Jul 27, 2020
Chris Campbell is a fire protection engineer who works in the construction industry. Chris has undergraduate and master's degrees from the University of Maryland in fire protection engineering. In this episode of Fire Code Tech, we talk through the process of conducting a life safety analysis of a building. Chris also talked about resources like the Building Code Blog and a database he created for fellow professionals.
Tell me about your background in fire protection?
Can we get into a little bit more about your education and how your got to where you are today?
Can you tell me a little bit more about your co-teaching role at the university of maryland?
When is the decision made to use performance based design?
What does your role look like? Do you only perform life safety analysis or do you design other fire protection systems as well?
What is your process for analyzing the life safety systems of a building?
Tell me a little bit more about your experience starting the building code blog and why you did it?
What is your plan for the building code blog and where do you see it going?
Where do you go to learn about fire protection / what are some of the resources you use?
What kind of trends do you see in the fire protection industry right now or just construction in general?
What piece of advice do you have for professionals in fire protection?
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, all welcome to episode eight of fire code tech today on our episode of fire code tech is Chris Campbell. Chris is a fire protection engineer with formal education from the university of Maryland. Chris has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in fire protection engineering Chris's specialty in fire protection is life safety.
Chris is the author and the creator of the building code blog. In our interview, we discuss Chris's co-teaching role at the university of Maryland and how he approaches conducting a life safety review for a building. We take a look at what part of the design process you might choose to use performance based.
I enjoyed talking with Chris. He had a lot of great takeaways on building code, review, life safety and professional development. Don't forget to subscribe. So you never miss an episode and follow us on social media. Let's get into the show. Well, hello, Chris, welcome to the show. Thanks, GU appreciate you having me on.
Well, I just wanted to get things kicked off with your background and how you got started in fire protection. Could you tell me a little bit about that? Sure. Yeah, I think from a fairly early age, I had an interest in engineering and, um, You know, when I was very young that, uh, kind of came out in always wanting to take things apart and figure out how they go together and experimenting with different toys and, and games, you know?
So from an early age stuff like Legos, and as I got older to, to more complex things and just was, was fascinated by how things worked. When I, I started at, uh, the university of Maryland as a freshman. I actually went in as a mechanical engineering major, had heard about the, the fire protection engineering program there, and was always somewhat interested in it just because it was so unique.
And it was really the only program of that type that I'd ever heard of. In my college search and took a one credit just introductory class to, to fire protection, uh, my freshman year and was really interested by that and decided to make the switch at that time. I think in terms of the profession itself, uh, I think fire's just a fascinating thing to.
To study and to, to know more about certainly the, uh, positive job market, uh, at the time with, uh, I think, I think both then and now, uh, Maryland fire protection engineering majors had a pretty close to 100% job placement. So, uh, that sort of job security was also, uh, Not aernt by any means. yeah, the job security and fire protection is pretty remarkable.
I think that even during all this, uh, pandemic madness, uh, still seeing plenty of job searches and people, uh, looking for fire protection and life safety professionals. So it's nice to be in a market that's a little bit more insulated. Uh, not that we're not affected. Yeah, for sure. Sounds like you had a, I've heard this story a few times before engineers, you know, this, this interest in how things work and, you know, building things and, you know, you get into college and you're lucky to be at a college like Maryland with, uh, such a.
Great program for fire protection. And I just wanted to get into a little bit more about your education and, you know, kind of what you enjoyed about your experience at Maryland and you know, maybe how that led you to where you are today. Sure. Yeah. Uh, at Maryland, I did both, uh, my bachelor's and master's in, uh, fire protection there.
And, you know, when I, when I got into grad school and, and working towards my master's, uh, I had the, uh, opportunity to do some research with, uh, Dr. Jim Milky. And, uh, also Dr. Erica Kowski, uh, who is at N and, uh, the project that we were working on together was, uh, studying human behavior and fire, and specifically, uh, evacuation from high rise buildings.
That was a, a great project to work on and certainly getting to, uh, to work with both. Of them was, was really a great opportunity. Um, so I'm, I'm still in touch with them and actually am, co-teaching a class with Dr. Milky and Marilyn right now that really got me interested in, in life safety and, uh, specifically, you know, life safety as it relates to evacuations and human behavior.
Uh, as I was leaving school, I was hoping to maybe not directly specialize in life safety, but definitely wanted to, to be in a field that allowed me to do life safety evaluations and, and consulting. So when I got out, I, I was working for a firm that, um, Did that, and, and also did sprinkler and fire alarm design as well.
So I, I think for the first four years of my career at that firm, and then also even now at Arab, um, I I've really gotten to have a good balance of doing life safety consulting as well as, as sprinkler and fire alarm design. I think Maryland does a good job of preparing students for that. Uh, and that there's a good variety.
Coursework and not only the systems and, and sprinkler fire alarm, but also the life safety to, to kind of give you a well rounded foundation to start your. Hmm. Very interesting. Cool. Well, that sounds like a unique experience doing that. Co-teaching with, uh, Dr. Milky. I wasn't aware of him until I started talking to a couple Maryland grads and it seems like, uh, the Maryland grads and the WPI grads have, uh, high esteem for him.
So that's interesting that you, uh, get to work directly with him. I don't know if you could tell me a little bit more about, um, your experience in co-teaching and kind of what that looks like. Sure. Yeah. Yeah. Uh, Dr. Milky is, uh, is very highly esteemed. Uh, no doubt about it. And he's been a great initially professor and, and now colleague and, and mentor of mine and, and very much enjoy getting to work with him closely.
Yeah, teaching at Maryland. This is I think now my fourth, uh, go around of doing this class. Uh it's um, it's a class for, uh, undergraduate seniors and also grad students called, uh, advanced life safety and human behavior and fire. The, the section of the class that I'm teaching is. One looking at, uh, people movement and studying how people move throughout a building doing just a review of the research that we have on that.
And then another big aspect is looking at evacuation modeling. And that's starting at the real basic level of just doing some simple hand calculations. Like you might see in the hydraulic egress model from the SFP handbook and then advancing on to, uh, computer evacuation modeling using some of the more advanced software like Pathfinder and mass motion.
That's really interesting that you. Get to talk to students about not just code compliance and you know, what life safety looks like for the built environment, but also you get to walk them through, uh, hand counts and some modeling and simulation. I feel, um, at least in my experience in the fire protection industry, I don't have a lot of work with, uh, Pathfinder or any of those, uh, egress simulation softwares, but, uh, I have a big interest in it cuz.
You know, uh, obviously the biggest and the most interesting buildings, you know, require unique solutions. So it's, uh, cool to hear about that. I, I'm kind of with you, I think in the us, um, the, the majority of, uh, building projects do not use any sort of evacuation modeling. Approach, um, almost all of them just prescriptively comply with the requirements of either the building code or the life safety code.
I, I definitely enjoy any of the, the projects where I do get to do the egress modeling and, and that's almost always as part of a, a performance based design approach, uh, where the design team is decided that they, uh, do not wanna. Uh, complying with the prescriptive egress requirements, whether that's exit capacity or things like the arrangement of, of means of egress for travel distance or common.
Uh, but want to, you know, show that the, the space can be evacuated safely using typically a combination of both, uh, egress modeling and fire modeling. I've recently just started to understand a little bit better performance based design through, uh, talking with people. But yeah, I've never been involved with a project that's had to use it.
So it's interesting to hear you talk about that and the choice I just wanted to. When is the choice generally made for a project to when do you decide performance based design? Is the approach. I mean, obviously that probably has to be made pretty early. Is that in like the programmatic stage? Like obviously, is that in like SDS or schematic design?
Like how early in the project are you looking at that question? Yeah. I mean, if you're gonna do it for something like the capacity of the means of egress where, you know, it's gonna change. The number of exits or the size of your, your exit components. Um, that is a decision that typically has to be made pretty early on.
One important distinction, I think is that, uh, performance based design can be used for all of the building design. Uh, but it can also just be used for a certain portion. You know, so one example of that might be, uh, let's say that you're, you're well into a building design and, uh, you realize that there is a dead end corridor issue.
For example, you, you might just consider doing some sort of performance based design to just mitigate that specific issue, but the rest of the building could comply with the prescriptive egress requirements. So certainly if it's gonna be, you know, your entire egress system is performance based. I think that's gotta be a pretty early determination.
Uh, there is an opportunity later on for perhaps smaller portions of the design to be performance based, regardless of, of at what stage that decision is made. It is really crucial to get the aha on board. I've had the opportunity to work with some really knowledgeable authorities having jurisdiction. Uh, a few that come to mind are the, the Smithsonian institution.
Wow. Uh, they have their own fire protection, in-house fire protection group there. That acts as the aha. And, uh, they're generally very open to using performance based design techniques. But at any rate, uh, you obviously have to get the, the aha to buy off on the approach that you're using. And, and if you're doing something like egress or fire modeling, they have to agree to the assumptions that you're using in those modeling, uh, approaches.
Ideally very early on. I like your note about, you know, yes, there is an opportunity where holistically, you're looking at the whole building for performance based design, but. You know, I'm aware of the option for, you know, like just a dry pipe system to use, uh, you know, calculations or, uh, simulations to show the discharge time meets, you know, the code requirement, but I've never thought of a, uh, life safety system or a, uh, you know, building egress component, being singled out for performance based design.
I like that point you made there that, uh, you don't have. Through the whole building with performance based design, you can, if you have an understanding with the authority, having jurisdiction, you can, uh, use performance based design for essentially one offs. Yeah. I, I think another good example of, of an opportunity to use performance based design is, uh, when you're doing.
Work in existing buildings. Uh, so I'll give an example. A few years ago, I was working on a project at the Kennedy center in Washington, DC, which is, uh, a very notable performing arts center in the district. And, you know, they have some, some very notable and, and large scale, uh, performances there. I think every present for.
You know, recent memory has, has visited there for one show or another, but at, at one point in time, the, the garage that sits beneath the Kenny center, performing arts center, the garage had, uh, some exits that were discharging onto a sidewalk that was, uh, directly next to a freeway that goes through DC.
There. And they decided that they no longer wanted to use those exits just because of the danger that is associated with a sidewalk right next to a freeway. So we had an existing building that, you know, had a building permit was occupied and, uh, they wanted to, you know, stop using two exits, adding additional exits elsewhere in the building.
Would've been very disruptive and costly. So that's an example where we had an existing condition that they wanted to modify and we used. Fire and egress modeling to show that even with the no longer using two of these exits, that the, uh, the building could still be evacuated safely. That's really interesting.
Not only did you, you know, get to be a part of a. Existing construction project that you know, was for a building that had high esteem and big impact. But you, uh, you know, I feel like an engineer's whole job is to get creative and provide solutions. And it sounds like performance based design is just one more tool in the belt in order to provide, uh, solutions and problem solve for customers.
So I like hearing about. Yeah, absolutely. I was planning on asking, uh, about your specialty, but I think just from hearing you talk for just several minutes, it's clear to me that your specialty is in life safety and just kind of all that entails. How much, how much of your time do you spend, uh, designing the other types of fire protection systems or, yeah.
Tell me a little bit about your role now and like what that kinda looks like. Is it all life safety design or do you kind of get a diverse bag of doing fire protection system design as well? You know, guests? I do, uh, I would say I do probably spend more time doing life safety consulting work. Uh, so it's, it's maybe a 60, 40 split right now with, with 60% of my time doing life safety stuff.
And then 40% on systems design, typically sprinkler and fire alarm design. Although we do do some special hazards as well. You know, when I first started off in my career, uh, it was doing the systems design. I was, I was very much, uh, in the trenches, so to speak with doing all the survey. And then doing a lot of the drafting work myself, whether that was in AutoCAD or Revit.
And I still do open Revit from time to time. Um, although I don't do it as, as frequently as I used to. Um, so a lot of my design work now is, is overseeing the work and, and setting the general direction in terms of these are the, the types of systems that we want to use in a building. And here's the, the overall approach.
And then I have people that are, uh, on my team with me at Arab. We'll we'll play a role in that design, whether it's, uh, doing calculations or doing the layout in, in Revit. And then, um, I'm usually working closely to, to help guide that process, to, to check over the work and, and just, um, you know, overall lead the direction for the, the sprinkler and the fire alarm design.
So it sounds like you're kind of in more of. Senior engineering position where you're kind of monitoring the work of either draftsman or fire protection designers and kind of, uh, overseeing the design from a higher level. Yeah, yeah. That's right. And, and yeah, I mean, from, from time to time, um, like I mentioned, I, I do still do the, the rev work myself, but yeah, typically it's, it's, I'm.
I'm leading the design. And then I have a team of people that are working with me to do a lot of the layout of the fire alarm STRs, for example, or the, the sprinkler head layout, things like that. Yeah. I just wanted to plug your mind a little bit about life safety because, uh, in my work that I do, uh, mostly I don't get involved as much with life safety.
The company that I work for, the architects generally are the ones who are doing the life safety analysis. And then sometimes we will, um, back them up on that, but it's not part of my everyday job to analyze the life safety of a building. So I just wanted to ask you when you are approaching. An analysis of a building's life, safety systems, you know, how is there a process for that?
Do you start, you know, I just, it's hard for me cuz I don't do it often enough to think, okay, what systems do I start with? You know, do I start with, you know, building areas and like occupancy, adjacencies or. Yeah. I don't know if you had like a process or just a kind of measured way that you approach that.
Yeah, we do. And, and that's a good question, Gus. Um, it, it does vary from project to project. I think in my mind, the ideal case is that when we're working with, uh, an architect that we are brought in at the beginning of the design, ideally in just the, the concepts phase where it's, uh, just the general. Uh, concept of the building and we don't even have, you know, full scale plant yet.
It's maybe just renderings or some, you know, blocking and stacking diagrams or something like that. And, uh, when we're able to get in early on, uh, we can offer a lot of guidance about what is the, you know, for example, the type of construction. That you could choose based on the size of the building that's being considered and the occupancies that might be in the building.
And that really then feeds into the allowable heightened area and, uh, requirements for fire protection of structural elements. So you get a lot of the basics, uh, early on covered. Um, if, if you're able to, you know, get in early on the design, We we prefer when, when that's the case. I, I will say there's a lot of times where architects don't bring us in that early.
And we're, we're almost brought in after the fact. And if the architect has done a really thorough code analysis, sometimes that can work out just fine. And, and we're just, you know, making some minor tweaks. Uh, we've also had instances though, where we're brought in kind of later and there's some pretty major, um, concerns that we have about the design.
So, uh, we do typically start with the. What is the, the construction type of the building. And then that goes hand in hand with how big is the building in terms of height, number of stories and area. Another big item is just identifying any of the, the IVC chapter four, uh, requirements, which are the, you know, detailed requirements based on use and occupancy.
So a few major ones in that would be if the building's a Highrise, there's a series of life safety and fire protection requirements that are triggered for that. Uh, we do also do a good bit of residential work. So there's, uh, a number of, of group R specific requirements, both in chapter four, then also in chapter 10.
So that's usually the, the starting point. Once we get further on into the design, so into, to schematic design or design development phases. Uh, then we're typically doing a more detailed egress analysis where, uh, we're taking a look at the architect's life safety plans and their occupant load calculations, verifying them, making sure that the, uh, egress system is of sufficient capacity to handle the occupant load.
And also that it's set up correctly in terms of, um, where the exits are located, exit remoteness, travel, distance, common path of travel, things like that. And then finally, a, a big portion of our role in life. Safety is. Uh, assisting the design team in obtaining a building permit. So, uh, once a permit submission is made for almost every project, there's usually, uh, several rounds of permit, review comments that the local building and fire departments make.
And, uh, we, we play a big role in, in looking at those comments, uh, evaluating whether we agree with them or not. And. Then assisting the architect to make any necessary design changes to, uh, address those comments or perhaps negotiating with the code officials to try to, uh, argue for our point of view and why we think, uh, the design that we have is correct.
Yeah. I think that that is a big one that you mentioned there at the end. Uh, not just providing a. Solid design, but being able to translate that to the authority, having jurisdiction, why you made the decisions you made and, you know, being clear and concise with them. And, you know, like you said, it applies even for not performance based design, even for prescriptive design, that if you're on the same page with the HJ at the beginning of the design everyth.
Seems to go smoother. So, uh, that's a pretty big role in the job of fire protection engineer in my, uh, estimation. But yeah, I like hearing about that also. I thought another good point you made was, uh, you know, kind of going from the building bones and, you know, just going through, uh, I liked hearing about that sequence of, you know, how you address the life safety components.
Yeah, that's interesting. I think it's, uh, easy to be overwhelmed with the IBC and there's no roadmap for, you know, this is how you have to do it. So that's kind of why I have some confusion and you know, like to hear you, uh, explain that a little bit because you know, there's no, uh, how to manual for the international building code or the fire code.
So it's, uh, can definitely be a daunting task when you're first getting into the industry. That more of that kind of work. Yeah, absolutely. And, uh, I would certainly agree that I think it's daunting when you're first getting into the industry and even for people that, uh, are, uh, have been in the industry for quite some time, um, they, you know, continue to learn new things about the building code or the fire code, you know?
So at Arab I work for, uh, my, my boss, his name is Ray grill, who is, uh, been in the fire protection industry. Uh, probably over 40 years at this point and has written many code changes in both the building code and, and a number of the FDA standards. And, uh, you know, he always jokes with me that he, he still learns stuff every day a about the code.
So I, I think there's, you know, regardless of how long you've been working with the building code, there's still more to learn. That's inspiring. Yeah. I think that the best people to work for are, you know, it sounds like you have a good mentor. And, uh, I think that the best people to work for are the ones that understand that there's always something new to learn and, uh, that passion for being knowledgeable and just being a better professional is always something that will make it easier to work for somebody.
For sure. So I wanted to get into. I see that you have recently started a blog online about, uh, life safety and some different fire protection issues. I just wanted you, if you could tell me a little bit about the building code blog and the impetus for starting that. Sure. Yeah. Um, so I started, uh, the building code blog, which is just building code.blog online.
And, uh, I, I think my. I, I had two chief motivators for starting that, uh, one would be, uh, so far in my career in, in doing the code consulting now for many, many different clients, uh, architects, developers, building owners, the, the more of that that you do. I, I think I've found that, uh, a lot of people. Have the same questions, uh, or in other words, you, you frequently hear similar questions over and over from different people.
And a lot of times when, when architects ask me a code question, it's something where I need to open up the code myself and review what the code says and, and try to get a better handle on what's the intent of the code requirement. Maybe what's the background of the code requirement and just try to determine does it apply to the given situation.
And if so, As I was getting these questions, these very similar questions over and over. I, I realized that, um, just for my own self-serving purposes, it would be good to take some notes on the, the research and the, the code review that I was doing. Uh, before I got back to my clients. So I had a series of, of just personal notes to my computer that I developed on various different code questions that I was receiving.
Um, so one example would be when you have two, a buildings, a budding, one another, what sort of wall is required between the buildings? Um, so that was a question I was getting, you know, several times and I went through and did some code research and figured out, you know, what the different options are that the code allows and had all this written down.
And it just kind of dawned on me if, if multiple people are asking this question that are, um, within my sphere that are, you know, My clients, I'm sure that there's people, uh, all over the country all over the world that have similar questions. So that kinda led me to just, uh, taking those, those thoughts and notes that I had already done the work on and just putting them in a, a public format.
And certainly I, uh, I don't public publish any specific projects or anything like that on the blog. Um, it's all just about general code issues and compliance with the building code. But the idea is that, uh, if that research and work has already been. Ideally more people can just read through what I've posted there and, uh, apply, learn, and apply it to whatever project they're working on.
Then then the, the, the other real motivation for me was just, uh, impact. So as I mentioned, you know, I have a. Uh, a series of clients that I work for, and most of them are in the, the Washington DC metropolitan area. And, and that's great. And, uh, they're, they're generally great clients, you know, I, I think as I, I think about my career and where I wanna be someday when I retire, uh, I wanna say that I had a, a meaningful impact one and that two, that I had an impact on a, a broad range of.
So, uh, I see the building code blog as just a way to further expand, uh, the reach of the impact that I'm having, uh, and taking that from just, uh, the clients that I'm directly working for, expanding it to now, really anyone who is searching for an answer on any of the code topics that I write about.
That's great. Yeah. I always joke, uh, that I need to keep a fire protection, uh, frequently asked questions because yeah. Seems like once a week I get. Question about fire extinguishers or duct detectors or, uh, fire dampers. But yeah, that's a good one. I liked hearing you talk about, uh, the two different structures, a budding, and you know, how far do they need to be a part or what kind of wall do we need between 'em in order for them to be separate buildings?
That's probably a pretty frequent one, as far as life safety goes for sure. But it's a really dense subject for. It's a really dense subject, fire barriers, fire partitions, you know, smoke barriers, smoke, partitions firewalls. There's a lot of, uh, terms used incorrectly in that, uh, field. So yeah, I bet that's a great topic that, uh, I would have loved to, you know, read a blog post about.
So that's awesome. I'm glad that you're doing that. I think that fire protection needs more people, uh, sharing information and. Getting involved and trying to help people out. There's some great paid resources online, but, you know, uh, I don't think there's enough people doing what you're doing. So I'm happy that you are, are doing that and are sharing information.
Yeah. Thank you. I appreciate that. Uh, yeah. So you talked about your, uh, Issue where you talked about, or I don't know if you wrote a post about that yet. I was just reading some of your articles earlier, but, uh, so have you written an issue about the fire barriers of the separations between two buildings?
I do. Yeah. Yeah. I think it's something it's titled something along the lines of, um, three approaches for walls between a budding building, something like that. Yeah. We'll put a link in the show notes for, uh, the blog, but, uh, in case you missed it before, but, uh, yeah, that's really cool. I'm glad you're doing that.
So what are you, uh, what are your plans for the future for the blog? What do you want to, what's your, uh, I don't wanna say end goal, but what's your, your next steps with the blog? I know that you are producing some good content, but, uh, yeah, I don't know. Uh, if you're already producing posts at the rate that you want to produce them, or, yeah.
How about, how often do you produce one of these blog posts? So right now, I'm, I'm trying to do one post a week and, uh, some weeks it's it's I struggle to do that just due to other commitments with work and, and, um, there's other times where, um, I've got a little more time to write and I can, I can write at a faster rate than that, but, um, I I'd say I'm Amman right now for, for once a week.
I think, um, my hope for the building code blog is to just continue to grow it at this point in, in terms of the audience and the, uh, extent of its its reach. I've really been trying to recently write the post in such a way that encourages, uh, conversation and, and feedback on the posts. You know, it's one thing to just write a blog post about you.
Your take on code requirements. But, uh, I think what really is, is interesting and valuable to people is, is writing your take, but then also, uh, setting up a, a discussion and realizing that, uh, for many issues in the building code, um, They, it, it, they're not black and white there's there's room for interpretation, right?
If, uh, if everything in the building code was black and white, then, uh, I probably wouldn't have a job as a code consultant because no one would need me. Um, but fortunately there's a lot of gray area and a lot of room for code to be interpreted and. Uh, I think that, um, you know, that's where I'm able to add value to a design team is, is taking my experience and doing that and applying it to a given project.
So I, I, I hope to grow it and continue to, um, expand the, the level of discussion and interaction within the, um, the design community. And, uh, eventually I would love to, to get to a point where, um, perhaps we can have, uh, other people besides just me, uh, writing on there and, you know, I'm just one person and I have, I have the experience I have, but there's, there's tons of other fire protection engineers or people that deal with the building code every day.
That, um, have different experiences than me. And I'd love to, uh, be able to just broaden that scope at some point in the future. That's a great point. I love what you said about, you know, having interaction from the community. And, you know, providing a, essentially a forum for people to discuss fire protection issues, you know, uh, a good story, I think, uh, brings to light.
The importance of that is, you know, I was researching something for, um, architect wanted to do a. Ceiling, there was a kind of an interesting layout. It was, uh, these baffles, these kind of wood slats, um, spaced intermittently across a, uh, building and, you know, to provide an aesthetic if you will. And they were asking me, you know, uh, are we gonna have to modify this sprinkler system?
If we add this, you know, roof structure and. You know, so I started, you know, digging into FPA 13. I, I couldn't find anything didn't really fit any of the obstruction rules that I could tell. And so I was given it the old, uh, Google search and I found a post from like 2007. On some, uh, forum that was talking about louvered ceilings and you know, what the code requirement is in N FPA 13 for louvered ceilings and turned out to be exactly what I needed.
So yeah, I think that these sort of forums and places for people to congregate can provide a lot of insight and, you know, be a continual resource for people in the industry. So I think that's a great, I think that's a great. Yeah. And, and I would say, I, I think just about everyone has been in that situation where, uh, they have a, a question come in and they, they look in the code or in the standard can't, can't really find anything.
So they, they go to Google as their next step and, and search for it. I, I think the more, you know, helpful and useful articles and content that we have, uh, online in, in the fire protection community, um, you know, the better it is for everyone. And, and ultimately, you know, the, the more that we have. Compliant and good life safety and fire protection systems designed and installed.
And, you know, I think that's a situation where basically everyone benefits with a higher level of knowledge available to everyone. Yeah, for sure. I mean, uh, we talked about this a little bit offline, but you know, fire protection is just lacking in resources and, you know, uh, one example that comes to mind for me is I have.
A mechanical department at my company and they were sending out, um, somebody had gone through the Ashray journal and linked, uh, had cherry picked over a hundred articles that they had thought would be important for our young staff to read. And it's like, man, that kind of just blows me away because you know sure.
I'm sure I could find a bunch of good articles in SFPs publications or NFAs publications, but it would be really. Hard for me to find a hundred that I thought were meaningful, you know, for, uh, young fire protection professionals or young professionals in life safety. So, uh, yeah, I think it's important for, for people to get out there and create content because, uh, we're just a young discipline.
So I think it's, that's all good stuff. Well, cool. So I know you have a new project going on, um, that I just saw, you know, it's, I thought it was kind of funny. The day I reached out to you. I think it was in the morning. And then by the time lunch came around, you had this, uh, new joint venture going on. That was, uh, seemed like a really great idea.
Yeah. I didn't know if you could tell me a little bit about that. Yeah. So, uh, just, uh, I guess about a week ago, a little over a week ago now, um, started this new, uh, project called code calls. Uh, that's just code calls.org. And, uh, that's something that I'm working on with, uh, Joe Meyer. Who is a, a fellow fire protection engineer and, uh, Marilyn grad.
And, you know, previously I talked about just this idea of, um, having a meaningful impact one and then two expanding the, the reach and the scope of that impact. And I, I think code calls is, is another way that I'm hoping to do that. Uh, so, um, essentially code calls is a, uh, database of local fire protection, uh, requirements that, uh, we are hoping to, um, get some really good, uh, buy in from local building officials, local fire marshals, uh, who are on board with this idea and willing to contribute.
Um, some of their local requirements to this national database. So right now we're starting off on a fairly small scope and we have just, uh, four data points that we're trying to collect. Um, and those are some of the most common ones that we come across when we have to do a project in a new jurisdiction.
Right. And so the idea is that, uh, if, if you're working on a project in, let's say a county that you've never worked in before, uh, as a fire protection engineer, you're almost certainly going to have to reach out to either the building official or the fire marshal or someone in that type of role to get, um, Get some information on their local requirements and, uh, for Joe and I, some of the most common things that we have had to reach out are asking about the type of fire department connection.
So is it a CES connection? Is it a stores connection? They have a 30 degree angle on the stores. Uh, what is the size of the stores connection, et cetera? Um, another one would be, uh, do they require their stamp pipe, uh, fire hose valves to be on the floor level landing or the intermediate landing. Uh, that's something that, uh, the standard, um, Seems to change every addition of N FPA 14.
Uh, but then there's always been very clear guidance that the local fire official can decide, which of those options that, uh, he or she wants. Uh, another one would be. Uh, whether they deem their local power supply to be reliable as defined by, uh, the national electrical code, which then if the building has a fire pump, um, it would determine whether or not you need to have the power, the fire pump on a backup power supply.
Uh, if that local power source is reliable or not. So we just picked some of the most common questions that, that we have found and, and when we have to reach out to, to local authorities and we're trying to, uh, build that into a database and, uh, make that publicly available. So. You know, we just launched last week.
We're starting in the state of Indiana. Uh, the goal is to get, give responses from either designers that work in those jurisdictions or the code officials themselves. And we hope in, in one month. So about three weeks from today to have, uh, covered 70% of the population of Indiana. So meaning we've gotten responses from enough jurisdictions that equates to 70% of the popul.
That's really interesting. Uh, man, I can't tell you how much my time that I've had to spend, trying to find out if a utility has reliable power or trying to get the fire department to email me back, um, about whether they want the intermediate landing. Or the, uh, floor level landing for their stamp pipe system.
So I can imagine that people would be extremely interested in this resource. And I, I know you guys are gonna get it up and going. Uh, I, I could see an overflow of people, you know, being like this is a great idea wanting to get behind this. So I think that's a, that's an awesome idea. And these are just huge ticket items for.
Coordination for design. You know, these are some of the most important questions that the preliminary phase of design, you know, reliable power. You can't even start to design a fire pump unless, you know, if your power is reliable or not. So, and that's usually a pretty big component of your design for a building as a fire protection engineer.
If you have a fire pump is, you know, what, the type of it is in the layout of that room and how that impacts, uh, the other disciplines. That's awesome. I'm really glad to hear you doing that. Yeah. Thank you. I wanted to move on to some, uh, professional development topics and just talk to you, you know, it seems like you are, you know, doing your best to create new resources and to.
Make it easier for people in the fire protection industry to become more knowledgeable. But yeah. So I just wanted to pick your brain about, um, where you like to go to get information about fire protection and you know yeah. What are some of the resources that you use to be more knowledgeable? Well, I think the first place is just the fire protection community.
Um, the, uh, fire protection engineering, uh, profession is a fairly small profession, at least compared to other engineering disciplines. And, um, you know, there, as you know, GU there's only a handful of schools in the us, uh, where someone can get an education that's specifically focused on fire protection.
Um, so I, I think that that we're a pretty close knit community, regardless of whether you went to, to Maryland or like I did, or to one of the other schools. So just staying in touch with people in the industry is, is a big one for me. Um, you know, that's, uh, you know, Joe Meyer and I who are now working on this code calls project.
We, you know, I I'd read some of his stuff online, but we actually met at an NFPA conference at, uh, a dinner there one year. And that's where we connected and, and now we're working on something together. Uh, just, I think taking advantage of the fact that fire protection is a, it's a smaller community and, and there's a lot of people that are willing to just, uh, tell you about what's going on in their world and stay in touch with you.
I think is a big resource for people. I think another one would be just being involved in some way. Um, There's, you know, probably two main professional societies, uh, N FPA and S F P E uh, and certainly others as well. But, um, those are two that I'm involved with. And I think just by being involved with those, you, you know, get their magazines and their newsletters and, um, Stay up to date on things that are going on.
Uh, I would also definitely recommend the, the conferences. Um, I know that some employers are, are big fans of sending their staff to conferences and others, maybe not so much. Um, you know, I think in terms of professional development, uh, it's a great opportunity to, to learn by going to conferences and attending the seminars and.
You could also usually take a, a class at, um, an SFP or an FPA conference, but maybe even more so just, um, making, making the, the connections and the relationships, um, and. Those are usually things that are happening, you know, early on in the morning or between sessions or late at night and not necessarily, you know, within the conference, uh, talks or seminars themselves.
But, um, you know, I, I, both of the, uh, both of the jobs that I've had in, in my career so far, um, Have been through connections of people that I met at a conference. You know, I, I think just being willing to meet people, go up and introduce yourselves and, and say hello, and then stay in touch. Um, has really served me well so far in my career.
It is something I, I plan to keep on doing. And I would definitely recommend that to, uh, anyone who's just getting started themselves. Definitely. I agree with what you're saying, uh, connections in the industry and just go into conferences. I haven't had that fortune yet to go to, uh, an FPA or SFP conference, but man, I really would like to, it seems like just, uh, pretty much the biggest hotspot for, um, knowledge and just, um, networking.
And so it seems like, uh, just a really fascinat. Thing to go do. It's definitely a big deal to get involved with S F P E and some of these organizations, um, they have great webinars. They will, you know, um, have people come in and speak at the local chapters and at the national level. So it's definitely really good idea to get involved in those.
So I like that. Yeah. I wanted to ask you about. What do you see as a trend in the industry right now? I know things are a little wild with the pandemic going on, but yeah. I mean, um, what do you see as a trend in the construction industry? Or what does you see? What do you see as a trend in just fire protection in general?
I don't know if you had any thoughts on that. Yeah, I mean, I, I think one that I'm really seeing, uh, one trend that I'm really seeing is a push towards, um, automat. And an increased use of digital technology to aid what we do. I, I think you see that in a, a number of areas right now, I think, um, on the design side, you know, pieces of software like auto sprint, uh, RVT, um, or, you know, similar type, uh, integrations with Revit and CAD that allow you to.
Uh, do very detailed fire protection and fire alarm designs, uh, and then take advantage of the software to do things like calculations or parts, take offs, things like that. Uh, those are, you know, those have, I think always been popular since they've been released, but, uh, the more robust those tools get, I think the, uh, the bigger value that they offer, um, you know, if you know, talking about, um, you.
Let's just say auto sprinkle in particular, if you can, uh, if you're gonna take the time to lay out all the sprinkler heads in, in your design, or at least in part of your design, it makes a lot of sense to, um, just use the technology and software that we have available to let's say automatically do hydraulic calculations for you.
So that'd be one example on the design side, I think on the code consulting side, there's, there's also a push for that. Um, I'm sure you're familiar with, um, sites like up codes who are not only, um, you know, trying to improve access to the codes and local code requirements, but also, uh, I'm taking a stab at, uh, automating code compliance in terms of things like allowable, heightened area and construction type.
And, you know, on one hand that's stuff like that's hard to do. And that's part of the reason that, uh, there is a need for code consultants, but I think, um, It it's really important for us in the profession to utilize technology, uh, the best we can to really, um, do our jobs well. And, you know, technology, um, is really good at doing road calculations and, and checking spreadsheets and tables.
And, uh, a computer can do that faster and, and more accurately than a human can. So I think taking advantage of technology to automate. Routine tasks is really important. And it also frees up an engineer's time to, to actually do critical thinking and, uh, you know, put their, their experience and their education to use, uh, where it should be, which I think is actually thinking through a problem as opposed to just, um, reciting code requirements.
So the, uh, the automation and the integration of digital I think is, um, is a, is a big and important trend, right? Yeah, I think, uh, the, uh, automation is a interesting topic. Um, you know, and for my firm, uh, we have, uh, an architect who essentially kind of leading the way on that for my firm. And he is, uh, has been using plugins for Revit.
Called like a pie Revit, or essentially it's like a code interface for Revit and working on automate, automating some of these tasks, like setting up sheets and just, you know, generating views and some of these things that are, uh, Just, uh, really tedious or just gonna be taken out of the equation by, uh, computers in the near future.
I think. So I think that's a good point that you said about, you know, trying to automate as much of the tasks as possible. Yeah. I'm not real aware of, uh, up codes. I think I've seen it before, but I, uh, I'm not real aware of what that is. I think I've what is it? Yeah. So, um, up codes is, is doing a few things.
I mean, I think the, the, the biggest platform right now is they are a, they are publishing the, the I B C or the ICC code with the local amendments integrated into them. So if you can, you can go to up codes and click on their code, library and search, whatever state that you're in and, uh, click on the building code for that state.
And you'll see the base IBC text with that state's local amendments written. So, um, that's, uh, I, I think it's, it really does improve ease of access because many states, uh, don't have that sort of integration, meaning they just have, um, a separate PDF document that says, you know, amend I B C section.
dot.dot and replace it with this. So you kind of have to have two documents open side by side, whereas up codes is putting those L into one in a public format. Uh, they also have, um, I think a, an early Revit plugin right now, that's still in its developmental phase of doing some level of prescriptive, um, code checks for things like, um, Uh, minimum door width, for example, uh, 32 inches in a means of egress or the distance between doors that are in series.
Um, some, some of the very, uh, cut and dry, uh, prescriptive code requirements. It can check your rev model for. Yeah, that's really interesting. I think that that's gonna be in our careers for sure. We're gonna see the, uh, I think things going more towards, uh, that, that base layout being, uh, computer generated and then everything kind of getting tweaked from there, but.
Yeah. That's wow. That's interesting to hear about up codes. I didn't know about that, but I will definitely be, uh, looking at that in the future, but it's always a struggle trying to find out, um, what your local ordinances and requirements are. So that sounds like a good thing. Well, cool. So, um, I just wanted to end with, um, if you were getting in fire protection again for the first time, what's, uh, one piece of advice that you would give yourself.
Just kind of as a young professional or maybe, you know, it could be fire protection related, but, uh, you choose. Yeah, I guess that's a, that's a good question, man. And, uh, that's um, you know, that's one, I've thought about a, a few times over the years, I think, um, I think there's a couple pieces of advice. I would say one would be, um, be really focused on, um, On growing in your skill in fire protection and life safety, uh, first and knowing that, uh, your advancement will come after that.
So, you know, my personality type, I would say I'm a, uh, someone that's motivated by achievement and, and trying to succeed in whatever, you know, goal I've put before me. And. I, I think for a lot of, uh, young professionals, you know, that can turn into, uh, I want to get promoted faster and I wanna make a lot of money or, or things along those lines and getting promoted is, is a good thing.
And, and making money is, is a good thing as well. Um, But, you know, in my opinion, those things, aren't gonna give you the, the level of professional success that you're looking for, especially early on. Um, and, and for most people, you're not gonna be able to get promoted and make a lot of money unless you do really have a good technical skill in what you're doing.
Um, so one would just be, you know, it's, it's okay to spend your early years just really learning and getting proficient at, uh, whatever aspect of fire protection or life safety you're doing. So whether that's. Designing sprinkler fire alarm systems in Revit, or doing hydraulic CALS or doing life safety, drawing reviews, whatever it is.
I think just, um, getting to be really good at those is something I, that I would focus, um, early on. And then I think another piece to go with that is, um, being, being really good technically, uh, will certainly help you to advance in your career. And, uh, I think. In our society, we will always have a need for good engineers.
Um, so I think you'll always have opportunities to work and, and practice your skill. Um, I do think though that if you're able to compliment that technical skill with getting, uh, good in one other field or one other area that compliments the technical stuff, um, that can really set you apart. Um, you know, I'm in the consulting industry.
So, you know, one thing that really interests me is, is business development and, and expanding client relationships. And I really try to, to pair that together with the technical skill and trying to be really good at the technical, uh, product or advice that I I'm offering to our client. But pairing that with building a strong relationship where.
I'm taking an interest in, in my clients, uh, who they are as people and what's going on in their life. And just kind of having that go side by side with the, the actual stuff we're doing for work. And, you know, I think. Uh, for many people, the, the, the business development stuff is interesting, but it doesn't have to be that it could also be, uh, you could be really good at technology and you can develop, uh, you know, some of these new tools that we're talking about, or you could be really good at leading teams and, and maybe you're just, uh, excelling at being a manager while also still doing engineer.
Um, there, there's almost a endless number of, of pairings that you can come up with there. But I think that if you're able to pair the good technical skill with being good in, in one of these other areas as well, it can make you really impactful and effective as an engineer. Yeah. Those, those are great things, you know, uh, being focused on the fundamentals and.
You know, setting yourself up for success, you know? Yeah. You're not gonna, you're not gonna get the promotion that you want or think you need. And even if you do, and you don't have concrete fundamentals, then, uh, it's not gonna do you much good because, uh, in consulting, uh, there's not much room for individuals who, um, don't know what they're talking about.
So yeah, that's a good one. And then, uh, I like what you said about just being diverse in your skillset and not just thinking that fire protection is the. Is the only thing in the world. Um, I think that, you know, uh, having, uh, varied focus and just, uh, skill set will, um, not only help you grow as a professional, but you'd be surprised on how much more.
You'll learn about fire protection. If you take time to learn about another discipline or you'll learn about, you know, the industry, if you take an interest in, you know, technology or, you know, being varied in your pursuits is, is always a good thing. So those are great tips. And guess one other that just kind of comes to mind as well, uh, would be, I, I think that people that, um, you know, experience some success early on in, in their career as an engineer, uh, they quickly find that there's this, uh, , we'll call it a phenomena that, uh, when you do good work, that people come back to you cuz they, they wanna work with you again.
Whether that's internal to your own company and just working with, uh, your coworkers or colleagues, uh, or if you're working with an external client. And so that's a great thing. Uh, you know, you do good work and that's, that's the best form of business development is repeat clients because they're a lot easier and, and cheaper to get.
And, uh, you already know who you're working with. But I, I think that it's very easy for engineers to get overwhelmed by the, the workload that, that comes across their desk. Once they, you know, get some early success with, with clients and, and they have to balance this, this huge demand of, of getting all of the engineering work done, but also writing proposals and, um, You know, filling out invoices and expense reports and all of the administrative stuff that goes along with, uh, doing engineering and that can very easily get overwhelming.
Um, I, I would definitely advise someone who's early on in their career to just, uh, develop a, some sort of time management or productivity system that that can try and just help you get through, uh, the immense amount of, uh, requests for information or the demands on your time that, that you have as an engineer.
And, you know, for me, one of the, the best books I've read on that subject is, uh, getting things done by David Allen. Um, he, he has a great productivity system there, um, that just involves keeping a simple to-do list and keeping that with you basically at all times. So I, I have that on my phone and almost always, um, when, when I have a, a thought coming to my mind of something that I need to do, I just pull out my phone really quick and, and type it in really quick.
And it it's amazing the, the mental load that, that takes off when you can, um, Take that thing outta your brain and put it down into a system that you trust it's gonna be there. So you know that the next morning when you start work or whenever it is that you've review that you've written it down and, and you're gonna get it done.
Um, so that's just one example. Uh, it's getting things done by David Allen. It's not the only one, but, uh, it's definitely one I would recommend. But even if you choose something else, I would say. Figure out a system that works for you that allows you to deal with all this, the, the stuff, the emails, the calls, and the, the things that grab your attention.
Um, because, uh, in, in my experience, as you, as your career goes on, uh, those demands only increase. They don't decrease. So figuring out early how to, uh, to, to work through them is really, I. Yeah, that's great advice. I love that advice because I've been needing to hear that recently from, uh, just, um, work and, you know, having to keep a, a word document or, uh, you know, notepad with all the things that I have to do in the list of projects I have.
And, you know, but then also just for your normal life, I am starting to have to keep a document for things that I need to get done, you know, projects for the house projects for, you know, Um, just whatever. So I end up having three lists, one for work, one for home, and then now one for the podcast. So yeah, you definitely need to be organized and, uh, just, uh, pick some way because if you just do, um, whatever somebody's asking you do at the time, then you're never gonna get anything done.
Um, and you're not gonna be prioritizing in the way that you need to. That's great advice. That's exactly right, is that, uh, you're not gonna be getting plenty of people get a lot of things done, but I think the important distinction that you just made is are you getting the things done that you need to, which is it's a different question, right?
You know, so part of that is prioritizing. Are you working on. The things that matter, right? So it's no longer just, are you working it's are you working on the right thing, which is, uh, really important to figure out it is, it is to tie that back into fire protection. You know, if you're working on laying out fire alarm devices, when you haven't sized your fire pump yet, then, uh, you're working out a sink there and, uh, somebody's gonna come along pretty quick and be like, so why are you making these architectural changes?
Like, you know, late in the design phase, you know, this affects everybody and. So it's important to, uh, prioritize and, uh, keep in mind, uh, what the big goals are, but that's awesome. Chris, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I just wanna be conscious of your time and yeah, thank you for the coming on.
And you had some great, uh, takeaways. Yeah, guys, thank you so much for having me. Uh, this was a great discussion and, um, certainly look forward to, uh, keeping in touch and, uh, yeah, maybe we can do it again sometime in the future. Definitely. 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.