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Member Spotlight:

Erik Anderson, P.E.

Posted March 20, 2019


Not all of Erik Anderson’s projects involve whisky barrels or airplane hangars, but his workday includes particularly intriguing challenges when they do.

A registered Fire Protection Engineer, Anderson chose the specialty because it combines multiple engineering disciplines — including civil, mechanical, electrical and material science — and “presents a lot of unique challenges.”

Through 20 years in the profession and work in nine states plus the District of Columbia, Anderson has designed, budgeted, built and tested fire detection and suppression systems for all types of private, public and institutional buildings. He has worked on major renovations within active hospitals. Such projects typically require large and complex fire protection infrastructure, including separate detection and suppression systems in separate parts of the hospital to allow patients and staff to shelter within the building.

Anderson’s project list also includes assorted, and sometimes unusual, hazmat facilities, such as a whisky aging barn. 

“Filled with hundreds of barrels of whisky, the barn presented some unique fire protection challenges,” he said.

In addition to containing a large amount of combustible liquid, the barn was not conditioned (to allow the whisky to age naturally) and would experience above-average levels of methanol vapor (produced as the whisky barrels ‘breath’). The fire protection solution involved a dry-pipe sprinkler system, ethanol detectors and specialty means of egress, including a retention pond to contain the whisky in the event of a catastrophic loss.

Anderson’s current work includes establishing a fire system commissioning practice within Koffel Associates. His team recently commissioned new fire protection systems, including high-expansion foam suppression systems, at five aircraft hangars at Joint Base Andrews.

“Commissioning is a much more complex process than just testing the system and walking away,” he said. Fire protection systems have “lofty performance criteria and a lot of different moving parts so you do a lot of trouble-shooting and tweaking to make sure the system hits those performance goals.”

Consequently, commissioning the hangars took about a week each.

Anderson who has been active in MDSPE since 2008, said fire protection continues to generate new professional challenges and opportunities for engineers. In particular, the growing acceptance of performance-based design for fire protection has opened up new opportunities for engineers to specialize in fire modeling, performance testing and code consulting.






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