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ASPE Member Spotlight: Ryan Schalk

By Rebekah Weidner posted 04-03-2024 17:00


What is your current position? What is your area of focus?  
I'm the plumbing department head at my small engineering firm. I love plumbing design and working in Revit. As the "Bim Manager" (we wear many hats at my firm) I'm leading the firm to the path of "Full Revit" as it seems to be the way things are headed. I love creating Revit families and finding new ways to use the software. 

What are your career journey highlights?

  • I was the first one at my previous company to design an entire plumbing system inside Revit.
  • I've built custom Revit Families to make plumbing design inside Revit easier.
  • I just completed my first Apartment building inside Revit (we only used CAD previously).
  • I'm finishing up the design of my first Public Elementary School.
  • I'm also working on a 450,000 SF manufacturing plant (that's 9 football fields!). It's a 3 phase project. The Fire Protection system requires ESFR sprinkler heads. The design has been a great learning experience.

What motivated you to get into the plumbing engineering industry?
I was thrown out in the deep end! I sank for a while nearly being sucked down into the drain, but eventually I grabbed onto a snake and got cleaned out! I started as a Mechanical Designer, but the plumbing department needed some extra drafting help. Well that developed into more and more responsibilities and eventually I ended up as a full time plumbing designer. I'm now at my second firm. We're a small firm so I get to work on all kinds of different projects being the department head, lead plumbing designer, and Bim Manager. I'm so glad I got into plumbing. It's a great trade. Tons of challenging problems to solve and I keep learning new things every day.

What is the most exciting or rewarding aspect of your work?
I'd have to say the best part is dealing with challenging situations. Plumbing seems to bring the most challenging problems to the table on a regular basis. We're working with gravity and multiple systems that all work together. As you learn more and more you begin to develop the tools needed to solve most problems. There's nothing more rewarding than solving problems or on the flip side, designing a system that gets built with no issues.

What value have you gained from participation in ASPE Connect?
ASPE connect has been the best tool for me to get a wealth of information from experienced and industry thought leaders. I can't tell you how many times I've used the search feature at the top of the website to find articles that are directly related to the questions I have. If I can't find an old thread, I simply ask a new question on the forum, and some of the best minds give me great perspectives and feedback to my questions. ASPE connect has been a game changer for me and my growth as a plumbing engineer.

What is the most interesting plumbing design challenge you have encountered?
I have challenges on a day to day basis. My most recent one involves trying to install new sanitary piping below an existing Apartment building. The owner had pumped foam below the building as a means to fill in void spaces where the soils have eroded away. When they pumped the foam below the building, the foam found its way inside the sanitary piping causing the entire building's sanitary to back up. We had to remove and replace all the existing piping below the building which has been very challenging. It's been a coordinated effort and we are finally wrapping things up.

What is your favorite hobby or pastime outside of work? 

About two years ago I started making YouTube videos on plumbing design in Revit and they were getting lots of views. I decided to make a full course on plumbing design in Revit and offer it on my website 

I now have two courses available, Plumbing 101 and 201. I have over 100 members in the courses and I'm getting more and more sign ups everyday. It's been fun teaching Revit and Plumbing Design. When I became a teacher I actually ended up learning even more about Plumbing and Revit. I've also built custom Revit Families to help with plumbing design inside Revit. My newest family is a custom Storm Drain that automatically calculates the gpm and drain size. I love building custom Revit families. My goal is to make plumbing design faster and easier inside Revit. 

I also love spending time with my family, especially with my identical twin boys! I hope to inspire them to be Plumbing Engineers one day!