Richard Haimann, P.E., D.WRE, CPSWQ, CPESC, QSD, M.ASCE has over 27 years of experience in a broad range of civil and environmental engineering practices. He has helped many clients negotiate discharge permits, consent decrees, implement permit conditions, and plan programs to meet a wide variety of clean water act requirements from MS4 compliance to asset management programs to CMOM to the application of internet of things technology to improve operational efficiencies and lower system compliance and failure risks.
Richard has a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, an M.S. in environmental engineering from Stanford University and an M.B.A. in technology management from Pepperdine University. He is licensed as a professional engineer in California, Texas, and Washington. He currently is the president of Haimann Engineering, a water resources consulting firm, and the CEO of Sustura, Inc., a firm developing and commercializing real time Internet of Things enabled water quality monitoring technology.
In this interview feature, Richard shares with AAWRE on his life and career path, his love of civil engineering, challenges in stormwater, leadership, and his plans for the next year.
Where were you born and where did you spend most of your formative years?
RH: I was born in Chicago. From ages 0-11 we lived on the south side in a neighborhood called “behind the yards.” When I was turning 12, we moved to the southwestern suburbs of Chicago – Downers Grove until I was 14, and then Westmont. I graduated from Westmont High School.
From Ages 18 through 19, I resided mostly in Charleston, IL attending Eastern Illinois University majoring in biology and theater arts. I felt I had not identified what I really wanted to do with my life and decided to take a break from University to explore the world, and to some extent, myself.
From ages 19-22, I hitch-hiked from place to place across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, working various jobs – construction, oilfield, restaurant, painting, fruit picking, vegetable picking, handiwork. I did some street busking with my guitar in New Orleans. I did roustabout work on a circus out of Florida for a while. I had always wanted to see what Alaska was like, so I hitch-hiked to Alaska and decided to stay. I worked in fish processing plants, on commercial fishing boats, in construction in Kodiak and Kenai, and construction and taxi driving in Anchorage.
By this time I was feeling I wanted to really devote myself to the development of technology that would improve conditions around the world. I decided to go back to school to study some form of engineering associated with chemistry and biology. I scrimped and saved my money, and refreshed my advanced algebra, trigonometry, and geometry in my off hours. I moved to Fairbanks and started school, initially majoring in biology and chemistry. I worked summers in the fisheries or forest fire fighting. I worked winter breaks driving a taxi. I kept my costs down by renting cabins with no running water and wood-burning stoves for heat. I Nordic skied to and from school at times.
It seems these were all formative years. In fact, I keep on learning with every new project, every new friendship, every new professional relationship, every new conversation I have with another person. I don’t think we every stop forming, as long as we keep our minds open to learning.
When did you first know that you wanted to study civil engineering and what were your main influencing factors to go into civil engineering?
RH: I loved chemistry and biology as central sciences that described how life works and the interaction between living things and the environment, and always had had a keen love for the outdoors, nature, and the earth’s physical systems and how we adapt within them. After studying chemistry and biology and looking for ways to apply them to make the world a better place, and given my predilections for understanding environmental systems, environmental engineering attracted me. Thus, civil engineering became the major I would complete with electives in environmental engineering. I then pursued a M.S. focused solely on environmental engineering.