Keith Schloemer, LEED AP, KLH Engineers

Keith Schloemer. Photo courtesy of KLH Engineers.

Keith Schloemer, LEED AP, is a plumbing and fire protection designer for Fort Thomas, Ky.-basedKLH Engineers. A member of the firm since 1994, Schloemer, who successfully completed the CIPE examination in 2002, has designed plumbing and fire protection systems for multiple commercial applications. A member of NFPA and ASPE, Schloemer talked topmerecently about a variety of subjects, including the evolution of fire protection engineering and green building practices.

pme: What has been the biggest change in fire protection design in recent years?

KS:The influx of new methods, materials and technologies specifically designed to suppress certain types of fires and protect the assets within the protected area. There are many different clean-agent systems designed to suppress fires by taking away different parts of the fire triangle. Some reduce the oxygen level to a point that can no longer sustain combustion. Others absorb the heat from a fire, which cools it to a point that extinguishes it. There have been major advancements with newly developed fluids that appear to have the same properties of water, but are nonconductive and can suppress fires in areas such as computer rooms without damaging energized equipment and without leaving residue behind.

pme: What is the key to a top-notch fire protection design?

KS:It starts with a designer/engineer that knows the intricacies of building codes, fire codes and particularly NFPA guidelines.

pme: What types of new products/systems do you enjoy learning about?

KS:I really like the concept of siphonic roof drainage and feel if the architectural and engineering industry embraces it, it will not be long before it becomes the standard for handling building storm water. The 2012 International Plumbing Code is slated to include a section for siphonic roof drainage, which will pave the way for plumbing engineers to incorporate siphonic roof designs in their projects.

pme: Has the green phenomenon been maxed out or is there still room for growth?

KS:I believe the green movement has lost a little of the luster that it once had, but mainly only because everybody seems to be more aware of it. There will always be room for new green technologies, ideas, materials and efficient designs. As we continue to deplete natural resources and negatively affect the environment, the need will grow stronger to develop more sustainable products, ideas, designs and practices.

pme: What are your goals heading into designing a system(s)?

KS:The broad goal of every project is to satisfy our clients, which in most cases are the owner and the architect. KLH’s mission statement is to be the obvious choice for engineering services because of the value and technical excellence we provide. For most projects, our contract is with the architect. For some, our contract is with the owner. Regardless of the contract, we consider the architect and the owner our client. There are many engineering firms with the technical expertise to provide a good set of engineering documents. However, in order to become the obvious choice, we must set ourselves apart by providing incomparable service to our clients. A sound design that falls short of the client’s expectations or a design that exceeds their budget should be considered a failure. Serving the client involves understanding their needs, working within the budget, meeting all deadlines within the project schedule and being responsive.

pme: How much do building aesthetics come into play?

KS:Building aesthetics have always been a design consideration, but it seems our architectural clients are pushing the envelope even more lately with maximizing ceiling heights and minimizing spaces for mechanical and electrical spaces. BIM technologies allow for tighter coordination, which raises the expectations for us to take advantage of maximizing the square-footage within a building for usable space.

pme: Your advice for a young engineer/designer coming out of college?

KS:Take the time to find the right opportunity. There is more to a job opportunity than just the salary. There are other benefits to consider when you look for the best overall opportunity. Consider things such as medical benefits, potential for ownership, bonuses, profit-sharing, 401K, employer 401K match, long-term disability and life insurance, flextime, education reimbursement, onsite fitness facilities, free parking, and the people and the work environment. Don’t be afraid to put in overtime even if you do not see any direct compensation for doing so. Your efforts can gain your employer’s loyalty, respect from your co-workers, the possibility of promotions and bonuses and experience. Every hour you work, you are gaining experience that will allow you to learn faster and should allow you to reach your goals quicker.