Keeping It Real with Joseph Klapheke

The Keeping it Real series is your chance to hear from Allen & Shariff staff on life, lessons, and leadership, straight from the trenches. Sometimes literally.

Name and Title: Joe Klapheke, Senior Mechanical Engineer
Office location: Pittsburgh North
Years at Allen & Shariff: 4 years


What’s the one skill that you would say is essential to being a great designer?
Being able to think in 3-D over time.  After all, there’s only so much room in the plenum.

What is the most innovative advancement you’ve seen in mechanical design since you first started your career? How has it affected the industry?
For better or worse, high speed internet.  The remarkable amount of information that can be sent and received instantaneously has transformed this and, I would imagine, most industries in ways that have accelerated the design and coordination of buildings and for that matter, entire campuses.

Describe something from your past (school, work experience, a mentor) that most influenced you to become a designer.
I’m a 3rd generation engineer.  I can safely say that my lineage is a tremendous part of why I am a mechanical engineer.  Even when I was little I liked to draw buildings and put things together.

Favorite sports team?
Hands down, Penn State Football.  WE ARE!!!!

If someone asked you to describe your unique approach to problem solving, what would you say?
I like to make a list of tasks that need to be achieved, put them in order, and then finish them as thoroughly as possible.  Then, fill in the holes that inevitably show up as the problem evolves until it’s solved.

What’s the #1 “rookie mistake” you see in those just starting out their career in your field? Explain.
At the beginning of my career, I would often be responsible for giving presentations to clients.  Typically, we would perform PowerPoint presentations using the client’s own computers from a CD that we would make prior to the presentation.  I made the unfortunate mistake of forgetting to make sure that the disk that was supposed to have the presentation on it was, in fact, ready to go.  It was blank.  I didn’t live that one down for a while.  With that in mind, I would say that not back checking your work, even when it is a simple thing, is a very common “rookie mistake”.

What’s the single most important ingredient when it comes to a successful client relationship?
Trust.  It takes a long time to be earned and is even more difficult to get once lost.

How would you describe the company culture at Allen & Shariff?
It is a culture where a lot of different personalities can come together to make something bigger than any one individual could do.

If Allen & Shariff were a car, what kind of car would it be and why?
A well-used truck.  It might have some dents and scratches, but it gets everyone where they need to go carrying whatever needs to be taken.

What book(s) are on your nightstand right now?
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I can’t help myself.

Keeping It Real with Chuck Booze


The Keeping it Real series is your chance to hear from Allen & Shariff staff on life, lessons, and leadership, straight from the trenches. Sometimes literally.

Name: Chuck Booze – Senior Electrical Designer
Office: Salisbury
Years at Allen & Shariff: 2 years


What’s the one skill that you would say is essential to be a great designer?
Thoroughness.

What is the most innovative advancement you’ve seen in electrical engineering design since you first started your career? How has it affected the industry?
I would say most recently it is the application of energy codes. These codes have sparked many advancements, such as lighting controls and load management. Trying to design using these controls as economically as possible is challenging.

Describe something from your past (school, work experience, a mentor) that most influenced you to become a designer.
Coming into design from the contracting side, I would say that it was my extensive use of engineered drawings to complete work. I was electrical, but more often than not, I had full sets of MEP’s and ARCH’s. I also did HVAC control install. I had the opportunity to see drawings from numerous architects and engineers, and gained a lot of experience dealing with the other trades.

Maryland: Eastern shore or mainland?
Eastern Shore. I was born and grew up in Cambridge. I currently reside in Salisbury.

If someone asked you to describe your unique approach to problem solving, what would you say?
I don’t think my approach is unique. When I was in my apprenticeship class, we had a very good teacher. When we had a question, our teacher would almost always say, “You have a code book, look it up.”

Allen & Shariff is celebrating its 25th anniversary. What do you think has given this organization its staying power?
A commitment to doing the job right!

What’s the coolest Allen & Shariff project you’ve been part of?
I would have to say the electrical service mapping project at Wallops Island. The Blue Angels use Wallops as a staging/practice area during the Ocean City air show. Doing a site survey and listening to the roar of an F-18 Hornet just outside, and going out and watching them take off from about 400 feet away is a memorable experience.

What’s the #1 “rookie mistake” you see in those just starting out their career in your field? Explain.
My design career has only been 16 months long, so I feel that I fall into the “rookie” category. For me, it is QC. Back checking myself and getting others to back check my work. Even at my age, 53, I had to “get over” the feelings that I don’t have to be perfect.

Do you have a personal hero? Someone that really inspires you in your professional or personal life?
As a kid, it was Brooks Robinson. I loved baseball and I read multiple books about him. He was a great player who has always been described as a better person. As an adult, it falls back to my father. He is where I received my work ethic and moral compass.

How would you describe the company culture at Allen & Shariff?
Simple: It’s a team. Different players have different talents that can be put on the field to move the ball forward.

If Allen & Shariff were a car, what kind of car would it be and why?
Probably a 1993 (25 years old) model – that part doesn’t matter, but it has been customized, accessorized, had body work done, repainted a couple of times, has had multiple sets of new tires, re-alignments, and oil changes. Still on the road and running!

Keeping It Real with the Middle East Project Management Consulting Team

The Keeping It Real series is your chance to hear from Allen & Shariff staff on life, lessons, and leadership, straight from the trenches. This time around, it’s a little different. We’re interviewing some of our Middle East team that worked on the Al Ain Hospital project, pictured above. Read their individual answers and learn more about our team and our work overseas.

The Team:
Mahmoud Amin – Project Control Manager/Temp Acting PM
Mohammed Tajuddin – Project Coordinator
Naeem Adam Khan – Sr. ICT/ELV Specialist, Healthcare
Oprea Tudorama – MEP Manager

The Project:
Al Ain Hospital is a major acute care and emergency hospital with associated health service facilities serving the Al Ain community and its surrounding area in Abu Dhabi, UAE. It’s a 358,000 sq. meter, 713-bed hospital, and will have an underground parking facility for 1,500 cars. The new state-of-the-art hospital is designed in line with German building standards, which are among the most stringent in the world, and its clinical services will meet European healthcare standards.

Describe your team’s role in the design, building, and management of the Al Ain hospital.
Amin: Project control management.
Tajuddin: To boost construction progress by providing timely information, clarifications, and decision making in all fields including shop drawing, materials, and on-time execution approvals.
Khan: I am the ELV & ICT Specialist, and I interact with other disciplines like MEP and MEQ to deliver the full pledge to the client and workable solution systems for a project like Al Ain.
Tudorama: My role is complete charge of the project’s overall MEP management during the design, documents preparation, construction, commissioning, and hand-over. I coordinate between all disciplines and advise on technical issues, technical solutions, and contractual issues. I also represent the client during the construction phase and attend project construction site meetings.


What was the greatest challenge you faced in managing this product. How did you overcome it?

Amin: I was trusted to temporarily become the Project Manager’s replacement for such a mega project, at a very critical stage.
Tajuddin: The greatest challenge was to convince the contractor and consultant that we are a supporting hand for quality assurance and timely completion of the project. I hope we have fulfilled our commitment by reducing most of the hindrances and providing all required approvals and decisions on time. Regular discussions and follow up with the consultant and contractor has made us confident in our position.
Khan: When I studied the IFC documents for the ELV and ICT systems, I noticed that most of the specifications and design were for outdated technology from 2008/2009. I discussed this with my project manager on site first, then with the employer, Musanada. I arranged with consultants for a series of workshops for all 25 ELV and ICT systems, and with the involvement of the end user SEHA/AAH, we have established the Enhancement in ELV Systems and adopted the new technology for all the ELV and ICT systems.
Tudorama: The main contractor did not have an MEP contractor and was instead working with many subcontractors. This is a great challenge in terms of coordination, supervision, and quality assurances of the work. It involves putting in much more effort, and always being available to assist, clarify, and/or mitigate any issue with all stakeholders of the project, from the client to the PM to the consultants to the contractors.

Talk about one of the key moments of success in this project.
Amin: Together with a team, I managed to implement the BIM 4D/5D reporting system for the first time at Allen & Shariff, which is considered the latest trend in the project management field.
Tajuddin: Teamwork.
Khan: Establishing the Systems Integration Matrix (BMS, EWLV) and enhancing the entire ELV/ICT systems through workshops (PIN 12, 17).
Tudorama: For MEP it’s the energization of the substations.

How does the Al Ain Hospital benefit the city of Abu Dhabi?
Amin: The Al Ain Hospital project will be 347,449 square meters of built up area with 719 beds, and will have an underground parking facility for 1,573 cars. The new state-of-the-art acute hospital consists of the Main Hospital, administration building, rehabilitation building, and utility and logistic center.
Tajuddin: The hospital will make the people of UAE confident that they can meet all their health needs at one facility, under one roof, through advanced technology.
Khan: The new Al Ain hospital is prestigious, well-equipped, and offers the most enhanced, first-class facilities to the Al Ain community. It may provide services to nearby Oman as well.
Tudorama: Any new healthcare facility is a huge benefit for the people of Abu Dhabi/UAE, which is seeing a rapid increase in diseases like heart disease, depression, and diabetes, and an increase in the number of accidents and injuries.

If someone asked you to describe your unique approach to problem solving, what would you say?
Amin: Decomposition and recomposition, in order to identify the root cause of the problem and to select the best, most suitable solution.
Tajuddin: Discuss the problem at all levels until it is solved.
Khan: I am always studying the available IFC documents, comparing the latest available technology in the market with IFC, and reporting to superiors about the changes required for such technology.
Tudorama: The ability to be a team player, to handle, motivate, and lead multi-disciplinary teams of engineers and people of varying cultural backgrounds based on a good understanding of local traditions and work culture.

What’s the single most important ingredient when it comes to a successful client relationship? How does that apply to the Al Ain project?
Amin: Building mutual trust, the early detection of issues, and providing solutions in a timely manner.
Tajuddin: Completion of assigned work on time.
Khan: To fulfill and even exceed the client’s expectations.
Tudorama: Developing and establishing good relationships with all team members, based on competency, superior services, mutual trust, and respect, and trying to establish a sense of solidarity and single-minded purpose. Being always available to assist, clarify, and/or mitigate any issue. Establishing and developing a long-term relationship with the client is not an easy task at all.

What are the industry challenges that are unique to the Middle East region?
Amin: Customer satisfaction, cost efficiency, competitive opponents, and the unique nature of the projects.
Tajuddin: Finance control.
Khan: Challenges in Middle East are similar to other regions in terms of executing and managing the projects. However, in individual capacity there are challenges in terms of residency for some nationalities.
Tudorama: The Middle East is mostly an “application market.” There’s not much innovation or R&D. There are many standards and codes, subject to the designer in charge. Varying cultural backgrounds, expertise, local traditions, and work culture diversity is also unique to the Middle East.

Allen & Shariff is celebrating its 25th anniversary. What do you think has given this organization its staying power?
Amin: The team members’ dedication and qualifications.
Tajuddin: Teamwork and skills.
Khan: The ability to contribute to the design and design validation as well as managing the project.
Tudorama: For Allen & Shariff in the UAE, it’s the ability to get these mega projects.