20 Questions with Thomas A. Gugino, Inspections Supervisor, Building and Safety for the city of Las Vegas.
Originally published: 11.01.07 by Terry Tanker
A recent trip to Las Vegas enabled publisher Terry Tanker to meet with Thomas A. Gugino, Inspections Supervisor, Building and Safety for the city of Las Vegas. The two met poolside at Bugsy Siegel’s desert dream, The Flamingo, which has anchored the Las Vegas Strip since gamblers started rolling dice in 1946.
The discussion covered casinos, construction projects, mechanical systems, IAPMO and everyday contracting challenges.
1. Do you have a favorite casino game?
Actually, I’m not a gambler. I’m a golfer.
2. There are probably more good golf courses than casinos in Las Vegas, which one is your favorite?
I like Wolf Creek in Mesquite.
3. What’s your handicap?
My golf swing…
4. Even though you’re not a gambler, do you have a favorite casino?
I like the Mandalay Bay. The wave pool is outstanding.
5. What is the best advice you can give to someone visiting Las Vegas?
Stick to your budget. It’s easy to get carried away in this town.
6. You were a plumber, pipefitter and welder before becoming an inspector. Why did you change careers?
I was welding in Utah during a snow storm and thought there had to be something much better.
7. You are a member of IAPMO - International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials. Can you tell us more about that?
IAPMO has a long history and was founded in 1926 to help improve the application of codes.
8. What is your involvement with the organization?
I’ve been the chairman of the Southern Nevada chapter for seven years. I also sit on a number of sub-committees — specifically Curriculum Development, Product Certification and Standards Review.
9. What is the best thing about your job as an inspector?
I really like the fact that I can help people.
10. Work on casino construction projects is conducted 24/7. How does this affect the inspection process?
We are well aware that millions of dollars are at stake because of timing with overall construction. We offer 24/7 inspections. All the contractor has to do is call and schedule it with us. This is not exclusive to casinos. Supermarkets are another industry we typically do this for.
11. What are the most significant challenges on these large projects?
The biggest challenge is too often there is no overlay between the architect and the mechanical engineers. We find that architects aren’t allowing sufficient room for the size of ducts, for hydronic piping, plumbing pipes, electrical conduit, and cable trays and this is the dilemma. On some jobs it’s not unusual to have 2500 RFIs (requests for information) just on plumbing and mechanical. That will tell you the quality of prints we are getting.
12. Can you take us through the typical mechanical systems inspection?
Generally, for new construction, the hotel rooms are straight forward with regard to the fan coil unit. Many times plumbing the room is equally simple, a sovent system is used, one pipe for both the vent and drain. Of course, the larger systems and spaces are much more complex and take much more time.
13. What problems do contractors encounter most in the larger spaces?
In addition to the supply and return air systems, the smoke removal systems are critically important — not only within the gaming areas, but specifically within the stairwells. Pressurization of the stairwells to keep the smoke out was a big lesson we all learned during the MGM fire. [Publisher’s note: The MGM Grand Hotel and Casino fire occurred Nov. 21, 1980, and claimed nearly 90 lives. Most fire damage occurred in the casino on the second floor and its adjacent restaurants, although many of the deaths were caused by smoke inhalation on the upper floors of the hotel.]
14. So, is air balance the largest mechanical challenge in a large building like the one we are in?
Without a doubt I believe air balance is the most challenging.
15. We’ve all heard the rumors about oxygen being pumped into the gaming areas. Is there any truth to that?
While I have heard that rumor, it’s just that — a rumor. Hotels bring in outside air to the return air plenum for the air handlers. However, the airport and some hotels have oxygen bars where you can pay to breathe in scented oxygen.
16. What would you change about the construction process if you could wave your magic wand?
Schedules are too tight — there isn’t any room for delays for revised drawings, weather and a host of other things. I would build more realistic time tables.
17. What types of problems are most prevalent during inspections of plumbing and hvac systems?
Code violations of all types, but many times contractors see problems with the drawings and make adjustments. Often, those drawings are changed multiple times. We have the third set of revisions and they are working from the tenth revision.
18. You hold over a dozen licenses or certifications. Training and education is obviously very important to you. What advice do you have for contractors in this area?
They really owe it to their company, employees and themselves to invest in training their people. Training is readily available from many professional organizations and even local code inspectors.
19. What have you learned over the years you wish you would have known from the very start?
When dealing with any problems go in person. Don’t try and work things out over the phone.
20. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned as an inspector?
Everything works on paper or in a CAD system. It’s a different story on the construction site. You’ve got to be able to help the construction team make the adjustments.
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