Salas O'Brien has for many years partnered with our government and military to improve infrastructure and serve our men and women in uniform. And it's no surprise that our office in San Diego has an especially deep and long-standing portfolio in engineering and commissioning for the military.
In this brief interview, Farzad Tadayon, Managing Principal in San Diego, shares why he loves working with our military and some of the unique challenges and opportunities these projects bring.
How long have you been doing military projects?
I’ve been working with the military for over 25 years. My second project when I started business was a military project, and you might say I’ve never looked back since.
Who are your typical clients?
This has changed over the years—it used to be we partnered with an architect who was hired by the Navy, but now, the vast majority of our work is from design-build contractors.
How is military work similar to and different from other engineering projects?
Military work is quite different from commercial work in that the military has its own code. This code is obviously derived from the international codes and some California code, but you have to learn where those differences are found because the military is very exacting (as you’d expect!).
One example deals with projects that require more than 1000 CFM of outside air. In these cases, a dedicated outside air system (DOAS) consisting of separate air handing units and ductwork will be required to provide pre-filtered air to air handing units in the building.
The military also has a very rigorous procurement process, which results in a bit of “red tape” but is also wonderful because if you read the documents carefully, you can produce an extremely accurate and fair quote. And really, the design-build contractors look to us for expertise in understanding and guiding them through the maze of the regulations and military code requirements.
Companies that don’t know what they’re doing could expose a lot of people to a lot of liability with military projects. Thankfully, we have the experience and knowledge to make these projects very rewarding for all involved.
What is the military’s approach to commissioning? Is it something they are typically open to?
Yes, and in fact, they of all our clients are most open to commissioning by far. We often do provide commissioning for our military projects, but even on projects where we only provide MEP design, we value the input and involvement of other commissioning agents along with the government personnel’s diligence in adding value through a regimented commissioning program.
What are some unique challenges you've faced, and how have you overcome them?
We’ve obviously faced several over the years. Sometimes, the problems are very good ones like a couple weeks ago when we had to mobilize very quickly on eight different projects. Our team was trained and ready for this.
But really, the biggest challenge is familiarity with the requirements of the military, as I’ve mentioned.
What’s your favorite part of military projects?
I love that they’re very specific and clear. You can always go back to the documentation to get answers, which makes the projects easy and in some ways even comforting because you know you’re getting the complete requirements upfront.
The military is also really open to designing for the long-term and including things that make good engineering sense, but might not be considered worthwhile on commercial projects where margins are so thin.