Employee highlight: Meet Kevin Raives

Danielle Chevriot

Danielle Chevriot

Meet Kevin Raives, our American born and raised Senior Engineer, who is now making his mark in the New Zealand construction industry.

Kevin has nearly seven years of experience in the design, investigation, and rehabilitation of building enclosure and facade systems for major commercial, residential, and institutional buildings.  His recent project experience includes consulting with architects, contractors, and building owners in both the design and investigation of below-grade tanking, contemporary cladding and curtain walls, and roofing and waterproofing systems.

Kevin moved from the USA to bring his experience managing projects and producing technical design and construction administration work to the New Zealand industry.  After nearly two years of experience working in New Zealand, Kevin has continued to grow as a facade and building enclosure engineer and is quickly becoming a reputable industry leader as he manages large-scale projects and brings innovative solutions to his clients.

Sit back and enjoy the interview below to learn more about Kevin and his career as a Senior Building Envelope Engineer.

1.    What made you decide to get into Engineering? 

Like most Engineers, I was always really good at math and science growing up.  I never knew what I wanted to do with it because I felt that I was more of a people person and less of a ‘behind-the-desk-get-the-job-done’ person.  When it came time to choose my major at University, I decided to pick Civil Engineering because it interested me, and it also ran in the family.  At school, I loved the hands-on learning that engineering provided.  I found that working in facade/building envelope engineering gave me the opportunity to interact with a variety of people regularly, while continuing to learn new hands-on engineering every day.

2.    You recently moved to New Zealand from America, tell us about your experience as an Engineer in America and what you were up to before moving? 

I had an excellent upbringing as a young engineer working in Los Angeles and San Francisco, California.  I joined my previous firm, SGH, after two summer internships with them as a College grad.  The culture of SGH is one of continually learning and developing young staff.  I found my place working for a wide variety of experienced engineers who all wanted to teach me everything they knew. I owe a lot of my expertise to these mentors and I still keep in contact with many of them.  Working in America was challenging, fun, and sometimes overwhelming.  I used to regularly work 50-60 hour weeks… because that is just what you do in America.  One of the biggest reasons I wanted to move to New Zealand was to experience what a work-life balance was really like.

3.    A lot of people are not familiar with the role of a Facade & Building Enclosure Engineer, how would you best explain it? Could you elaborate for the public?  

Facade and Building Enclosure Engineering is the design and investigation of the exterior components of the building.  It’s what separates the interior environment from the exterior environment and how the entire skin of the building interacts with the rest of the structure.  It’s not just the vertical cladding or facade, but the roofing, waterproofing and tanking components, which then works together to create a habitable interior space. In New Zealand, our role can vary from peer reviewing the work done by the Architectural Team, to performing the design of the facade or waterproofing systems ourselves. Our job is to be a resource for the Project Team and help them navigate through the many types of products, systems, and methodologies used to create a safe, durable, and weathertight building. 

4.    You’ve been in New Zealand for a few years now, what surprised you most when you moved here and learnt how things are typically done?  

Converting to the metric system was one of the first challenges for me.  I still have a cheat sheet at my desk, but I can proudly say I rarely use it nowadays.  Of course, codes and standards are different, the terminology is different, but one of the nice things is that building concepts don’t change.  Roofs still need to shed water, windows need to be weathertight, and basements should be dry.  It was really comforting to be able to pick up right where I left off in America.  The biggest change is the work/life balance.  For all my American friends, you’ll be amazed to hear that I can leave the office at 5pm and it’s not a bad thing.  We can still get plenty of work done (and I still have some late nights and the occasional working on a weekend) but Kiwis really understand that behind my email address is a person who has a life outside of the office and they respect that. 

5.    What is the most interesting/unique project you have worked on to date, and why? 

I’ve worked on a lot of really cool, high-profile projects, especially in San Francisco with Silicone Valley just down the road.  I would say one of my most unique projects was actually an interior investigation.  It was at a Vivarium, which is basically a research centre for primates.  They had some issues with interior protective coatings on their walls, so I spent a few years visiting the facility for the investigation and then subsequently for follow-up repairs.  I had to put on a full protective Tyvek suit, with a face mask so I wouldn’t spread any germs to the primates at the facility (who were sometimes in cages right next to me).  I was told not to look any of them in the eye because that’s when they will start throwing their… well, just don’t look them in the eyes.

I've been getting a great experience so far in New Zealand, working on projects in Auckland and Wellington ranging from residential to commercial and University projects. I'm looking forward to expanding throughout the country and getting to see more of the amazing sites throughout NZ.

6.    What is it like being part of Kaizon Engineering, how does your team and your Director inspire you, and what are you, as a team, trying to achieve?  

The Kaizon Engineering team is a small group of passionate and skilled engineers.  I’ve really enjoyed growing with the team and doing my part to offer my own experience/knowledge to the rest of the team, while still learning something new each day.  It’s fun being part of a small group where everyone can offer their own input and have a very collaborative group.  Working with Jon has been a great experience.  He’s constantly challenging me to develop my own client base and take on interesting/challenging projects.  I like that our focus on our projects is to educate our clients on making informed decisions.  Passing on knowledge and teaching others is a great way to challenge yourself and keep learning as you work, while also contributing to create better buildings in NZ.  As our team grows, we’ll continue to bring on engineers who both love to learn and love to teach what they know.  I’ve always been told to hire someone smarter than myself, and I hope that we keep that mindset.