By Katey Springle Lempka
In our ongoing series of RCI member profiles, we highlight Kenrick Hartman. Hartman, a senior associate with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. in New York City, received the 2017 RCI Emerging Professionals Award for his accomplishment of earning the RRC, RWC, REWC, and RBEC in one calendar year. He is active on numerous RCI committees.
A graduate of Penn State University with a BS in civil engineering and an MS in architectural engineering, Hartman is a registered professional engineer in New York State.
Can you give me a brief overview of what you do in your day-to-day job?
In short, problem-solve. We do a lot of forensic work where something didn’t go quite right and we’re called in to investigate the situation and, often, come up with a repair program. Day to day, it’s about 50% office work and 50% field work with plenty of time digging in and getting my hands dirty. I also do quite a bit with new construction and find that my experiences in troubleshooting existing conditions go a long way in developing proper details that avoid common pitfalls.
What do you like most about your job?
Most of all, I like the challenge. When doing forensic work, we don’t necessarily start with a blank sheet of paper. There is an existing structure that is built in a certain time period with certain materials using certain construction methods, most of which are not used today. The challenge of trying to navigate your way through history using today’s technology is a fun part of what we do. Everything’s different and unique, and it makes for very interesting work.
What is your least favorite part of the job?
The first thing that comes to mind is weather extremes, because we do work outside quite a bit. In February, being on a swing stage 50 floors up in Manhattan with the wind blowing can be tough. Similarly, working on a roof on a hot humid day in the summertime can be draining. Comparatively, it’s not at all that bad but something that can’t be avoided.
How did you end up professionally where you are today?
Much of it was luck. A former classmate introduced me to WJE at the Penn State Architectural Engineering career fair, and I was immediately sold. After a few interviews, I was thrilled to be offered a full-time position, and off I went.
WJE is very good about letting you find your path and openly encouraging you to do what you want to do and what you do best. I’m where I am now because I was exposed to a variety of projects and topics early on and have organically landed as a building envelope consultant. I’m also given support to explore extracurricular activities that develop my technical and professional abilities. RCI’s a big part of that. WJE fully supports my involvement at conventions and allows me to attend RCI’s educational seminars.
Tell me a little about your involvement in RCI.
I’ve been a member for three years, but on the periphery for probably six. Initially I just attended conventions. I made a presentation with a colleague of mine at the 2013 Building Envelope Symposium, which was my first active involvement. Over the past two years, I’ve been more involved, including being a member of the Emerging Professionals Committee, an associate member of the Technical Advisory Committee, and most recently, helping with the Advocacy Committee’s efforts. I’m also helping with RCI’s local efforts through the newly established Metro NY Chapter.
You managed to complete all of your RCI consultant registrations in just one year. Any advice on getting that done?
Know what you know, know what you don’t know, and study the material in the middle. Don’t spend too much time trying to learn something that’s brand new to you, and don’t spend too much time reading all the books on topics you’re already confident in. These tests cover a wide range of material, and it’s best to be efficient.
Can you tell me about an interesting challenge you’ve encountered in your work, and how you overcame it?
We’ve been involved at the main branch of the New York Public Library for some time, and about three years ago, we were notified that a 20-pound piece of plaster fell from the 50-foot tall ceiling of the Rose Reading Room in the middle of the night. We were asked to determine why the failure occurred and how best to address the remainder of the ceiling. Note that this ceiling is larger than a football field in plan and has hundreds of elements that are similar in construction to the piece that fell! We immediately formed an internal team to tackle the challenge, and together we were able to evaluate the failure and implement a repair and restoration program. The sheer scale of the investigation—much less the technical aspects—was challenging, but we had a dedicated team whose efforts resulted in a very successful project.
What kind of technology do you use on the job?
We have a pretty big toolkit available to us at WJE. My everyday kit includes fairly straightforward items such as hand-held probes, binoculars, moisture meters, sounding hammers, hydrion paper, etc., but we also have more advanced technologies available in-house for use in in-situ work such as GPR equipment, low and high voltage integrity testing equipment, various sensors and monitoring equipment, and much more. We also have our in-house laboratories in Northbrook where our team of material scientists and laboratory testing experts use state-of-the-art technologies in a more controlled laboratory setting. The technology used really depends on the project, but I have a world of options available to me.
How much and in what way do environmental concerns affect your work?
Sustainability and the environment have been and will continue to be a focal point for the construction industry. At the very minimum, we have to make sure that our designs comply with any codes applicable to a given project; but often, the project requirements go above and beyond that of the codes, particularly on new construction projects (e.g., LEED criteria). Sustainability is something we take seriously at WJE, and we plan to continue our role in the growing green building industry.
What drives you?
Put simply, I like figuring things out. I like not only being able to open the code or a textbook to find the answer, but having to use principles and ideas I’ve picked up on the way in development of new, creative solutions. That process is fun to me.
What do you do when you’re not on the job?
I got hooked on triathlons about eight years ago and love getting a swim, bike, or run in when I have the time. If I have a free evening or weekend, I spend time rowing on the water with the Sagamore Rowing Association out on Long Island. Triathlons and rowing can be two of the most challenging sports but also two of the most rewarding.
I also play a few musical instruments, namely guitar. I studied classical guitar for a bit but have recently picked up an electric and am trying my hand at the blues. Trumpet was my main instrument growing up, and I still play in the Easter and Christmas cantatas at my home church in Glenmoore, PA.
What is one thing most of our readers probably don’t know about you?
About ten years ago, I biked with a group of cyclists approximately 4500 miles—from New Haven, CT to San Francisco, CA—in an effort to raise funds for the New Haven Chapter of Habitat for Humanity. It was one of the most memorable summers I’ve had and an amazing way to see the country. Our bike trip provided the funds for eight new homes in the New Haven area, along with plenty of fond memories and perhaps even more sore legs!
If money were no object, how would you spend your time?
It’d be great to see more of the world while taking my hobbies with me. Maybe biking the Alps or checking off a few half-ironman races throughout Asia, Europe, and South America? I love the idea of spending my mornings putting in a few miles in a new place and my evenings relaxing over a world-class dinner and a cocktail or two with my wife, Molly.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with RCI’s members?
Perhaps a simple “thank you.” I’ve come to realize how much time and effort the RCI staff and many of its members put in to making RCI what it is today. These efforts are well worth it and have provided me and many others with invaluable educational and networking opportunities. Thanks!