2018 Engineers Week: Paul Rothgery, Project Manager, Denver Service Center Design and Construction Division

Head shot of Paul Rothgery
Paul Rothgery, Project Manager, Denver Service Center Design and Construction Division. -- Image courtesy DSC

Tell me about the most challenging engineering project you have been involved with in the recent past.

One of the most challenging engineering projects that I have been involved with is the design of the Flight 93 National Memorial Tower of Voices project. The project involves the integration of a 93-foot tall precast concrete tower with forty large wind activated musical chimes that represent the 40 passengers and crew members on the plane. The tower is intended to be a landmark memorial feature near the entrance to the park and a living memorial in sound to remember the 40 through their ongoing voices.

The design process used consultants for wind and acoustic engineering, a professional musician, and a chime artist in addition to a typical complement of architectural and engineering team members. The shape and physical characteristics of the precast tower directly influence the conveyance of wind to activate the chimes suspended in the tower. To my knowledge, there are no other structures in the world that have wind chimes of this quantity and size (lengths vary from roughly five to ten feet long). A series of mockups and prototype testing was necessary to develop a chime design that will perform as intended, be maintainable, be aesthetically complementary with the tower structure, and provide for visitor safety. This project is currently under construction and will be dedicated in early September of 2018.

What checks and balances do you use to make sure your project meets Park Service's needs while staying within available funding and specified time frames?

I apply a “hovering” parenting style to managing projects. Through a combination of meetings, design reviews, conference calls, review of project documentation, and onsite inspections I attempt to stay on top of everything that is happening. Vigilance and probing questions often help identify issues that could lead to detrimental project impacts. My main system of checks and balances is paying attention to the issues and solving little problems before they escalate into bigger ones.

Project estimates and schedules aid our project teams in providing the information about the health of a project, but they do not always tell the entire story. I use a full complement of project communication tools in order to gather the information necessary to keep projects advancing in the right direction.

What are you doing to stay current with the latest technology?

When possible, I try to participate in training sessions that further educate me about construction/project management and green building concepts.

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day is all about adapting to the needs of the day. Some days I stick to the “to do” list on my desk and other days my daily plan is completely uprooted in order to address more urgent project needs. Some days I am in meetings all day and other days I focus on the review of design documents. Part of the fun of my job is that each day is different and there is always a mixture of tempos each week.

What do you enjoy most about your job as an engineer?

I enjoy solving problems and providing quality customer service to improve our National Parks. My constant quest for the ultimate adventures and my passion for nature make this job a great fit for me. I have travelled to parks I never knew existed, explored remote locations that most people never see, and I have had the opportunity to meet some really inspirational people.

Anything else you'd like to add?

My co-workers at the Denver Service Center make this a great place to work. We share common values and enthusiasm related to preserving and protecting so many beautiful places. I tell people outside of our office all the time that it is great to work in a place where people genuinely enjoy their jobs. The problems we sometimes face in our projects can be daunting, but a healthy dose of ingenuity, drive, and humor (and/or sarcasm) help us to do some pretty amazing things!

Last updated: February 14, 2018