District employee receives crucial fire protection license

Published Feb. 4, 2019

After years of dedication, Louisville District Mechanical Engineer Vu Nguyen recently received his Fire Protection Professional Engineer license in December 2018, after passing an intense 8-hour exam with 80 questions.

Nguyen spent years practicing for the exam, took numerous training courses and spent many months studying for the exam, which has a pass rate of 56 percent, according to the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying website. 

“This is an outstanding accomplishment and truly reflective of Vu's dedication to his profession and colleagues,” said Mike Braden, engineering design branch chief. “For those of us who are fortunate enough to work with him every day, it comes as no surprise as he has never been intimidated by the prospect of hard work to help deliver our mission.” 

Nguyen is currently the second fire protection engineer in the Louisville District and soon to be the only one, following Mark Robertson’s retirement. The district is required to have a designated fire protection engineer on staff, so this was a critical need for the district since the only FPE is eligible for retirement. 

“Fire protection engineering is a very specialized field and licensed fire protection engineers are relatively rare,” Nguyen said. 

Nguyen had an interest in fire suppression system design for many years. He discovered his interest for the license during his time in the district’s Leadership Development Program. He knew it would help the Louisville District while also potentially advancing his career. 

“For several years, I worked with the engineering division leadership to receive the necessary training and developmental assignments to build competency in the field,” Nguyen said. “I began studying for the license itself in January 2018, working on it for one to two hours per day through July.  From July to October, I took the Society of Fire Protection Engineering exam review course, and then the last two months prior to the exam date, I took three weeks of annual leave to study.”

Fire protection engineers ensure that the materials of construction; layout of a facility; and fire suppression, detection and alarm systems are designed and constructed to result in a safe building for the occupants.

“Any designs we produce must be designed or reviewed by a qualified FPE,” said Brandon Martin, engineering division's mechanical section chief. “There are less than 50 FPEs in all of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

According to Nguyen, This type of certification is needed for the building construction and building renovation for almost all vertical construction projects. For the district’s in-house design projects, the FPE will work with each engineering discipline and architects to design facilities to meet life safety and fire protection requirements.  For Architect-Engineer designed projects, the FPE will either be the life safety/fire protection reviewer or lead a fire team in the review.  The FPE will also be the ‘go-to’ engineer to handle fire protection problems during construction or for existing building assessments.  

“Having the fire protection engineering license will allow the district to maintain its ability to meet the design and construction mission in compliance with life safety and fire protection mandates, help the district deliver safe buildings, and gives stakeholders confidence in our ability to do those things,” Nguyen said.