Gary Jones, Karpinski Engineering’s new fire protection engineer, lights up talking about his work.
We’re sitting in his office, where a row of fire sprinklers lines the windowsill. When I ask about the collection, he grabs a few to show me how sprinkler head design has changed over the years.
Fire protection engineering is a natural fit for Gary. He grew up in small-town western Pennsylvania, where he watched his father, along with other friends and family members, volunteer for the local fire department. When he turned 16 – the earliest age allowed – he joined, too.
And when he learned that he could make a living designing fire protection systems, he jumped right in. He earned his B.S. in Fire Protection Engineering from the University of Maryland and kept going from there.
Gary has now worked in fire protection engineering for close to 30 years. He jokes that the list of industries he hasn’t worked in is shorter than the list of industries he has.
When he lived in Texas, for example, he provided fire protection design, engineering, and installation for petrochemical plants and industrial warehousing/manufacturing facilities. In those buildings, he says, fire protection is a must. Though some of the chemicals end up in everyday products, on their own, they’re explosive.
He has also provided design for more everyday facilities – schools, hospitals, universities, museums, offices, and stadiums.
Whatever industry Gary’s serving, though, he says the “best thing” about his work is the ability to make buildings safer.
Gary's fire sprinkler collection.
I ask about Gary’s design priorities. What’s important to him when he designs?
“Fire protection doesn’t have to look bad,” he says. He works to integrate his fire protection design into the overall building design. He shows me a few sprinklers from his collection and explains how they’re made to have a more subtle appearance.
Gary also advocates keeping fire protection in building plans, especially when it’s not required by code. He understands the cost of fires and fire damage – the catastrophic losses and the interruption to education or business that they can cause. To him, fire protection simply makes sense.
Fire codes, however, don’t always make sense.
“Codes are definitely our friend, but they sometimes bind us, too,” he says.
He gives a quick example: In one region, the building code requires stages to have standpipes and occupant-use fire hoses.
That makes sense in a night club or, say, a New York City production stage where there are a lot of pyrotechnics, he explains. But for an elementary school stage, it’s more fire protection than the school or fire department will ever use.
In cases like this, where the fire code doesn’t make sense for a particular venue, Gary works with officials to come up with a win-win solution – something that works for the fire department and the space. For the school stage, for example, a better solution is to provide fire department standpipe hose valves in the corridor just off the stage.
Gary shows how a hydrant wrench works.
Gary has only been at KE a few weeks, and the engineering staff is already bringing him drawings for his input.
Just like when he chose to pursue fire protection engineering, it’s clear that Gary has jumped right in.
— Sarah Rozman
Interested in Gary's expertise? Give us a call: 216-391-3700
No comments posted/published.