Withstanding the test of time

Texas by way of Florida health care engineer Jon Perucki talks outer space, Mel Brooks, and engineering education.


Who: Jon Perucki, PE, LEED AP

What: Vice President, Smith Seckman Reid Inc.

Where: Houston

About: Perucki is a mechanical engineer and project manager with 28 years of experience designing healthcare facilities. His career began in Pittsburgh and he moved to Florida after graduating from college. Perucki spent 18 years in Florida before moving to Houston.

CSE: What did you want to be when you were little?

Aside from a professional athlete or fireman or cowboy in the early years, I have always wanted to be a mechanical engineer.

CSE: What helped to keep you on that path?

My father was a plumbing designer who worked on commercial and institutional buildings. The owner of his firm allowed me to work as an office boy during high school and college summers. I was exposed to what a practicing engineer really does, and I was hooked.

CSE: What is working well in the engineering profession today?

The speed with which an idea or program goes from a thought or a need to a functional facility.

CSE: What’s the most challenging project you’ve worked on professionally?

The most challenging project I’ve worked on was the replacement of a 2,400-ton central plant for a hospital. The project had to be phased to allow the equipment to be replaced in the same physical locations, and the plant distribution was upgraded from constant flow primary to primary variable secondary pumping. A pretty easy task, except that the hospital had to keep functioning throughout the project.

CSE: What product or technology has changed your job the most?

I would have to say the Internet. Thirty years ago, the pace of the business went as fast as first- class mail. That was replaced by overnight delivery, then fax. Now the speed of business is an email on a PDA that seems to elevate every decision into a crisis and demand immediate action. However, that same technology has also allowed us to improve our service to our clients in the BIM and 3-D delivery platforms.

CSE: Who has mentored you in your engineering profession, and what have you taken away from this relationship?

My first boss, Mr. Parros, was my most influential mentor. He employed my father for almost 20 years and gave me my first exposure to this profession. His passion for engineering, commitment to delivering on your promises, and enjoyment of completing a project has made a lasting impression on me.

CSE: What one thing is missing from engineering education?

I think the communication side of our profession is missing from the engineering education curriculum. Our jobs would be a lot easier if we did not have a construction budget to hit or a client to satisfy. We could do a better job of communicating our expertise and opinions in a way that makes a bigger impact on the owner’s decisions. My college education prepared me well for the technical aspect of my profession. I feel that project management and communication skills were more on-the-job training.

CSE: How would your coworkers or clients describe you?

Dedicated and determined; a resourceful problem solver that who gets the job done.

CSE: What one thing (video game, TV show, engineering program) do you get lost in?

I love puzzles, jigsaw, computer games likes Block, Columns, Minesweeper, etc., anything that takes concentration and focus to do well.

CSE: What life adventure is still on your list?

I would love to spend a summer in Europe visiting the historic places and wonderful old buildings. I often wonder how our impressive feats of architecture and engineering will stand against the test of time compared the great cathedrals, palaces, and castles of Medieval Europe.

CSE: What one word best describes you?


CSE: What makes you laugh?

Slapstick comedy, Blazing Saddles, History of the World, Mel Brooks- type movies.

CSE: What do you wonder about?

I wonder where the world will be in 50 years. The pace of technological advancement seems to be outpacing our human ability to manage and predict it.

CSE: What do you want to learn more about?

I am fascinated by astronomy and astrophysics. The scale of the objects, distance, and phenomenon in that area of study compared to our everyday existence is very interesting.

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