Andrew Hemmelgarn

AGE: 33



How long have you been in the PHCP-PVF industry?

AH: 10 exciting years, each one with new and different challenges than the last. I started as a co-op student in my undergraduate years and never left.

What drew you into the industry?

AH: The people! This is an industry where ego will only take you so far. When challenges arise and tough decisions need to be made, the proverbial “Emperor with no clothes” quickly becomes apparent. Success really is made through honesty and integrity. Shortcuts are not cost savings if they jeopardize the building occupants. The job is not worth doing if it can’t be done completely without cutting corners. Quality people will tell you that upfront, instead of trying to make a quick buck; those are the people I look to for advice and support, and the type of mentor I hope to be to others. A team made up of quality people can do anything.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in the industry?

AH: That feeling of knowing how the world works “behind the scenes.” It is so often assumed that any space will have functioning HVAC, lights that turn on, outlets that work, toilets that flush, and the ability to get a drink of clean water. This is not the case without carefully thought-out, well-intentioned planning by the designer, engineer, and/or contractor. And when issues inevitably arise it is great to have the knowledge-base to diagnose likely causes of these issues and remedy them. Our experience through the world is not an accident nor is it random; much care, planning, and effort went into the space you may be sitting in right now.

What motivates you every day?

AH: My ability to impact the lives of hundreds or thousands of people through small, incremental decisions every day. KZF recently wrapped up design services for new fire station to be constructed in a local township. My hope is that a well-designed fire station will attract new talent into the fire-fighting industry, who will, in turn, go out in the community and save lives. Likewise, a well-designed school can be the catalyst to an effective learning environment for a student, inspiring a lifetime of learning. If my work can be a small part of the success of just one other person, it’s all worth it.

What is one thing you wish more people knew/understood about the PHCP-PVF industry?

AH: The extent to which the PHCP-PVF industry touches their lives and the importance of regulation and standardization. I like to make the case to new hires that the most important invention of the past few centuries is not the automobile, not the Internet, not even electricity. It is the lowly P-Trap. Almost every single plumbing fixture installed indoors has a P-Trap, which is what does the seemingly simple task of keeping noxious sewer gases in the sewer and not in your home or workspace. Maintaining the seal in these traps is the basis of effective waste and vent design, without it spaces become unoccupiable and dangerous for your health. For these reasons I am a firm believer that more people should understand these simple items that exist in their everyday lives and grant them the respect they deserve. My boss would make the case that electrical grounding is the biggest advancement of the past few centuries but that’s for another day.

What has been your proudest moment in your career so far?

AH: The proudest moment of my career so far was the moment I learned I had passed my Professional Engineering licensure exam. I had traditionally been a good test-taker; however, the PE exam made me rethink everything I knew regarding studying and exams. I first took the exam in April of 2020 and, like many others, failed my first attempt. I initially felt so disappointed and overwhelmed at the thought of the number of hours I “wasted” studying for the exam, the idea of taking it again felt discouraging. I considered, as I’m sure many others have, if this was really what I was meant to be doing and if I belonged in this industry. That sense of imposter syndrome drove my second round of studying. When October arrived I felt confident and ready to tackle the exam again. This time I was successful and upon notice I immediately jumped out of my seat and proclaimed to the heavens “I’M AN ENGINEER!” eliciting a number of looks from the office. My education that began in 2009 had finally culminated to a professional licensure I am proud to hold and use every day to make a difference in our built environment.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

AH: I initially started my engineering career in pursuit of a career in acoustic engineering. My intent was to optimize theaters, auditoriums and stages for the exact audio frequencies intended for the space. I researched decibel levels, octave bands, and sound mitigation techniques. While learning more about building design and construction I was exposed to the plumbing engineering community. Plumbing hooked me and now I still get to impact the acoustics in theater spaces, albeit through the flushing of the toilets instead of the performers.