Interview by Fred Schmidt
Here’s an introduction to another one of the players on the FSB team; Naby Gharajeh (garra-jay). He’s a Senior Electrical Engineer, fairly quiet, doesn’t make waves but he has a great laugh. He’s down to earth and takes his engineering very seriously.
So, tell the followers what your role is, your input to the project.
Naby: I was basically the project electrical engineer. It was my role to design the building’s electrical system, lighting, communication and data systems, power to the mechanical equipment and anything architectural; the basic electrical system that any building requires. There was some work involved as far as the site was concerned; and lighting protection.
What made you decide to become an electrical engineer, what was your path towards being that?
Naby: Wow… ha!
Did you always know, like when you were a kid?
Naby: Yeah, believe it or not I wanted to be an electrical engineer. I played with electricity a lot as a kid; a few times I hurt myself (we both laughed for a while); tripped a few main breakers of the house. I do remember that.
So when I came here I got with some friends in college who derailed me to do some pre-pharmacy stuff. So I did a couple semesters of that and I realized that’s not what I want to do. I started with engineering and changed it back to engineering again. Electrical is basically what I wanted to do.
That’s a pretty straight forward vision from being a kid and playing with house wires.
Naby: Right (laughing).
So where did you end up after college?
Naby: After college I worked for contractors for a few years. I graduated in ’92 basically, right. And then I got on board with FSB in ‘99; so for over 13 years I have been with FSB.
You took a little break though. You went to the other side and tried contracting.
Naby: Oh (laughing), yeah that was a moment I had for a few months.
I thought it had lasted longer.
Naby: It was bad timing.
The construction side is tough?
Naby: It’s very competitive. There are some that want to do things cheap and it’s hard to compete with that. Back then it was tough with the economy with the price of copper and all. You couldn’t get a price on materials. If you wanted to bid a job the price was just good for that day. The next day the price was different.
That was a hard time to keep projects in budget and explain it to the owner.
Naby: Right. Absolutely.
So when you first learned you were going to be on the Visitor Center project did you know much about it?
Naby: I guess I leaned more after our kick off meeting with all that stuff. I’ve had some experience with Chickasaw projects before but it wasn’t like a project engineer. I was doing Quality Control on oversight for the hospital and cultural center.
Once you got to learn more about the project, did you think this was going to be neat project to work on?
Naby: Yeah. I thought it was going to be an exciting project. At first I thought this is a small job; a piece of cake. But it was challenging! The multi-level configuration we had on this building was a challenge and then the Gallery space. We were trying to make sure to get the lighting right; the accent lighting and the exterior lighting too.
The Gallery is probably the most special space in the whole project.
Naby: Yeah. The office space was typical like many jobs but this part of the Visitor Center was exciting and challenging to work on.
What was one of the greatest project challenges?
Naby: Coordination with the architectural features and then I would say also the LEED part. On the parking lot lighting, we were trying to get that point in LEED and you guys didn’t want too many lights outside. I think it worked out for the best. So making sure we got the LEED points required was big.
I found that the LEED was pretty challenging too; the Chickasaw Nation was going for a pretty high certification level.
Naby: We started with the solar panels (photovoltaic) but I guess it was the cost issue. If it had stayed, it would have been nice to have that on the job. Another challenge to make sure that everything was working out on the roof and keeping it clean.
Are you familiar with the Blog site?
Naby: Ah, yea. I go look at it once in a while. I have been sending my brothers a link. They look at once in a while.
So what do you think? It’s kind of a test to see what kind of feedback we get.
Naby: I think that was interesting when you showed the link to see how many people in different countries were watching. That was very interesting to see just how many countries across the world; all the way to the Far East; every continent.
I thought the world wide views of the Blog were pretty interesting too. It blew me away.
Naby: Yeah. Well not many people know how a building comes together from start to finish. It basically helps ordinary people understand it. I think the Blog is working pretty well.
Something else the Blog has been touching on is Team Approach and how FSB has all the architectural and engineering disciplines in house. How do you see the team approach here at FSB?
Naby: Yeah. Like you said, that’s the benefit of everybody being under the same roof working together. It’s easier to communicate. And on this project, I think our team communicated very well. Jason did a great job of getting everybody information. That’s the deal, you have to make sure that everybody gets the same information and when something changes to let the rest of the team know. That’s very important.
I always feel like we have a good team effort, chemistry and relationships.
Naby: And you were getting good information from the client too. They were very quick and responsive to our questions. That was a good positive thing.
Any other thoughts about the project?
Naby: Just can’t wait to go and punch it and see what it looks like. I’m curious to see how all the lighting worked out inside and out.
Naby: So that’s it?
Not even 15 minutes.
Naby: It wasn’t that bad (we laughed together).