Posted on 2019-02-22

Derek Duval, PE, DBIA

What drew you to becoming an engineer?
I have always been interested in how things work and how I can make these things better and more efficient. At a young age I would take things apart to see how they worked. I had a collection of Legos around the house without instructions, so I would be left to my imagination to create structures, vehicles, spacecrafts, anything. This led me to starting up the robotics club at my high school where I became involved in all aspects of the design and construction from structure to the programming to the electrical wiring. It was clear to me that when looking at colleges that an engineer was what I wanted to become, but what wasn’t clear to me, was which discipline I should pursue. I picked electrical first, then changed halfway through to mechanical, then learned about an interesting program offered at my college, Fire Protection Engineering. I was intrigued. The more I learned about that field, having to understand many engineering disciplines (mechanical, electrical, structural, and chemical) including how to model fire scenarios and having a direct impact on helping and protecting others, I knew this was my place. After changing my major, once again, to Fire Protection Engineering, I never looked back!

What’s your favorite project?
There is no one project that I can point to as my favorite. It would have to be any project that requires me to think outside the box or “code”. As the built environment is getting more complex, some structures are more like beautiful pieces of art or include complex designs and at the same time the building codes continue to expand and become more complex to navigate. Building codes and standards while they set a minimum level of safety in an attempt to standardize building construction, however, not all buildings fall into the cookie cutter approach that is laid out in the building codes. This leads to architects, engineers, and contractors having to think outside the box in how to build these buildings while maintaining the intent, function, and level of safety for its occupants. These projects are my favorite. But if I had to pick one, it would be the first project I worked on out of college, the Pentagon.

What would you tell your younger engineering self to make his life easier today?
Don’t sweat the small stuff and you should have moved to California earlier!

What do you do when you aren’t engineering?
I can be found hanging out in the happening downtown scene of San Diego. I’m a sports fan. While I am native to the New England area and grew up watching those teams, I do enjoy being able to buy a Padre’s ticket the day of and walking in to catch a game on a Friday night. My wife and I spend a lot of time hiking, watching movies, and the occasional random adventure.

Role: Senior Director
Discipline: Code, Life Safety and Fire
Years of experience: 11 years
Education: Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts
Office: San Diego