THE GHB Interview with Saeed Bekam

Saeed Bekam is the President and CEO of Gouvis Engineering Consultant Group and has been a pioneer in bringing innovative ideas to the field of structural engineering. He is a member of SEAOSC, ICC, ACI, and the BIA.

Green Home Builder: What are some ways Gouvis Engineering has developed cost effective and energy efficient ways to build?

Saeed Bekam: We have always looked for ways to engineer the homes as energy efficient and cost effective as possible. Our involvement in The ABC Green Home projects has enabled us to look outside the box and we don’t take the standard practice for granted.

With our in-house written computer programs, we have been able to generate analytical calculations, drawings, and standards with the least amount of framing members for resisting gravity and lateral loads while keeping end users comfort in mind. Our standard general notes and specifications have been tried and tested to meet building codes and allows the contractors to use different methods in building the project.

GHB: What’s in the works for the rest of 2016?

SB: We anticipate 2016 to be another good year for the housing industry and have developed programs to tie in structural, mechanical, and plumbing engineering requirements into a one unified system. This method reduces material wastes and call-backs during construction.

GHB: How can builders explore home design alternatives without compromising code requirements?               

SB: There are different ways to design and build a project. By working with the builder and other design professionals at initial stages of design, preferably during the Schematic Design phase, we are able to develop the most cost-effective and energy efficient product. Building codes provide guidelines for designers, but not limit alternate means as long as the end result provides for a safe structure which is able to resist gravity and lateral loads.

GHB: What are some of the biggest challenges during design and construction phase of a new home for your team?

SB: Government regulations and lack of accountability on municipality’s part provides the most challenging obstacle, not only for design professionals, but for builders as well. Often times, the same house plan built at different cities with same design criteria generates different plan check comments.

These entities have the authority to stop a project at any phase of construction although the builder has spent immense amount of time and money to get the project approved through planning and plan check process. They have had months to review and question any aspect of design during this time, which is often more time than provided to design professionals. No one can object to their actions and all have to abide by their rules. I believe something needs to be done.

Another issue we will be dealing with is the lack of experienced and properly trained staff. I believe with the boom in the housing industry we will be facing with lack of knowledgeable talent. A lot of those talented people in the building industry were forced into early retirement or ended up switching to other professions during the recession. It will take some time for the new generation of the work force to gain the experience needed and that puts burden on all.

GHB: From an engineering standpoint, what are the benefits of using Building Information Modeling (BIM)?    

SB: As a Structural and MEP design firm we have been able to garner a high level of value from BIM. By modeling each structural element such as beams, columns, and trusses together with MEP larger elements such as duct systems, air handlers, and plumbing lines we are able to identify conflicts, coordinate, and resolve issues during design phase to avoid potential problems during construction. In addition, the internal value of BIM is that it allows for reduced problems, production efficiency, and more personal satisfaction from the work of Design Team.

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