little, a little bit ago about how there might be different, poor depths in concrete, or how certain structural elements sit on one another.
But I recently let's see three BIM projects ago finished one. It was the most smoothly run BI project I had ever been a part of. We were done right on time and everything. It was great. It just turns out that they built a completely different building with a completely different structural framing. But they said we modeled to a building that was very close to the new building they were going to build.
So like, you know, that kind of stuff that can come up where. You have these decisions made for, Hey, let's just BI it to where, you know, we're close enough and there's still field changes required, which at that point now is just a waste of money because there's no point in BIM something if field changes are gonna have to be constantly made.
And there's a lot of the, uh, design build stuff going on now to where a lot of these companies who are, um, uh, building, you know, big projects, especially in Austin, there's a lot of software companies moving and a lot of them have very deep pockets and a lot of them don't care how much stuff costs. And um, so when you do decide to get involved in a BIM project, you could be involved for many, many, many, many months, and it can get very tricky to.
Make sure that you are still getting paid properly and, and still putting out everything that they're demanding from you. So, and then on top of that, hoping that there aren't gonna be a bunch of field changes that happen, or if an architect changes their mind and you've already finished a certain portion of a BIM project, and you're maybe halfway through the stock listing, but they come back and say, Hey, they got rid of those ceilings.
Now they're gonna put up rights. And then they demand that you upload a new model, um, you know, with the changes. And so there there's a lot of that kind of interruption that goes on and a lot of changes made after the fact, um, when it comes to those projects, um, and with BIM involved. So I think it would be much better if BIM was planned.
Way before even ground was broken on a lot of these projects, but that's in a perfect world and we both know that buildings don't get built that way anymore. So usually you're still coordinating while the, uh, as soon as, you know, as soon as the, the slab is getting you're, you're still in coordination. So that's where I kind of feel it's all going.
Yeah. I hear you. Yeah. From the, from the beginning of your career to now, would you say that you've seen an increase in bid projects? Oh yeah, for sure. I mean, that's why I've sort of been switching more to, to Revit. I, I, I was mostly using AutoCAD and, and the HCAD extension for that. Um, but I have recently, uh, made the switch over to Revit just cuz it's, it's so much easier to work, um, on like in a three.
Platform when, when you are gonna be BIM coordinating something and especially with kind of like what I just talked about with so many changes that are constantly happening to continually go back into a 2d drawing and then render a 3d model based on those elevations every single time is it gets a little bit time consuming and again, time is money.
So the, um, I found the best, the best way, especially it. I decided after this past bin project that I did that I was gonna make the switch to Revit just cuz it's so, um, it's so demanding, uh, from a schedule standpoint now that you need to be able to generate your work quick and a lot of the functions in HCAD, um, from, to go from 2d to 3d, a lot of the things have to be really perfect in the drawing for you to generate your model.
So. It gets very time consuming. If you have to move something, just like a one inch over, say, if it's a main, you gotta move it over one inch. It just, it it's a lot, a lot of work to do for such a little difference in the drawing. So, yeah. I hear you, man. I, I know from when I, I used HCAD when I was a fire suppression designer and.
God, I was, I'm sure I was a nightmare for my design manager. Like the fact that you'd have to have all your end points connecting, and if you didn't get everything connected, just so they wouldn't list and or it wouldn't, you know, like do some of these automatic functions that you really needed to do to save you time.
And he would just, you know, end up deleting, uh, swaths of, of design just so he could do it quickly over. So it would list correctly, you know, for a young designer trying to figure it out. So I imagine that's, uh, infuriating when you're under the gun for a deadline. Yeah. So ma making the switch to Revit. I mean, I'm still, that's why there's been such a big delay in, in my uploads on YouTube is I'm still trying to learn it, you know, and if I do make a video on it, I was thinking about maybe making a video series on me, actually learning, you know, how to use Revit or hydro had Revit, but I'm just not at, at a point.
To where I'm comfortable enough to even, you know, it's just gonna be somebody watching me hover my mouse over all the different icons and seeing the popup window that comes up to see what the command is. But so I'm, I'm waiting to get to a point to where I can actually work with it very well. Um, and continue my, my videos with just, uh, primarily focused on Revit, which, which is, it seems to be Mo most of the message that I messages that I've received, uh, for my YouTube channel have been for requests on working with hydro cat Revit.
So it seems like as an industry, uh, that's kind of where the hydro had side is, is, is going to there's other software. That's just completely doing their own thing. But from the HCAD AutoCAD standpoint, that's. Things seem to be going as to Revit. That's awesome. Yeah. I'd like to talk a little bit more about and end on, uh, so what you've been doing with YouTube and, and on that note, I think you should start now because I think that some of the things that you learn now, you're gonna forget by the time that you think you're good enough to record and that I liked, uh, watching your videos just of you like going through stuff and like, you know, going through some of the rote tasks, I think you should, you gotta just, uh, start, start, uh, I don't know, man, this, the thing about content I feel like is, is, um, you know, it's not everything doesn't have to be, you know, the best thing you ever did and extremely crisp and clean.
And you know, of course we want to be that way, but you know, it's important for you. And there's like, not very much if any content out there on that subject. And so it's important for people like you, who. You know, have the, the knowledge and the technical ability to do so. And I mean, I would watch it and I don't even do any design for, so what does that tell you?
people who, people who don't even touch the touch, what you're doing would watch it. Like, I find it interesting. Like it's it, I learn watching it. So I think you gotta just dive in, man. Yeah. And yeah, I mean, I'll definitely do that now, now that you mention it and, and, uh, go through some of the training stuff that I've, that I've been working on to, to get it going.
But, um, yeah. And with the YouTube, I mean, that's just me after, after working in, in this trade for so many years and coming across and learning, you know, coming across a bunch of different designers and learning so many things. Um, there's, uh, I guess one thing that, that I will sort of wanna leave on is, is.
My biggest sort of passion once I kind of felt like I knew what the heck I was doing was to train new designers into, um, to bring on because I, I, as a design manager, I, I kept having, you know, the, the unfortunate sort of task of hiring and firing designers that were kind of doing the round Robin type thing where they'd leave one company, um, for 50 cents more at another one, or they would leave another one after a project.
Didn't, you know, wasn't being installed the way they drew it and, you know, stuff was hitting the fan. So there's a lot of, there was a lot of the same names just continually coming up. And I was just sort of very frustrated from that. And so, while I was the design manager, I, I had to, I had the, uh, the fortunate sort of, uh, freedom to sort of pick and choose who I hired.
And, and after. Getting approval to hire a design, a design trainee. I really started implementing a lot of, a lot of what I learned early on, um, to the new people and, and to, to help them, you know, um, become successful in, in, in the trade. And the YouTube is, is sort of, um, my, my way of still continuing to do that.
Because when I, um, when I was a design manager, I, I kept us all in, in an open office, like in a big open office. And I was there, you know, with everybody. And I, I ran, um, a projector on the wall and sometimes I'd be like, Hey guys, check this out. Or, or share somebody's screen, who was having a problem. And we would all kind of figure it out together.
Or sometimes I would just be like, look at this hilarious YouTube video that I found. And, and so, you know, just to kind of like keep the, the, the vibe up and all that, but, um, Training was, was a big passion of mine and, and bringing on new, fresh blood, uh, was just something that I really felt the industry needed more people that, that aren't familiar with it that can sort of pick something new up and, and go with it.
And I, I also feel like it would really balance out a lot of the, uh, the workforce and, um, and sort of overall, um, as the, as the construction industry grows, it sort of, it, it, it balances things out like monetarily as well, bringing in, you know, um, new people and, and you sort of weed out these people who are getting paid overpaid, you know, in, in some aspects, you know, who have these bad habits who.
Might have the credentials, but maybe they've just learned a lot of things that I don't wanna necessarily say are the wrong way, but, um, are ways that don't necessarily jive well with how the company you're working for, or if you're freelancing, um, you know, how they would work with you. So YouTube has sort of been my, my way of, of kind of, you know, continuing to do and to teach how I taught, cuz it's not necessarily meant to be a tutorial, uh, YouTube channel or anything like that.
It's mostly, if you were just kind of sitting in the office with me the way my designers would and I pull up my, my, um, the, uh, the monitor on, on the, on the wall, through the projector and, you know, show you how I'm, how I'm doing stuff. And there's no, there's a lot of people that are very protective, uh, in the, in the trade with, with their design sort of quote unquote secrets.
But I mean, you know, you can. You can get a professional plumber's tool bag, but it doesn't make you a professional drummer, a professional plumber, you know? Um, so I don't care. Here's all my secrets. Here's how I do everything. Just please let's get new people in the trade, you know? So that's that's my, my whole thing is, is let's get some, some fresh blood in here.
That's awesome. Well, Marco, I think that's an awesome way to end. I just wanna say thank you so much for coming on the show. I really enjoyed it. Um, we didn't get to all our questions. I'd love to have you on in the future and, and follow it up. It's been, uh, easy and, and awesome. Thanks again, Marco. I really appreciate it.
Gusta anytime. Um, I'm here for you. Thanks for listening, everybody. Be sure to share the episode with a friend, if you enjoyed it, don't forget that fire protection and life safety is serious business. The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are by no means a professional consultation or a codes and standards interpretation.
Be sure to contact a licensed professional. If you are getting involved with fire protection and or life safety. Thanks again. And we'll see you next time.