Issue: 11/03

PM Engineer is proud to announce that Henderson Engineers, Inc. (HEI) has been named PME's Engineering Firm of the Year for 2003. HEI is a mechanical, electrical, plumbing and civil engineering design firm headquartered in the Kansas City metropolitan area, with branch locations in Houston, TX, and Bentonville, AR.

Although we received a number of highly qualified entries, HEI was chosen as the firm that best exemplified the six criteria established for this award: innovation in design, ability to meet schedules, completeness and thoroughness, industry involvement, community involvement and customer satisfaction.

Company History

The firm was founded in 1970 by Fran Henderson, with the idea that employees were the foundation of a successful business, and solid family values were the foundation of a successful employee.

In 1987 Duane Henderson, Fran's son, joined the firm. In 1990, he became the driving force of Henderson Engineers as the company's new CEO. Duane continued promoting Fran's founding principles in addition to a strong focus on the "we" versus the "I" concept. Proud of the quality personnel Henderson Engineers has attracted, Duane now shares the leadership responsibilities with a team of 20 partners, including his brother, Doug Henderson, who manages the company's largest client.

HEI is built on the premise of long-term client relationships, as well as a successful process and product. This philosophy has proven worthy, as illustrated by a 700% growth from 1993 to 2003. The company has a staff of over 200, six internal design teams, each created by a specialty market niche, and licensure in all 50 states. Additionally, Henderson Engineers has the capacity and capability to design projects on a national and regional basis, ranging from new construction to challenging renovations, roll-outs, big-box retail and tenant finish.

HEI has remodeled several high-end retail buildings.

Innovation in Design

HEI's engineers believe that successful design is a balance between proven strategies, code compliance, life cycle costs and innovative systems. All of HEI's designs must meet owner requirements and applicable local code restrictions, both of which can limit the amount of innovation in a design, particularly when low installed cost and reliability are usually primary objectives. Nonetheless, HEI has been able to incorporate innovation into several reputable projects and/or markets. Here are some examples:

  • Remodeling Existing Buildings for High-End Retail Design in Various Locations
  • HEI has had the opportunity to remodel numerous luxury retail spaces located across the country. The clients involved include Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Stuart Weitzman, Tiffany, Swarovski, Gucci and Sergio Rossi. The locations ranged from Canada throughout the United States, into Mexico, Hawaii and the Virgin Islands. The challenge of these projects is always to meet and surpass the client's goals and objectives, while accommodating all codes and regulations within the existing communities. In one example, HEI's engineers participated in the transformation of a single-story building located on Rodeo Drive into a three-story building with a meditation garden and reflecting pool on the roof. In another case, a 100-year-old building was revamped to today's standards without disrupting the existing building's wooden structure. The most challenging part of these projects was the need to replace or install the necessary modifications to the tenant spaces without disturbing the surrounding high-end retailers and clients.

  • Subterranean Project Design
  • Subterranean projects have been part of HEI's portfolio since 1998. These types of projects are challenging and rewarding, as they afford HEI's design team the opportunity to bend the rules of the plumbing world. Projects of this type include warehouse storage for major trucking lines; file and document storage warehouses for doctors, lawyers, and state and governmental agents; and offices. And because it is 60 to 100 feet below surface level, water design has to be approached in a completely different light. Below ground, pressure-reducing valves and flow restrictors have to be installed on all plumbing systems because of the excessive pressure on the systems. In subterranean work, all waste systems must be collected and pumped out. Consideration on these projects has to be given to ground water, humidity and condensate waste, rain and snow brought in by vehicles, and sanitary sewers. Venting is another key issue. The plumbing designers must vent all systems out to the major subterranean roadways because the roadways are what move ventilation through the subterranean environment.

  • Medical Facility Projects in Various Locations
  • Since 1994, Henderson Engineers has successfully completed numerous design challenges for various regional hospitals. A key consideration in these projects was that construction of additions and renovations had to take place while the hospitals remained operational. Through careful coordination with the architect and hospital staff, systems were strategically designed that would maintain service to the existing areas while new systems were being installed to serve the new additions. Medical gas systems were especially difficult, in that shutdown was limited due to the life support characteristics and requirements for patient care.

  • Eaton Hall, School of Engineering Building, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
  • This new 74,000-sq.-ft. facility was built over an existing steam tunnel, which ran through the center of the building. The top of the steam tunnel was even with the finished grade. The University stipulated that no sanitary or storm piping penetrate this tunnel. HEI helped coordinate the optimal roof design with the architect and structural engineer to get all of the rainleaders through the building, over the steam tunnel and out to the storm retention system located on the opposite side of the building.

    This project was awarded ASHRAE's 2003 Technology Award for the Kansas City, MO, Chapter and Region.

  • Memorial Hall Sewer Project, Kansas City, KS
  • Memorial Hall, built in 1928, is a multi-use auditorium that was in need of a new sanitary sewer line. The existing clay tile line combined sanitary and storm service to a manhole that posed serious problems. Excavating near this manhole would undermine the footings of the back of the five-story auditorium retaining wall. The solution was to tunnel bore through the retaining wall, under the service drive and into the building. A concrete box was set above grade, adjacent to the retaining wall, and the sanitary service line was installed inside and connected to the existing sewer. In this way, the retaining wall footing was not compromised. The existing sanitary building drain was connected to the new sanitary service from inside the building. The existing downspouts were separated from the combined service by discharging them through the curbs in the street. The existing combined sanitary and storm service was abandoned in place. The manhole was never touched and will be abandoned in the future.

  • Shawnee Mission Medical Center Hyperbaric Chamber, Shawnee, KS
  • During the design of the Hyperbaric Chamber Addition at Shawnee Mission Medical Center, HEI was faced with the task of providing high pressure oxygen and medical air to two newly added chambers. The new systems require proper pressurization in order to effectively treat victims of burns and other skin ailments. The facility originally had 55 psi medical gas systems, but through research and communication with the chamber manufacturer, HEI found that a minimum of 70 psi was required at the chamber controls. Therefore, a separate pressure regulator was provided at the bulk oxygen tank outside the building, and a new oxygen supply line was routed to the addition. For high pressure medical air supply, HEI saved the owner time and money by designing a manifold system in lieu of routing 500 feet of new piping above existing corridor ceilings back to the medical air compressor in the mechanical room, along with a new pressure regulator. Zone valve boxes and area alarm panels were provided to meet NFPA 99 requirements.

  • Oliver Hall Water Heater Replacement, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
  • Built in 1964, Oliver Hall is a dormitory housing a cafeteria for 660 students. The existing storage-type steam hot water generator tank had reached the end of its useful life. Henderson Engineers performed a hot water system demand analysis to determine if a pair of instantaneous steam hot water generators could replace the existing storage tank system. The University had replaced the original dishwasher, pot washer and steam booster heater with more water efficient units. Also, all of the showerheads had been replaced with 2.5 gpm heads. The analysis proved that a pair of instantaneous heaters operating at 120°F had a lower steam demand than the existing system. HEI was the prime consultant for the system replacement.

  • Old Mission Methodist Church, Mission, KS
  • Many of Henderson's projects in the past have involved renovations and additions to historic buildings. An intriguing project was the addition to the Old Mission Methodist Church, a 100-year-old church located in mid-town metropolitan Kansas City. As the design phase started, field investigations revealed that the church was built on the edge of a flood plain, often resulting in flooding of a return air tunnel below the church's basement. Further site investigation revealed that the church's utility system had been stretched to its limits. The church had an existing 4" combination sanitary/storm waste line that was served via a sump pump. This line collected the building's sanitary waste system, all the roof drainage, and also serviced the building's foundation and below grade duct system drain lines. It became apparent that these services were going to have to be upgraded and replaced. But the challenging component was that all these utilities were located within the heart of the basement, as a result of the facility's past expansions that had all been done around the existing building. Before the actual remodel project could begin, HEI's engineers had to come up with a plan that would remove and relocate the existing utilities, while keeping the church and school operational. This included installing new sanitary and storm sump pump systems, as well as designing a new foundation, below grade duct work and roof drainage systems.

    Schedule Control

    The ability to meet schedules and deadlines is paramount to the success of any engineering firm. When Henderson Engineers was awarded a large portion of Wal-Mart work in 1989, meeting every deadline and assurance of quality control were the absolute hot buttons for this client.

    Accommodating Wal-Mart's aggressive construction program was a huge challenge for Henderson Engineers, yet an excellent opportunity to develop, implement and establish internal processes and standards in relation to large-scale, high volume clients/projects. As a result of these successful standards, HEI has been able to apply them to numerous other projects throughout the company.

    Through the use of Microsoft Outlook and Excel, HEI produces a weekly master document illustrating all project schedules throughout the company, as well as specific team schedules. Each team leader is intimately familiar with the specialized components involved in their team's project type, and carefully assigns the appropriate project to the various team members. As project schedules and scopes fluctuate, the project managers and team leaders take advantage of the inherent flexibility of six internal design teams to shift staff to accommodate the changing schedules. The overall schedules are monitored on a consistent basis, and adjustments in staffing are continual.

    The Shawnee Mission Medical Center hyperbaric chamber was one of HEI's design projects.

    Completeness and Thoroughness

    HEI's partners and project managers know that completeness and thoroughness are imperative in the success of not only a project, but a company's reputation and overall success. Henderson Engineers has been committed to this issue since the inception of the firm, and ensures that accurate drawings and specifications are produced, maintained and updated by its staff on a regular basis. To facilitate this, the president of the company developed and implemented a full-time, in-house Quality Control Team. This team consists of Ken Biesma, P.E., partner and director of mechanical engineering; Tom Montgomery, P.E., director of electrical engineering; and Warren Rosenbrook, P.E. CPD, associate and director of plumbing engineering. These three team members combined have over 75 years of experience in the industry.

    The role of the Quality Control Team is to develop and implement processes and procedures to ensure that all company and industry standards are understood and followed. They are also responsible for the coordination and integration of company-wide discipline-specific training programs.

    The Quality Control process that is applied to every project handled by HEI's staff includes:

    • Completion of discipline-specific QC check lists;

    • Daily involvement and decision-making by the principal-in-charge, thereby drawing on his/her experience in economical design, document preparation and coordination;

    • Ongoing quality control by the project manager and/or lead engineers; and

    • Independent review by the HEI "QC Team."

    HEI has designed a number of challenging MEP systems like this one.

    Industry Involvement

    The principals at Henderson Engineers believe that industry involvement is the means to continuing education for this specialized industry. To promote this endeavor, HEI pays the cost of professional memberships for its employees. The following is a representation of HEI's industry involvement:

    • Over 25% of HEI's workforce is made up of licensed professional engineers.

    • The fire protection director is a past president of the American Society of Fire Protection Engineers-Kansas City Chapter.

    • The director of Plumbing Engineering is the current president of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers-Kansas City Chapter and has been an ASPE member for 15 years.

    • A member of the Plumbing Department is currently treasurer of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers-Kansas City Chapter.

    • The firm boasts LEED-accredited partners and membership involvement in the local USGBC.

    • The firm takes a proactive approach with weekly "lunch and learn" seminars to remain abreast of the latest industry trends and products.

    • One staff member is the ASPE representative to the Kansas City Joint Engineering Council.

    Specific industry memberships include the Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), ASPE, Building Industry Consulting Services International (BICSI), Building Officials and Code Administrators International (BOCA), the Society of Human Resources Management, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), Kansas City Area Hospital Engineers (KCAHE), the Missouri Society of Professional Engineers (MSPE), the National Council for Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), and the Society of Professional Engineers for the A/E/C Industry (SMPS).

    Community Involvement

    Henderson Engineers has been in the Kansas City metropolitan area for over 30 years. The area has been an excellent home base for the company, providing a progressive area with numerous professional opportunities. In return, Henderson Engineers and its employees have been involved in various community activities to not only show appreciation for the thriving Kansas City area, but recognition as well.

    HEI's community involvement includes over $50,000 in donations to local charities, participation in Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that organizes volunteers to build housing for those in need of adequate shelter, and Toys for Tots, a fund-raising and support organization for annual toy collection and distribution campaigns. This past year, HEI participated in the Kansas City Corporate Challenge, an Olympic-type event that allows Kansas City area corporations to interact with each other through sporting events. HEI also provides pro-bono engineering services for a variety of churches and charities in need. In addition, the firm's staff provides support and participation in the MS150, a cycling fundraiser organized by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, as well as the Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Walk. Other charitable actions include participation in Salvation Army bell ringing, Adopt a Highway projects, and the holiday "Adopt a Family" program through the Don Bosco Community Center, Kansas City, MO. The "Adopt a Family" program was founded in 1940 and provides a nurturing environment through recreational and educational programs on "Helping People Build Better Lives."

    Customer Satisfaction

    As a team of professionals, Henderson Engineers values and promotes integrity, honesty, trust, enthusiasm and a sense of understanding. It is the company's mission to provide a service that assists the client with a need or solution to a problem, and the stronger the relationship, the smoother the process. To demonstrate this philosophy, HEI is still designing projects for the company's very first client from 1970, and for the past 14 years, HEI has been producing quality designs for the largest retailer and largest corporation in the world. By associating with people who hold the same values and belief system, long-standing relationships are developed and maintained, resulting in competent designs and exceptional client service.

    The firm's clients often cite its staff members' responsiveness as a reason for their high satisfaction level with HEI. It is an HEI company policy to return phone calls in one day--whether it is a client, contractor or supplier. HEI's principals believe that to be responsive, the company has to take a team approach, relying on the philosophy: "If a problem arises, we huddle, and then we fix it."

    Chris Rhea, president of BRR Architects, explained why he continues to work with the professionals at HEI: "Henderson Engineers has been our primary MEP consultant for more than 30 years. Our trust and confidence in HEI is a direct result of their flexibility, responsiveness and proven ability to handle multiple project types in multiple locations nationwide."

    Rhea's feelings were echoed by Christina Sternberg of AMC Theatres, Inc.: "Our relationship with Henderson Engineers is based on professionalism, dependability and trust. Having worked on our Corporate Office Headquarters and our national, industry-leading multi-cinema building program, Henderson Engineers provides us with a diverse level of technical expertise delivered by quality personnel."

    Fred Barden, Associate Corporate Architect for Applebee's International, Inc., added his own impressions of the company and its staff: "We have enjoyed a long-term relationship with Henderson Engineers. Exceptional service, fair pricing and on-time delivery has made them our engineers of choice."

    Visit for more information on Henderson Engineers, Inc.

    Honorable Mention: TAI Engineers

    PMEwould like to award an Honorable Mention to TAI Engineers of Owings Mills, MD, our first runner-up in the Engineering Firm of the Year contest for 2003.

    TAI specializes in process piping design for the chemical, pharmaceutical and general industrial manufacturing industries. Through the use of highly talented and experienced piping engineers and designers, TAI provides designs focused heavily on maintaining the installation easily, cost effectively and with limited or no unwanted hazards to maintenance technicians.

    In the 14 years that TAI has been providing engineering, management and technical services, customer satisfaction and repeat business have become the lifeblood of the business. Nearly 85% of TAI's annual business revenue comes from customers that have previously experienced working with TAI personnel.

    The firm's staff is well qualified to complete several disciplines of engineering design, including mechanical, electrical and structural CADD drawings. These professionals are able to perform on a variety of different projects so that there is minimal time where a project is not being progressed toward completion.

    TAI Engineers are members of local chapters of professional engineering societies including ASME and ASPE, as well as the Baltimore-based organization for the support of local manufacturing industry, MITA.

    TAI has also been involved in numerous local community organizations, most notably the annual Christmas gifts drive at a local Baltimore orphanage. Annually, a high percentage of TAI employees donate both their time and finances to help kids who would otherwise receive very little during the Christmas holiday season. Periodically TAI also provides donations to local organizations that work with kids, including gymnastics and other sports-oriented activities.

    For more information, contact TAI Engineers at 11459 Cronhill Drive, Suite A, Owings Mills, MD 21117, (410) 356-3108, Fax (410) 356-3109,