McKinstry’s Jonathan Franzese on His Passion for Engineering and Public Health Solutions

Jonathan is an engineering manager and has been with McKinstry for nearly four years. He was also appointed to chair the American Society of Plumbing Engineers’ (ASPE) Education Committee for the 2023 Tech Symposium.

Learn more about Jonathan and his journey with plumbing and engineering, his focus on sustainability as well as projects he is most proud of.

What brought you to McKinstry? What is your role?

I joined McKinstry in November of 2019 as a Senior Plumbing Engineer to lead the plumbing group and provide more structure and formality since that specific team was still in the forming stages. I was extremely lucky to inherit a group of really talented plumbing engineers. Fasting forward to last year, I stepped into an engineering manager role, where I have been focusing on high-level department impact and business development with our internal construction partners.

What drew you to plumbing and the industry in general?

My draw to engineering began early as I spent hours playing with Legos and being constantly fascinated by how things worked as a child. When I had the opportunity to intern at a small MEP firm in Chicago, I found myself drawn to the field of plumbing. The realization that plumbing is an essential aspect of everyone’s daily life and profoundly impacts global health and well-being deepened my interest. This experience also showed me that access to clean water, although a privilege in our country and many Western nations, remains a dire issue for over a billion people worldwide. This awareness ingrained in me the importance of responsibly managing our resources, even when we have an abundance of them.

What’s a big-picture focus in your role?

Throughout my career, I’ve consistently focused on water conservation and reuse, and fortunately, the firms I’ve worked for shared the same commitment. We’ve targeted projects with owners who understand the environmental significance of these efforts. It has been my mission to emphasize this focus in all the projects we undertake, even in places like Washington where rain is abundant but water use still matters. It’s important to address water scarcity and ensure equal access to services, as it significantly impacts the most vulnerable in society. I see this as a guiding principle in my career, using my position and projects to contribute to a more sustainable future.

What work do you do with the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE)?

I turned to ASPE when I joined the industry. Chicago, with its old-school plumbing traditions, showed great respect for engineering. When I moved to Seattle, it was a smaller chapter that focused more on design-build projects. The West Coast in general had a less formal approach to plumbing engineering, often handled by mechanical engineers who juggled both HVAC and plumbing. Over the past decade, the demands on plumbing engineers have grown substantially, requiring knowledge in various systems like water reuse, medical gas and specialized systems for industrial and laboratory projects. This increased rigor in the field has motivated me to dedicate much of my free time to volunteering with organizations. I want to provide guidance and support to aspiring engineers, just as I wished I had earlier in my career. Beyond technical expertise, I believe in joining professional societies that prioritize public health and the betterment of plumbing engineering. As the Chapter President, I’m focused on growing membership and offering quality education opportunities. Additionally, I’m involved at the national level, contributing to various committees on education, credentialing and technical research. I’m also collaborating with NCEES to develop a plumbing-specific version of the mechanical PE exam, creating a clearer career path for young engineers in the field. This is my way of giving back and elevating the profession I’m passionate about.

What is the best way to encourage environmental stewardship and civic engagement?

I believe it’s essential to educate the average person about the impact of hidden building systems on their daily lives. We often take for granted the convenience of turning on the kitchen sink or flushing the toilet without realizing the effort behind it. I aim to show people that a lot of work happens behind the scenes to ensure smooth functioning. On the conservation front, I want to share and demonstrate that we can be mindful of our water usage without negatively affecting our economy. By incorporating efficient systems, we can save resources and benefit building owners in the long run.

What is the structure of your team currently? What projects are you working on?

I oversee a diverse group of senior engineers with wide-ranging skills, and our focus has been on life science and laboratory projects for the past year. Some of the work includes a hydrogen project for confidential clients and central utility plant upgrades for life sciences projects. My main goal as a leader is to support my team in achieving their objectives, sharing my knowledge and executing projects successfully. I aim to remove any obstacles that hinder their ability to deliver technical excellence and to establish our engineering consultancy as a top-tier service provider in the Northwest region and beyond.

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