Rey Roca may have been born in New Jersey, but the East Coast native considers the Lone Star State his true home. When he was two years old, he and his sister moved to Texas with their father, a structural welder by trade and their mother, a public school teacher's aide.
Today, the Vice President and Southwest Regional Business Unit Leader within the BTS (building, technology and sciences) division of NV5 - a global provider of professional and technical engineering and consulting services - gives credit to his dad for encouraging him to "study hard" to obtain a viable, rewarding career.
Roca attended the University of Texas at Arlington to pursue a degree in civil engineering. While attending school, he landed a job as a mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) CAD technician at Turner Engineers in Dallas, where he worked for about two and a half years before receiving an opportunity to work at Carter and Burgess (now Jacobs Engineering), where he stayed for the next eight years. In 2002, he formed his own company, Profile Consultants, Inc., based in Arlington. His firm - which started out offering structural engineering and CAD support services, then eventually added civil engineering services - participated in noteworthy projects such as the $1.2 billion AT&T Stadium in Arlington, a $1.3 billion midfield terminal expansion at Indianapolis International Airport, and the International Terminal D and Grand Hyatt Hotel projects at DFW International Airport.
After 13 years of running his own business, in 2015, Roca accepted an offer to join Sebesta, Inc., which is now part of NV5 Global, Inc. NV5 caters to public and private sector clients in the infrastructure, energy, construction, real estate and environmental markets. The company, which operates out of more than 100 locations nationwide and abroad, primarily focuses on five business verticals: construction quality assurance, infrastructure, engineering and support services, energy, program management, and environmental solutions.
Roca began his NV5 career as a group leader in charge of the engineering department in Irving. He quickly moved up the ranks, transitioning to become a group leader over commissioning services and, later, to his current role as the BTS division's Vice President and Regional Business Unit Leader for the corporation's entire southwest region.
In his interview with Texas Contractor, Roca shares some of the professional lessons that have made him - and the team he leads - more cognizant of the perspectives, motivations and expectations of project partners.
What personal qualities have enabled you to be successful in your career?
I'm a good-natured kind of guy, and I understand that in this industry there must be some level of flexibility in how you approach situations. I also can grasp a client's needs easily, which makes me more discerning in evaluating expectations so that our team can share realistic feedback with the client.
What is one of the most important lessons you've learned as a building and construction professional?
A contractor once told me that no matter how many good jobs you've done, it only takes one bad one to upset your reputation. In essence, don't burn bridges by doing a poor job and, if you do mess up, make it right.
I've had to learn this lesson the hard way a couple of times. One of the most memorable occurred when I was about 22 years old. I had made an error on a drawing that cost the company $1,500. It was corrected and I thought it was no big deal. But my mentor at the time, Nipat Attavit at Carter and Burgess, told me to grab my hard hat and safety vest and meet him in the field. Once we reached the project site, he pointed to a guy crawling up a concrete column to chisel out a 3-foot section from the pillar. Nipat then said to me, "Do you know what he's doing right now? He's fixing your mistake."
This had a real impact on me, as I understood that Nipat was trying to instill in me a deeper understanding that seemingly simple mistakes in an office setting can have a sizeable impact in the field. Engineers and designers are sometimes not cognizant of this fact. Ever since then, I've made it a point to double check every little thing that my team does.
What has been one of your proudest achievements at NV5?
One of our biggest success stories is our five-year retro-commissioning and facilities assessment contract with the DFW International Airport, which was awarded earlier this year.
What is commissioning/retro-commissioning?
Commissioning agents work to ensure that facility owners benefit from improved systems performance. For example, NV5's proprietary Lifecycle Commissioning is a systematic, engineering-based process that optimizes building efficiency, from initial project concept to decommissioning. The commissioning process helps project consultants set realistic expectations for facility operations.
The retro-commissioning process involves performing assessment and study activities on an existing facility that may not be functioning to standard, is experiencing high energy costs, or needs to be repurposed. Retro-commissioning can typically result in energy savings between 5 percent and 20 percent, depending on what owners are willing to invest to achieve such savings. During retro-commissioning, we test the facility's functionality and advise the owner of any problems and provide an estimated construction budget for replacing, repairing or renovating the facility. We also work with the contractors selected to perform the upgrades, and after their work is completed we test the new mechanical and electrical systems to make sure that everything is operating appropriately.
In a nutshell, commissioning agents are advocates of the building owner. In your experience, what is the biggest challenge in this area of expertise?
One of our biggest challenges is people not seeing the value of what we offer and provide for them. Some facility owners, architects, engineers and contractors don't understand the true return on investment from these services.
Also, commissioning agents can sometimes be perceived in a negative light because project consultants think these folks are trying to find fault with their work. However, I live by the "Golden Rule" of commissioning that I was taught by one of my former colleagues, which speaks to the fact that commissioning agents are not fault finders - they're fact finders.
One thing that I emphasize to other project consultants is that a commissioning agent's purpose is to ensure that facility owners are getting what they paid for and that the building is performing at the anticipated level. This is advantageous for architects and engineers because it lessens the potential for calls about something going wrong, and reduces the number of warranty callbacks, a major benefit to contractors. Ultimately, when everything is handled according to a commissioning agent's recommendations, this makes the contractor look good and helps the contractor get repeat business and referrals.
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