The 2018 ASPE Convention & Expo saw some major changes, particularly within the ASPE Young Professionals ranks. AYP Liaison Blair Minyard was voted onto the national Board of Directors as its vice president, education, leaving a spot to be filled. Enter Christoph Lohr, P.E., in the Phoenix offices of Henderson Engineers.
pme recently spoke with Lohr about his goals with the new position, industry trends and more.
pme: How did you find out you’d be the new AYP Liaison? What does it mean to you to get this new role?
CL: I had numerous conversations with outgoing AYP Liaison Blair Minyard about wanting to help ASPE and the plumbing industry further, some of my ideas to do so, and some of the steps I was already doing in Phoenix. She thought to take my suggestions to the board, which ended up getting my name in front of our new ASPE President Carol Johnson, of Hoover, Alabama-based Edmonds Engineering. Carol and I had several conversations, too, and I expressed my interest in serving as AYP Liaison for the Society, should she appoint me. The rest, as we say, is history.
Ever since “converting” from designing HVAC (and plumbing) to plumbing (only), I have developed a passion for improving the standing of the plumbing industry. For so many years plumbing design was an afterthought, but with the rise of new technologies, water scarcity, new water-pathogen concerns, medical gas health concerns, among other challenges, in my eyes, plumbing design is no longer a subset of mechanical/HVAC. Rather, plumbing engineering and HVAC engineering are now two sides of the same “mechanical” coin.
Plumbing design increasingly requires specialization and understanding of a host of topics, not only including water and waste, but also medical and laboratory gases, water chemistry, microbiology, statistical analysis, among others. It is becoming much more difficult to know everything required for plumbing and HVAC at the same time, which means that the two sides of the coin are starting to even out in importance.
What this position means to me is that I can help to “elevate plumbing” in the construction industry and help make a better ASPE for our current and new members. More than anything, I’m excited to help ASPE and the industry and be a voice for our incredible young members.
pme: How long have you been associated with AYP? How have you seen it grow?
CL: I’ve been associated with AYP since its inception and attended a number of events with the Phoenix chapter. Having been the AYP Region 4 Liaison, I had the opportunity to speak with most of the Region 4 chapter liaisons and it was amazing to me to see the activities that AYP chapters across the country did. The Portland (Oregon) chapter’s involvement in Portland University, Orange County’s involvement in San Diego State, or the San Francisco chapter hosting billiards networking events, seeing how involved AYP has become in the different facets of the industry and academia in representing ASPE has been incredibly remarkable to me.
pme: What have been some of the key benchmarks for AYP since it began?
CL: This is most apparent when you look at the average age of membership for ASPE which reduced from 55 down to 49 years old, while overall membership has increased by 10%. That’s in large part to ASPE’s focus on bringing in young new members.
pme: What are your goals as AYP Liaison? How do intend to meet those goals?
CL: AYP has a great foundation of camaraderie and instilling passion and fun into our youngest ASPE members, so my goal is to continue the trajectory and build on AYP’s initial successes. One of the things I’ve heard in some of my initial conversations since becoming AYP Liaison is many AYPs desire a focus on professional education and mentoring. My first goal for the next two years is to try and get the best possible professional-development speakers for our AYP Leadership Academy, and also get additional professional-development workshops and webinars throughout the year.
Finally, I’d like to see AYP and ASPE engaging engineering students on a more regular basis. I’d like to see AYP engage engineering students in at least 50% of the chapters. By engaging the brightest and best minds early in their studies, perhaps we can bring them into the plumbing engineering field.
pme: What are some of the best benefits someone who is on the fence about committing to AYP can receive?
CL: First, you join a group of like-minded individuals who want to further their careers while building their network. Whether you work in a firm with one or 100 other plumbing engineers, having a network of friendly faces can make you feel a little more ingrained in the industry.
Secondly, getting the opportunity to attend professional-development sessions, like the AYP Leadership Academy, are a great way to further yourself, which can only help your career.
pme: What are some technical issues in the design industry that you as an engineer are seeing? Why are these issues top of mind?
CL: I think there are a host of challenges that we in the plumbing industry are seeing:
1. Fresh water is becoming a more and more scarce resource. While commercial and residential water accounts for about 10% of all freshwater use (compared to 50% for power generation), I imagine plumbing engineers and designers will have a role to play in solving these issues in the future;
2. Constructability issues in engineering design and the impact of BIM — minimizing the number of errors/omissions on plans and in models;
3. Medical (and dental) gas system design and installation — every year we have too many injuries and deaths from medical gas systems being improperly designed/installed. Improved training, certifications and specialization will be required to make sure we improve the overall safety of these systems; and
4. Finding way to mitigate the risk of Legionella is paramount. Protecting the public health and safety is the most important thing we do. Some of the ways we used to do plumbing design perpetuated the risk of outbreaks. In the future, plumbing design will need to consider water chemistry and microbiology, and standardizing our design methodology to minimize this risk is important.
pme: Where do you see AYP being in the next three to five years?
CL: I see AYP continuing to grow, while not losing sight of the networking and relationship-building opportunities, but becoming a professional development pipeline into ASPE, and thereby improving the Society and industry as a whole. I personally hope to see AYPs membership account for 40% of all members in five years — something I think is very possible if we AYP’s begin to engage students across the country.