A PM Engineer Interview With New ASPE President David Chin, P.E., CIPE/CPD
David Chin took over as ASPE's new President for a two-year term beginning at last Fall's ASPE Convention in Nashville. A former pre-med student, he has worked as an engineer for more than 30 years. David has been involved with ASPE at the chapter level since 1980 and has been a board member with the national Society since 1994. He is director of project management and an associate engineer with Sevier Siskowic Engineers, Inc., San Diego, CA.
PME: What are some of the changes you've seen in the national organization since you've been involved with it?
David Chin: Growth, technical products and services, and delivery of services. It took ASPE 30 years to reach 6,500 members. In just the last two years, we've exceeded 7,500. The Society has exponentially expanded its offerings of technical and professional materials and services--from the Data Book to specialized technical manuals such as the Domestic Water Heating Design Manual. Perhaps the biggest change has been in the growth and professionalism of the staff. Having a professional headquarters staff has permitted the Society to begin moving forward and achieving greater growth.
What do you see to be the major strengths of ASPE?
I see two major strengths. First, the ability to create and distribute technical and professional materials and services for the plumbing engineer and designer. Second, the willingness by the membership to share. More than in many other organizations, the people of ASPE are very willing to help and to share. There is little professional jealousy, which provides for close-knit peer group relationships.
What about any weaknesses in the organization?
I view the world in positive terms. I'm more of a half-full glass kind of guy rather than a half-empty glass type. It's not a matter of weaknesses. It is a matter of opportunities: seeing them, finding them, creating them and then exploiting them. It's one step at a time, constantly moving forward to create the foundations upon which to build the Society's future. It's a case of people growing together.
What will be your main priorities as ASPE president?
I have three major priorities for the next year. First, improving communications. It is vital that all of the Society's leadership tiers, from the Board to the Chapter officers, share information and be aware of the issues and the facts.
Second, I want to be sure that there is a sound foundation of communication with the membership. The membership deserves to know what is happening and what is being planned as it occurs, not after the fact. I want to ensure that the membership is aware of what the Society is doing.
Finally, for the next year, I want to provide the membership with maximum benefit and value for his/her membership dollars. Everything from increased and improved technical and professional products and services to enhanced programs to help the individual.
What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing plumbing engineers today?
The biggest challenge today is tomorrow. Tomorrow in terms of the future of plumbing engineering and design--especially its growth and professionalism.
The future of plumbing engineering is not just earthbound. It is also in the designing of plumbing and piping systems for space and future colonization of other worlds.
That there is a future is assured. The challenge then, is to inform and educate, with the emphasis on education.
What can ASPE do to help fulfill this function?
The Society is becoming involved with the education community. It's important that the youth of today be informed. It's a matter of reaching out and educating. Plumbing engineering and design is more than the stigmatized concept of "just a plumber."
The Society is in touch with and becoming more involved with colleges and universities. On one front, there is the creation of a plumbing engineering curriculum that is being developed in association with the University of Wisconsin's engineering department. The ASPE Research Foundation is trying to establish a significant working project relationship with the University of Houston. Andof course, the Society is annually active in the promotion of Engineering Week.
Do you see any role that ASPE can play in somehow moving the national code organizations toward a single model plumbing code that would serve the interests of plumbing engineers?
The Society supports the concept of a single national, and perhaps worldwide, model plumbing code. The biggest barrier, as admitted by the involved independent organizations, is a combination of politics and finances. It is difficult to overcome the buildup of ego and protectionism that has occurred over time. That a single code will prevail would seem to be a foregone conclusion now that it has begun receiving more and more attention. Wouldn't it be beneficial to all, and especially the organizations involved, to cooperate and remain the BMOCs (Big Men On Codes)?
It's been announced that Messe Frankfurt, Inc., the organization that puts on the world's largest plumbing trade show in Germany (ISH), has taken over the former NEX show from PHCC and the American Supply Association. In 2002, they will be promoting a new trade show called ISH North America. Messe Frankfurt, like the former NEX sponsors, would love to consolidate the ASPE Engineered Plumbing Exposition into its event. Does the ISH connection make it more likely that ASPE will choose to link up with this show in the foreseeable future?
What a great question. Interestingly, and perhaps little known, it has been ASPE that has been at the forefront of trying to achieve the concept of an ISHARPPE Exposition (International Sanitation, Heating, Air-Conditioning, Refrigeration, Plumbing, Piping and Equipment). In fact, the ISHARPPE acronym was trademarked, and the "founders" were to be ASPE and the organizations that made up the NEX partnership.
Even more interesting is that ASPE's executive director had been a driving force to get this founder group to meet and contact other organizations to discuss the creation of ISHARPPE. The Frankfurt group, ISH, was one of those contacted to join with the new show concept. At one of the meetings, ISH made it known that with or without this new "founder" group, it was coming to North America, and soon.
Sadly, and for whatever reason, the NEX partners decided to "jump" on what it perceives may be the bandwagon it needs to survive. We wish them well.
However, while ASPE advocates and will continue to work for a major international ISHARPPE Exposition, for the time being, the Society believes that there remains a place for its small boutique trade show dedicated to the plumbing engineer, designer and specifier portion of the plumbing industry.
Do you think it's a good idea for ASPE to ally with ISH North America then?
ASPE has actually been a proponent of a combined major industry show. What has been of concern to ASPE is to simply try to link into a large Plumbing Industry-only type show.
ASPE has dual main concerns: first, for its membership constituency--the plumbing engineer, designer and specifier; and second, for its exhibitor/manufacturer constituency. We do not want to see either disappointed or disillusioned.
The simple fact is that the ASPE member constituency is made up of engineers interested in the technical aspects of a manufacturer's products and services, not the decorator design aspects. The success of the ASPE show is the quality of the exposition attendees. The show is for engineers and specifiers, as are the products shown. It's a good match.
Combining shows simply for the sake of consolidation may not be in everyone's best interests, nor produce the result expected. For ASPE, there are three simple important issues. One, getting the largest possible audience of qualified plumbing engineers and specifiers onto an exposition floor to view and discuss the technical aspects of a manufacturer's products and services. Two, having exhibitors on the exposition floor that have a product or service for the large residential development, commercial, industrial and public use segments of the plumbing industry. Three, to ensure that the attendees and exhibitors maximize the professional and education experiences and opportunities on the exposition floor.
When your term of office concludes, how do you think this organization will be changed from what it is today?
Recognition. At the conclusion of my term of office, I want to be sure the world knows and appreciates what a plumbing engineer is, what a plumbing engineer does, and what ASPE is and does.
To do this will require a concerted effort and information program to inform the general public, the general engineering audience, architects and consulting engineers what a professional plumbing engineer and designer is and does. An important aspect of this information dissemination will be explaining the ASPE Certified In Plumbing Engineering (CIPE)/Certified Plumbing Designer (CPD) program.
I want the world to know what ASPE is and what the plumbing engineering profession is about. They should both be "household" words in the engineering profession and plumbing industry. I want engineering and architectural firms to DEMAND a plumbing engineer that is an ASPE member and a recognized CIPE/CPD.
Is there anything we haven't discussed that you feel important to mention?
It is important for everyone to remember that the membership is the Society. There is no ASPE without its members.