Board Member Highlight: Stephen Duda

Stephen serves as our Honors & Awards Chair. Read more about him here!

Honors & Awards Chair, Stephen Duda

Honors & Awards Chair, Stephen Duda

  1. Name:  Stephen Duda
  2. Company and Position: Senior Mechanical Engineer at Ross & Baruzzini, Inc.
  3. What does your company do/provide? Ross & Baruzzini provides consulting and design services in architectural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, communications, and related fields. We were founded in 1953 by the late Donald Ross who held a PhD in industrial engineering, adding Joseph Baruzzini as the mechanical principal in 1961. Our HVAC practice spans Higher Education, Healthcare, Government, and Mission Critical markets.
  4. How long have you worked for them? How long have you worked in this industry? I have been in this industry since 1985 and with Ross & Baruzzini since 1996.
  5. How did you come to work in your field? The mechanical engineering program at my alma mater, the University of Dayton, groomed most of its graduates for a career in manufacturing and in particular, aerospace or defense industries. That did not interest me and I didn’t even interview with those types of companies. Instead, my father was employed as an engineer for a general contractor and he suggested I might like a career as a consulting engineer for a design firm, and he was right.
  6. What is your main job function? What are you responsible for? I provide HVAC planning and consulting, system design and analysis, equipment selection, specification writing, and construction administration.  I am responsible for technical leadership of mechanical staff and for establishing and maintaining high technical standards throughout the firm.
  7. What is the biggest challenge you face in your job? I think one of the biggest challenges all of us in the consulting engineering industry face is succession. With some important exceptions, not too many university engineering programs emphasize building services engineering or engineering consulting. We need to get the word out about our variety and diversity of challenges, and the importance of what we do on a daily basis, to better attract more of the smartest and most talented young engineers for the long-term health of our profession.
  8. What’s your favorite thing about working in this industry? The best thing about being a consulting engineer is the variety. I get to work on so many different types of projects, each offering its own set of challenges. We directly impact patient outcomes in health care, for example, and directly impact energy consumption and therefore global climate change. We never see the same project twice, and consequently I have never stopped learning new things.
  9. What’s your least favorite thing about working in this industry? Many of our clients and projects are out-of-town and require travel. So I would say the least favorite thing about my job are the travel delays, flight cancellations without explanation, missed connections, bad weather, and the feeling that few in the airline industry seem to care that they didn’t get me to my destination until 3 am when I have a 7 am meeting.
  10. What’s your involvement in ASHRAE? I am a columnist for ASHRAE Journal in the Engineer’s Notebook series. There are four of us who write that column on a rotating basis, so my turn comes up three times per year. I recently finished a 12-year term on Standard 15 and a 4-year term on the Technical Activities Committee. I continue to serve on four Technical Committees: TC 2.07 (Seismic and Wind Restraint Design), TC 4.03 (Ventilation and Infiltration), TC 8.02 (Centrifugal Chillers), and TC 9.01 (Large Building Air-Conditioning Systems) where I was once the Chair.
  11. What is your responsibility on the Board? I am the Honors & Awards chair for the St. Louis Chapter, responsible for identifying and nominating deserving candidates for ASHRAE’s various awards. And I am on the host committee for the 2016 Annual Conference.
  12. What advice would you give someone just graduating college and starting in the HVAC world? I would tell them that good people skills – written and oral communication, a friendly manner, an ease of genuine conversation, attention to a customer’s needs, and simply being likeable – matters as much as solid technical skills. Our customers have a choice of firms to work with, and if technical competence is more-or-less equal, they will choose to work with people they like.
  13. What’s something you’ve learned through your involvement in ASHRAE? Being involved on the technical committees has given me direct access to the very top levels of our industry – the top applications experts from equipment manufacturers, the seismic gurus, the people who write the handbooks and directly influence codes and standards. Because of my committee participation, those people know me – in fact, we’ve become friends – and this allows me to call them directly when I am stuck on an issue or experience a unique design challenge.
  14. What made you want to be involved in ASHRAE? I decided to become involved at the national level as a way of staying current with a quickly-changing HVAC landscape, to see what trends were developing, and to never stop learning. I suppose I didn’t want my only source of professional development to be sales vendor-sponsor seminars (no offense intended; those are important too) and so I was attracted to ASHRAE’s non-commercial systems-based approach to technical growth.
  15. Name one person who has been a mentor or an inspiration to you in your life. Tell me about how they influenced you. When my daughters were ages 7 and 10, I became a single father. My daughters quickly became my primary inspiration in life, forcing me to truly understand what work/life balance really means, seeing the world through their eyes; and for the first time, understanding how they put their faith in me completely and I couldn’t let them down. I became a much better father than I ever would have been otherwise, and although they have grown up, they still inspire me to be a person they can be proud of.
  16. Do you have a favorite sport or team? I am a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan specifically, and a fan of the game of baseball in general.
  17. What’s your favorite type of music or favorite band? I grew up with 1970s rock-n-roll, and I am still partial to music of that era – especially The Eagles, Bob Seger, Steely Dan, and many of the “hair bands” of that era.
  18. What’s your favorite thing to do for fun? Road trips – I am re-married and the kids are grown, so my wife and I both really enjoy getting out of town for three or four-day weekend getaways. We visit nearby cities in the Midwest, enjoying their museums and historic sites, sampling their local cuisine, or shopping at some of their antique stores.
  19. Where is the coolest place you have traveled? Or what was the best vacation you’ve ever had? My favorite vacation spot is Rehoboth Beach, Delaware; my family and I spend a week there almost every summer. Rehoboth Beach is a page out of an older time, with non-chain lodging & eateries, plus a 1.5-mile boardwalk paralleling a wide white-sand Atlantic Ocean beach. The boardwalk features a mom-and-pop amusement park with carnival rides, arcades, skee-ball and miniature golf; tacky swimsuit, jewelry, and T-shirt shops; a bandstand with nightly entertainment; and a rooftop bar where we can sit in the evening sipping a cocktail while looking out over the moonlit ocean.
  20. When you retire and have a lot more time on your hands, what will you do? As I said earlier, my wife and I both enjoy road trips. We will probably make many more of those; some short and some long. We even have an informal plan to someday drive through all 48 contiguous states in one summer-long road trip we call the “48-State Odyssey”, with the proviso that we stop and experience at least one local attraction in every state before coming home. We even have an approximate route roughed out.