If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing. Fun may not be the word that first comes to mind when one thinks about plumbing engineering. Yet, for this plumbing engineer, joyfulness is built into his work ethic.
It is our pleasure to honor Daniel Colombini, P.E., LEED AP, as our 2018 Plumbing Engineer of the Year.
Colombini is principal and director of Plumbing and Fire Protection Engineering at Goldman Copeland, a 50-year-old consulting engineering firm with service focuses of mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP). Additional work for the firm includes fire protection, sustainable design, information technology, security and commissioning. The firm is headquartered in midtown Manhattan and serves New York and New Jersey.
New York is home for Colombini. The 36-year-old lives in his hometown of Westchester, New York, with his wife Debbie, and their 3-year-old son, Oscar. From home to work, Colombini is grateful for where he is in life.
PE: How would you describe your outlook on
DC: I have a lot of fun doing what I do, even though I’m really passionate about my work and take it very seriously. We have a lot of fun in the office. I have a really loud laugh. People hear me laughing at the other end of the office and I get made fun of for that. But overall, I’m grateful for the position I’m in and happy to be here.
PE: What have your academic and professional paths been like?
DC: I graduated from the University of Vermont with my bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2004. After that, I completed a Plumbing Design Program at New York University. I received my master’s degree in Fire Protection Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
I started my first job out of college at a small MEP engineering firm in White Plains, New York. There, I designed for a wider variety of systems — HVAC, electrical, plumbing, fire protection. I was exposed to all these different trades and systems. Then, I joined Goldman Copeland, where I am today. It was a great opportunity as a plumbing and fire protection engineer; that’s how I got heavily into the plumbing world. I was exposed to all different types of plumbing design projects and systems. I developed a passion for it through that opportunity.
PE: What are your responsibilities in your current professional role?
DC: Now, as a principal of the firm, I run the Plumbing and Fire Protection Group. I started out as a plumbing and fire protection engineer. Eventually, I became a project manager and senior plumbing engineer. From there, I ended up becoming the department head for the Plumbing and Fire Protection Department. I ultimately became a partner at the firm.
As a principal, I wear a couple of different hats. I’m the technical lead for plumbing and fire protection as well as one of the people running the business.
PE: How would you describe the work that
your firm does?
DC: We do a wide variety of building and project types. Everything from office buildings to health care, medical gas systems, educational occupancies and historic buildings.
One of our specialties is New York’s historic buildings. In the plumbing world, for us, it’s all about upgrading and modernizing infrastructure. So, we’re going into all of these historic buildings and updating the infrastructure. We’ve always had a focus on sustainability and sustainable plumbing systems.
Another project that I’m proud of is a large stormwater reuse system that we designed in Battery Park City.
PE: Can you describe some of the projects that you have enjoyed working on?
DC: I do all the engineering work for the Empire State Building. It has been a labor of love for me. I also did a lot of work at the New York Yacht Club. Right now, we’re doing some great work at the Morgan Library Museum. We’re also finishing a big project at the Scholastic Headquarters in Manhattan.
I’ve also been writing about performance-based design a lot lately. We try to inform our clients about those methods which are not as well-known, in terms of looking at code equivalency, alternate methods and materials. Balancing the promotion of innovation in design and coming up with new, alternative ways to do things with reliability and safety, especially on the plumbing end. I think it’s important to think about how we push innovative methods and materials.
PE: Outside of the firm, are you involved in the industry?
DC: I’m a member of ASSE International, the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), and the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC). For SFPE, I’m on the Outreach Committee. For ACEC of New York City, I’m on the Plumbing Codes Committee and Fire Code Committee.
PE: Outside of work, what are your interests and hobbies?
DC: I’m a musician; I play guitar. I like to read. I’m a runner. And, I spend a lot of time with Oscar, chasing him around.
PE: What are your thoughts on the role of professional mentorship?
DC: I have had mentors in the team of principals at the firm, such as Charles Copeland and Howard Holowitz, who recently passed away. Howard was our lead health care engineer and I want to dedicate this Engineer of the Year honor to him.
I directly train our eight plumbing and fire protection engineers. I also make it a point to mentor the younger staff here. It’s part of our job description as engineers to pass on knowledge and develop the next generation. So, that’s always a focus for me.
PE: What does it mean to you to receive this honor?
DC: I’m not an individualist. Everything is a team effort, especially in this business. So, this honor is really a validation of our entire team. The honor is for everyone that I work with. I’m just grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had to get me to where I am.