The President's Series - Stephen Triphahn
Scott Brown, Director of Business Development for the W-T Family of Companies, dives into the professional experience and lives of our company presidents. First up: Stephen T. Triphahn, President of W-T Mechanical/Electrical and CEO of W-T Engineering.
Your father started this company. What is your first memory of W-T growing up?
"Well it was while he (Steve's father, Donald R. Triphahn) worked full time for an A/E firm that he decided to build an office in our garage. This company started off as a twelve by ten office in the back of our garage in Hoffman Estates. My Father started off on a part time basis working nights and weekends (always taking time to coach and watch my brothers and my sports activities) to get it going. Eventually he cut his hours with the A/E firm to two days a week and hired a neighbor who worked for Motorola to help him with drafting. He then rented office space in Schaumburg and Roselle adding more part time help working on projects such as; churches, park districts, banks, etc. Up until about 1974, it was a two to three man firm held together by my mother who ran the books and daily operation. In time he teamed with a partner Richard Walsh to create the "W" and "T" firm and it started to grow from there."
When did you know that you wanted to become a MEP engineer?
"I have to think about this one. It's kind of strange actually. I began working with him by taking out the garbage and cleaning up the place and doing standard details; tracing backgrounds and stuff like that. Then one day he said, "Hey, draw an isometric of this plan." So he handed me a flat sheet of paper with lines on it and said turn it into an isometric. I was able to pick up on it real quick and I thought it was pretty cool being able to see it in an isometric view. That experience is what really spurred my interest."
Would you say that it was natural because you had watched your dad do it in the past?
"Yes, he was surprised I was able to pick up on doing isometrics that quick. I had also taken drafting classes in high school that taught me some of that as well so it was pretty neat."
With some of the challenges the last few years have brought to the industry, what changes have you seen? Where do you see the industry headed?
"In today's fast paced environment, it has been a challenge to always make sure everyone is on the same page. Architects, engineers and contractors don't really work the same way they did when I first got in the business. However, I could see it coming back to the old ways, with more construction managers getting involved during the design phase.
Technology is another change, with all of the sustainable, LEED and renewable energy sources. It has been here for a while but I still see it headed in the direction of sustainability. I also see the Building Information Modeling (BIM) being a big thing in the future. A lot of smaller architectural firms are not using it but when they see its capabilities I think they will eventually get into it. "
What makes W-T Engineering unique to our clients?
"Several things, like our mission statement states, we have some relationships that date back to my father, that's forty plus years with the same client. Most of the client base we have now that gives us regular work, have been with us for over twenty years.
We get jobs "knocked out" in a timely fashion, our designs are very cost effective and fees are very competitive. Being able to offer all the different trades that we do is a big benefit, a one stop shop of sorts which eliminates using several different consultants by hiring W-T."
Most of your clients and co-workers know that you are a talented professional and executive. I hear that you have a few grandkids. What would they say about you?
"You know, one is only six weeks old her name is Madison, the middle, Sophia, is eighteen months, and Adreyan the oldest will be three years old in June. I hope one day, they say that my grandfather is a hard worker and cares about his profession, company, family and wants to make sure it continues onto many generations."
Stephen T. Triphahn
W-T Engineering Inc. – CEO
W-T Mechanical/Electrical Engineering, LLC - President
Steve has over thirty five (35) years' experience as a project leader directly responsible for overseeing the W-T Family of Companies and serving as president of W-T Mechanical / Electrical Engineering, LLC. Steve heads up the design for all mechanical and electrical systems that W-T Mechanical / Electrical Engineering, LLC accepts. Steve is a past President of the Chicago Regional Chapter of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers and a current member of ASPE, ASHRE, NFPA and USGBC.