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ME career limitations if leaving hospital and plant work for school and church projects

ME career limitations if leaving hospital and plant work for school and church projects

ME career limitations if leaving hospital and plant work for school and church projects

(OP)
I'm an ME currently working as a contractor for a major power company leading small capital projects, doing both project management and design work at power plants. I love it, but next year will see a big drop off in mechanical projects in our group, which has me worried that I won't be needed anymore and should maybe be looking elsewhere. Before arriving at my current position 21 months ago, I designed HVAC and med gas systems for hospitals and steam/chilled water systems for hospital central plants for six years. And before that, I was an officer on nuclear subs. Anyway, next week I have an interview with a local A&E firm that mostly does schools and churches. Of course, I have no idea if I would feel it a good fit for me or if they will think me a good fit for them. Supposing I were offered a job and got a good feeling about the firm, I do have to wonder about career moves away from what I know and what I've enjoyed. Since I have hospital work and plant work in my background, I worry that doing something else would limit my career in the future if I try to get back to them. Is this something I should be concerned about?

RE: ME career limitations if leaving hospital and plant work for school and church projects

Schools and Churches are easy to design, but are notoriously difficult clients without a lot of margin. There's twenty cooks in the kitchen whenever a church decides to do anything. Same for a school.

Healthcare development is just as stable over the next 15 years due to the aging boomers, is complex enough to demand higher margins, and are usually easier clients to deal with.

As far as "limiting your career," I guess that depends on where you see your career going. In Civil I think we're mostly still looking at trying to not go bankrupt in the next big crash.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: ME career limitations if leaving hospital and plant work for school and church projects

I can attest to the fact that there are twenty cooks in the kitchen for religious projects. Add to the fact that the more cooks you have the longer it takes for a project to develop. I was asked to look at three church projects over the past 4 years. Each project had been in development before it hit my desk for over 3 years.

Project #1: We were the EOR for. We designed the building and then asked to redesign the building because the costs were too high for the initial concept. Took 2 years from when the project hit my desk until a shovel went into the ground for a total of 5 years.
Project #2: We were asked to put together some preliminary schemes for the client. Two years later the project is all but dead due to lack of funding.
Project #3. We were asked to put together some preliminary schemes in conjunction with a very good client on a project that had been stalled. We help out client get the project moving again only to loose out on the job to another engineering company. Last I heard the project is slowing down as the congregation tries to generate the necessary funds. Total time to this point 4 years.

I haven't worked on any schools but I believe they are the same. Also, while funding for schools is pretty much guaranteed, funding for religious projects is always in doubt. Be mindful of this if you are offered and decide to take the position.

I also second beej67's opinion about going bankrupt in the next big crash.

RE: ME career limitations if leaving hospital and plant work for school and church projects

Mechanical engineering design is completely different than structural engineering design - especially the codes and many of the prescription methods. Rarely to you pick your components out of catalogs to put together a total structure. On the other hand, mechanical engineers seem to have a unique grasp on structures. I would review basic stress analysis as used in buildings - i.e. frames, shear walls, beams, columns ect. There is going to be a learning curve. Review the building codes as well as ASCE 7-10. There are some basic books on structures that are good and even much engineering structures on line.

Good luck - I seem to be going the other way - from all kinds of buildings, towers, poles, bridges to structural design of transformers and the fragile porcelain bushings experiencing earthquakes.

RE: ME career limitations if leaving hospital and plant work for school and church projects

We haven't worked on a school yet, but I have always been told those are the best projects since you get paid on a real schedule, unlike everything else. Our first Church project which is getting near completion was on a fast timeline when we came on board. Before us the project was going back and forth for almost 10 years and went through multiple Architects and Engineers. The previous Church we were doing structural and civil plans for eventually disappeared. If you are working for someone they seem like good jobs to take on. If you are the owner then its dicey at best.

B+W Engineering and Design | Los Angeles Civil Engineer and Structural Engineer http://bwengr.com

RE: ME career limitations if leaving hospital and plant work for school and church projects

As an ME in HVAC design, I've always viewed variety as a good thing as long as you still maintain a speciality, such as hospital design. Having a wide range of experience helps in many ways but being known as the "go to" guy for a certain market sector is extremely valuable in my opinion. This goes for both the employee and the company. Companies that can design in multiple market sectors survive downturns much better as they can focus on the sectors that aren't down as much.

However, between FGI and the energy codes, hospital design is changing at a rapid pace. If that's what you enjoy and want to get back to, you may want to hold out for a bit to try to find a firm that does that. 2 years away from hospital design isn't terrible but if it becomes 6 years then you would have a lot of catching up to do. Kudos to you for recognizing potential problems in advance at your employer, it sounds like you have at least a little bit of time to look around.

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