IIBEC Member Profile – Chris Dawkins

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February 2, 2021
By IIBEC Foundation Development Officer Rick Gardner

Tell me about your background and how you got involved in IIBEC (RCI)?

I spent my first 12 years after college in the US Navy Civil Engineer Corps. I thoroughly enjoyed every facet of the experience; all the projects (and locations) were different and helped round me out. There, I was able to see things from the client’s perspective. After the Navy, I worked for Kimley-Horn & Associates for almost 10 years. During those years, I did a lot of civil design, some structural design, and ultimately migrated to the forensics team; we were a small piece of a very large firm. By 2003, I found my typical client was calling me, not the firm, so I started Beech Consulting, which celebrates its eighteenth anniversary this coming February.

Rick Moore and I worked together at Kimley-Horn and had also known each other in the Navy. Rick said, “let’s do some professional development.” So, we went to RCI’s BES in Texas in 1997. Immediately I thought, “This is hands on. This is what we do!”

From that point, I sought out RCI/IIBEC continuing education classes, which I’ve always found more rooted in reality; how things get done in the field, and not overly theoretical (although we need to understand the theory too). I’ve always appreciated IIBEC’s balanced approach.

When I started Beech Consulting, I had more control of my time, so I officially joined in 2003. In about 2013, I was attending the Metal Roofing course with Chris Payne and Chris Giffin serving as instructors. I spoke to Chris Payne during a break and asked him how I could get more involved. As if on cue, he handed me a card with some information on it. Next thing I knew, I was serving as IIBEC Georgia Chapter’s Secretary/Treasurer and subsequently worked my way through chapter leadership. I then ran for and have now served for almost two years as Region II Director.

I think my professional experiences as an “owner/client,” then as a large-firm consultant and now consulting from a small firm, bring some depth. Also, during my first two Kimley-Horn years, I worked in their marketing department, and for three years, led their Continuous Quality Improvement program. These various roles have provided me with many perspectives.

Dawkins spends much of his time in the field.

What do you do during your typical day?

I spend sixty to seventy percent of my time in the field. We work mostly on existing buildings. My business partner, Wade Anderson, is a stellar mechanical engineer. We work both as individuals and as a team depending on the size of the project. We consult on roofs, walls, windows, doors, and also assess how mechanical systems interact with the enclosure. When not in the field, I’m typically working on reports for clients.

We work for property owners and condo associations for mid-rise buildings, where we act as their facilities engineer. We do full enclosure studies for buildings and/or solve individual leak issues. We help clients get the right contractors to their property to match the specific need and correct it. We also do assessments for insurance carriers. Our practice is mostly commercial buildings, but sometimes includes residential. Finally, about ten percent of our annual hours are litigation support of some type.  Our clients are varied, as well as our projects. We assess various roof systems and many claddings, brick veneer, stucco, EIFS systems (synthetic stucco), and we do a lot of moisture testing and assessment.

What are some examples of your favorite projects that you have worked on professionally?

Mathieson Exchange is an 11-story brick-veneer building in Atlanta, Georgia, constructed over a four-story parking garage. It’s a wedding-cake-configuration building and one of Dawkins’ favorite projects.

There is an 11-story brick-veneer building in Atlanta, Georgia, constructed over a four-story parking garage called Mathieson Exchange. It’s a wedding cake configuration building. Terraces are roofs over living space below. In essence you are looking at all aspects of IIBEC there…below-grade waterproofing, walls, windows/doors, protruding balconies, and several roofs that we help that client keep up with.

Mathieson is representative of my favorite type of work and client. We started there overcoming a lot of water intrusion issues just after the building’s initial construction, then over the years, we have helped them evaluate and smartly maintain the building. This past year we helped them complete major re-caulking and repointing of their brick mortar joints. They’ll call on occasion and say “there’s a leak at a twelfth floor window,” and we’ll help them evaluate and fix that location…just like we did on a much larger scale about 15 years ago.

Another recent special job is a six-story building in San Francisco. It’s over 100 years old, and its mass-masonry walls were rebuilt in about 1912 after the earthquake. We assessed the entire enclosure and then helped the owner figure out the steps to properly restore its rear elevation mass masonry that a previous owner had improperly coated with stucco.  We did a full evaluation and developed a detailed scope of repair and are now collaborating with the owner and a local architect who is developing final restoration specs and getting historical permits for the project.

Dawkins enjoys playing guitar.

Have you had mentors during your consulting practice and what is one important thing they have taught you?

Yes, Captain Seeger Poole was a mentor from my Navy years. I have tried to model my professional and personal behavior after him. He took me under his wing for 15 months and took great interest in me. Poole was vice commander of the Atlantic Division, Naval Facilities Engineering Command in Norfolk, Virginia. Afterward, Ed Vick, who I knew before I joined the Navy, gave me a shot at Kimley-Horn. Vick was in consulting for over 35 years and was the driving force behind Kimley-Horn growing from a 3-person firm in the 1960s to a staff of more than 1000 when I left them.

Both Poole and Vick were adept technically, but more importantly, they had tremendous interpersonal skills. That is what I want to be: someone who is strong technically and who works excellently with all parties involved on a project.

Poole and Vick taught me the importance of having and maintaining vision and demonstrating the highest interpersonal skills; listening to all inputs and sincerely respecting the viewpoints of others.

What are the core values you aspire to live by?

To serve with excellence – that sums it up. Regardless of what I am doing for a client or an organization, my goal is to serve with excellence.

 What are some of your greatest experiences both personally and professionally?

  • My wife Lee and I have been married since 1981. We have two sons, a daughter and two grandsons.
  • In the Navy, I got to live and work in several US locales as well as in Greece; Sicily, Italy; and Puerto Rico (and also travel quite a bit). I also served as the facilities director at Camp David for three years under President George H.W. Bush and for four months under President Clinton.
  • In the late 90s, our team worked our way from Wilmington, NC across the Southeast US doing EIFS evaluations ‘til we were blue in the face, which was much work and an outstanding team experience. In 2001, George Barbour and I were asked to evaluate 90 EIFS family-housing buildings at the Naval Station in Rota, Spain. Those EIFS days were formative and quite a ride.
  • I love to play the guitar and lead worship with a band at our church. Guitar is my highest personal passion.

Dawkins and his family: Lee, Katy, and Chris.

Dawkins’ family, from left to right: Mitchell, Chris, Ellis, Lee, Liz, Nathan, and Sam.

Do you have a favorite IIBEC Convention memory?

I don’t have one greatest memory, but I love the sense of community at Conventions, it’s heartwarming.  I love the golf tournaments, meeting of the members, and of course, our multiple general fellowship times. I get this same sense of community at our chapter meetings and recently at the kickoff for the new Alabama branch.

What advice would you give today to someone starting out in the industry?

Be willing to get your hands dirty. It’s amazing what you’ll discover under a crawlspace or in an attic or from a swing stage. Learn to write and speak well. Learn to be comfortable with confrontation when you know your subject, and also to be comfortable saying “I don’t know” when you’re not as studied in a subject as others.  Know your community. Seek out opportunities that teach you the full impact of your contributions to a project. Very often I go into “problem” building projects that are about solving prior design problems, or a contractor that took matters into their own hands trying to solve a design problem. By seeking out these opportunities you’ll be a better consultant down the road.

What is the most important goal you hope to achieve in your life?

As I mentioned earlier, my goal is to serve with excellence. That’s figuring out what my “service” is in whatever role I find myself in and then working to accomplish it well.  In my work, I strive to meet the mark with technical excellence. I attempt to pause, figure out the “audience,” and adjust my service to that specific need. When I’m playing the guitar, it might be just me in the living room, but when I am playing with the band, I need to adjust my play to complement what the other band members are doing, so that we, as a team, play our best to our audience.

Taking photos is a part of the job Dawkins enjoys.

What do you do when you are not working? What are some of your hobbies and interests?

As I mentioned earlier, I play a lot of guitar and also enjoy playing golf and reading (mostly, but not always, non-fiction). I also love boating, hunting, cycling and hiking. By virtue of my consulting practice, I feel like I have a second career in photography. I am constantly trying to communicate the best views in photographs of construction details and when away from work, doing the same during our various outdoor adventures.

Rick GarnderIIBEC Foundation Development Officer Rick Gardner

Gardner has advocated for IIBEC’s foundations via fundraising, networking, and innumerable phone calls since 2014. You can reach him via email at rgardner@iibec.org.