Faces of Facilities

Faces of Facilities: Ty Dupass from the Community College of Philadelphia

As a native New Yorker, Ty Dupass considers the September 11th tragedy a “pivotal moment” in his career and is particularly proud of his degree in fire science, which he has “dedicated to the service persons and civilians who lost their lives on 9/11.”

Dupass currently serves as Director of Environmental Services and Life Safety at the Community College of Philadelphia. His duties include overseeing grounds, snow removal, landscaping, ADA, janitorial services, maintenance and compliance of all fire protection systems, and emergency standby power. His team is responsible for nine structures on the main campus and four additional buildings at satellite campuses serving the greater Philadelphia area.

Before his current role, Dupass worked at a four-year university as a facilities manager for the Housing and Residential Life Division.

Dupass also holds an M.S. degree in construction management and FMP credential from the International Facility Management Association. He’s a member of IFMA’s Philadelphia chapter, the International Sanitary Supply Association, APPA Leadership I Educational Facilities, and the National Fire Protection Association.

To learn more about Dupass and his take on industry issues, please read the “Faces of Facilities” interview below:

How did you get your start in the field?

My journey in facilities management was exciting. I began as a plumber’s apprentice and later journey plumber as a member of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, Plumber Local Union 1 (New York, N.Y.).

My father was a plumber, and he introduced me to the trade. Learning the trade laid the foundation for my past and current roles. Some of the skills and competencies I developed were blueprint reading, theories including sanitary drainage and disposal of non-potable water, domestic water distribution, cross-connection control of potable water, stormwater management, and water-based fire protection systems.

The apprenticeship was for five years. We had to put classroom theories into practice at an accurate job site under the tutelage of master plumbers. It was the most extended five years of my career. After serving five years, and rigorous testing, I was awarded journeyman status.

After my apprenticeship, I went to technical college for an associate’s degree program in Building Maintenance and Management, which we now call facilities management. The course requirements included certification in fire alarms, fire protection systems, and OSHA. At the time, I couldn’t make the connection. But my next opportunity made the picture clearer. My instructor trained us to think globally and maintain our buildings with integrity and competence.

I was hired as an assistant construction superintendent for a real estate developer. The project was a 285,000-square-foot development with various tenants, including a bank, retail stores, and a 2,700-seat movie theater. My role was to report on daily labor activities, assist with identifying and resolving safety hazards, and ensure activities were completed on time.

I developed an interest in fire protection systems during this period. I received mentoring on the theory of fire protection from one of the local vendors. After completion of the project, I became the manager of building operations. This was my first gig as a facilities manager!

The pivotal event in my career was 9/11. The terrorist attacks forced us to look closely at how buildings were constructed and protected. As a building professional, I wanted to do more to advance this cause. In the fall of 2003, I accepted a role with the City of New York as a plumbing inspector. The plumbing inspector also oversaw the construction and maintenance of standpipe systems in buildings.

My prior training paid off. Soon I was promoted to assistant chief plumbing inspector overseeing the Borough of Staten Island. Like the previous roles, I was tasked with roles that enabled me to develop competencies that would serve me later in my career. One of the roles was overseer of the proper disposal of stormwater. There were parts of Staten Island that did not have public sewers. In some instances, the building would have to seek permission from numerous agencies to dispose of stormwater in a natural waterway legally. It was our job to enforce the legal disposal of stormwater.

As I reflect on my career, it’s clear that each part of my journey contained lessons that I could take and apply now in my current role. It’s a long journey, but I’m grateful. Facilities managers have purposeful roles in society. Facilities managers are the unsung heroes in a changing world that kept people away from the marketplace. We had to lead the way by showing strength, courage, resiliency, and empathy to encourage people to return. My journey continues to be a constant reminder of my role as a steward of the built environment.

Who is/was your most significant influence in the industry, and why?

Countless people have influenced me in my journey to facilities management, but I’d have to say the real estate developers that hired me in New York were the most influential. I’ve learned the impact of the facilities on a community, the politics that come with constructing and maintaining a building, and its effects on natural resources and inclusivity in the form of job and business opportunities.

After that experience, I never looked at another installation the same. The journey has taught me that you must never stop learning and that it takes a village to keep the built environment safe and conducive for any organization’s fulfillment and successful mission.

What’s your best mistake, and what did you learn from it?

On one of my first inspections as a plumbing inspector, the mistake was approving a job as completed without verifying that the sprinkler system was tested. As a facilities manager, I could see how that could affect me if I had no records.

What are some of your organization’s most significant facilities management issues?

The most significant facilities management issue I encountered at every facility I managed was a lack of inspection and maintenance records and as-built drawings. There were O&Ms, but without as-builts and prior records, it’s a challenge to get a clear picture of the past maintenance activities on your systems.

What’s your favorite part about working in the industry?

My favorite part of the industry is working with people from all backgrounds, education, and various perspectives. I also love when a project is complete and everyone marvels at the finished project.

What changes would you like to see in the FM industry?

I want to see a change in how facilities managers are recruited, onboarded, and evaluated. Everyone assumes you can only work in facilities management if you have a degree. Still, many of the certifications from IFMA, APPA, and ProFM available today are crafted to prepare a tradesperson with the same competency. The unique advantage is that a facilities manager comes with hands-on experience and can better discern when and how repairs are to be made, the cost, and the resources it takes to complete the task.

How can company leaders make facilities management a value within their organization?

Company leaders must recognize FM as having a vital role in the organization. In my current organization, “world-class facilities” is a pillar of our mission statement. This empowers us because our team is respected and revered as subject matter experts. We want nothing but the best for our college community.

Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Are you noticing any significant trends?

Internet of Things (IoT) will play a significant role in data collection, automation in environmental control systems, and hazard detection. Data collection and asset management are keys to managing precious resources and ensuring key concerns like indoor air quality.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my resiliency as a professional. For example, the pandemic nearly sucked the life out of me, but I had to keep going.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

My advice is to never stop learning. The technology and systems you will encounter are constantly evolving. You will be obsolete and ineffective if you don’t keep up with changes in the industry.

The second thing: Learn your local building codes. Make friends with the local inspector (but do NOT offer them money!).

Anything else you’d like to add?

Facilities management is a multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary occupation requiring a curious mind, keen observer, and understanding that this is a thankless profession!

Are you or a colleague an FM professional interested in being profiled for the “Faces of Facilities” series? Please contact Editor Joe Bebon at JBebon@BLR.com.

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