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Brian Schatz likes to be involved with things that keep him on his toes. So, plumbing engineering just seemed like a natural fit.
“It inspires me,” he says. “I like to challenge myself with projects that require me to think differently from the previous one. As an engineer, I love to think critically to solve complicated problems.”
Brian graduated from Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering. Today, he works in the New York City office of AKF Group as a plumbing and fire protection engineer, with a specialty in residential and commercial projects. Brian is also the youngest sitting board member of the NYC chapter of ASPE.
“Outside of work,” he says, “I probably watch more food shows than a person should, but my Italian heritage inspired my love for food. I try to cook as much as I can, though I hate following recipes. There is something satisfying about being creative with flavors and trying different combinations.”
Brian’s intrigue for both solving difficult problems and being creative has served him well.
“After just 4 years, Brian is one of our most versed plumbing engineers in the local building codes and NFPA,” says Jared Donnamiller, PE, LEED AP at AKF Group. “He is a resource for senior leadership and a mentor to all of our new hires out of school. Brian challenges the ‘that’s how we have always done it’ mindset.”
Brian’s favorite subjects in school were math and science. He says engineering, “is a perfect combination of both.” He began to consider it as a career choice in his junior year of high school. “My first experience was in a statics and dynamics class where my teacher showed us videos of buildings, such as Taipei 101,” he recalls. “It was amazing to see all of the engineering and problem-solving that went into these complicated designs.”
Born and raised in New York City, he was always surrounded by skyscrapers. “It was impressive to see these massive towers stretching up to the sky,” he says. “I thought about the process that turns an empty lot into a new building and all the work that goes into the development. Plumbing engineering within a building became part of a large jigsaw puzzle and I had to find a way to make the pieces fit.”
After graduation, he worked in the healthcare software industry. After two years, Brian returned to his hometown in search of a career that was more related to his degree. “By chance, there was an opening in the plumbing department at AKF Group. I may not have known that plumbing engineering was my career path before that, but luckily I fell into a great opportunity.”
Brian is now one of the lead engineers on what is soon to be the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere. The project, Central Park Tower, is a residential skyscraper being built in midtown Manhattan. At the time of completion, it will reach a height of 1,550 feet. “Working on a building this tall is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will last with me forever,” Brian says. “Designing plumbing systems that service floors 1,000+ feet up requires creativity and critical thinking. The effort that I put in and the lessons I learn from the unique designs will stay with me throughout my career.”
In the short term, Brian looks to obtain his PE license, which he hopes to get within the next year. He also wants to continue to expand his knowledge of different types of projects and systems within the industry. In the long term, he hopes to gain a broader understanding of all trades within the construction industry.
He sees opportunity in both expanding his knowledge and skills, and also in promoting the profession he loves.
“One of the biggest challenges facing us is bringing in quality individuals to work in the industry,” he says. “The career opportunities in plumbing engineering are not well-known in high schools and colleges. Through ASPE, I have attended career fairs to share with students what we do and why it’s important. We have had events for younger engineers to build a community network that will be more inviting for prospective engineers. I also participate in the ACE Mentor Program that works with high school students to introduce them to architecture, construction, and engineering. My hope is to inspire any student to consider plumbing engineering as a possible career path.”
Brian believes the industry has not changed much over the last few decades. “Speaking with more experienced engineers, many of the methods and charts that were used decades ago are still used today,” he says. “The expectation I had when entering the field was that there would be more advancements, but the industry seems to run with the, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality.”
As a younger, and comparatively newer plumbing engineer, Brian sees it as his responsibility to question the ‘why’ behind older designs and methods. “Asking those questions is the only way to figure out new advancements that can help improve our industry and society,” he adds.
When asked what he would tell someone considering entering the industry, Brian says, “I would let them know that the best way to truly learn is by talking to experienced engineers. I would also encourage a new engineer to feel empowered to disagree or question a more experienced engineer. The best way to make advancements in design is to get ideas from people that have a fresh perspective.”
We're looking forward to seeing his perspective come to life in the work he does.
Click here to read about the other Plumbing Engineer’s Top 10 in Their 20s.
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