Member Spotlight: Dennis Deppner
The Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA) dives inside the career of Dennis Deppner, Technical Services Manager for Master Wall Inc.® in Fortson, GA. In this feature interview, learn what made him become an ABAA member, what led him on his career path, and get his perspective on the future of the air barrier industry.
Dennis is the Technical Services Manager at Master Wall Inc, where he manages product testing, development of product data sheets, specifications and technical issues related to Master Wall Systems and products. Before that he was a Sales Representative at Home Acres Building Supply & Senergy of MI where he was responsible for the growth of Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS) products for Western Michigan and South Bend, IN areas. He served in multiple roles for Simplex Products Division where was he was Midwest Regional Manager, helping to improve Midwest region sales for Finestone Coatings. Also, as Director of Technical Services, where he managed product incident reports, developed and coordinated independent testing of products and assisted in research and development of new products, and finally as an Architectural Representative, where he conducted plan reviews, retrofit evaluations, water vapor transmission analyses and provided technical assistance for customers. He also developed and conducted applicator training programs, architectural presentations and issued Technical Bulletin newsletter updates for customers. Dennis also has experience as a Roofing Department Supervisor for Testing Engineers & Consultants, Inc, where he managed the roofing inspection department at an independent engineering/consulting firm. His responsibilities included moisture surveys, building envelope evaluations, repair specifications, remediation, quality control inspections and project management, with the Primary focus on roofing with secondary experience with waterproofing, building seals and sealants, wall investigations, inc. Dennis is the published author of ‘Evaluating EIFS’ July 1998 issue of Walls & Ceilings magazine and became a Michigan Licensed Builder #2101074121 in 1987.
Name: Dennis Deppner
Title: Technical Services Manager
Firm: Master Wall Inc.®
City: Fortson, GA
What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession with a manufacturer?
A: I love architecture and building, but realized that I really did not want to be an architect after a few years in college. I graduated and went to work as a carpenter, which I enjoyed very much. This added to my book learning, and physically assembling buildings gave me a good perspective on how they are built.
After a couple years, I started working for a testing and engineering firm in the Detroit area as a staff architect and eventually led the roofing/inspection department. This was when the term “Roof Consultant” was started and long before the invention of a Building Envelope Consultant, but we specified roofing and wall systems as well as daily field inspections of new and old construction. There I learned the importance of quality both in specifying and in field work.
From there and for the past 25 years, I have worked for a manufacturer and it has been great. I still practice architecture and am involved with at least 1000 projects a year! I still build test walls and work in the field when needed to help with the technical aspects of our products and develop our details and specifications. The variety of work keeps it interesting.
Is there anything that you believe everyone in this industry should be working towards?
A: Two descriptions come to mind: “Be a Bird Dog” and “Lead with Confidence”. Bird dogs get a head of the situation and one thing I always strived for when I was a consultant. Our team was reviewing the details for a project and if there were conflicts, we got them resolved before the contractor worked on that portion of the building. We simply viewed that as part of our service and instead of hindering construction progress we helped to speed it along.
Lead. If someone has hired you as a consultant or you are the contractor, lead with confidence. As a manufacturer, I expect that to be the case and am sometimes having to be the bird dog and team leader…and consultant. Lead!
What role have peers, mentors, or advisors played in your career?
A: I have been blessed to have worked for many, whom I would say are trusted advisors and rely on their experience. Old roofers are a great source for old roof projects, but just as important young architects are great for inspiration to develop new products and procedures.
What led you to become an ABAA member?
A: We make air barriers as part of our EIFS and stucco manufacturing, so that made it an easy decision to join. Being a manufacturer member is different at the ABAA. It required us to submit all our independent testing as well as a commitment to keep up on new testing and test procedures. It was much like getting another code review and we feel this adds to an architect’s confidence that they are specifying a quality product.
Are you involved in any ABAA committees? Do you have any ABAA certifications?
A: I attend the annual meetings but am not currently on any ABAA committees. Outside of ABAA I am on four ASTM committees and we have recently joined EIMA where I serve on the Technical Committee.
How long have you been in the industry?
A: I have over 20 years experience with fluid applied membranes in the air barrier portion of our industry. I have around 34 years of experience in construction, consulting, EIFS and stucco.
What major changes have you seen?
A: I’ve seen plenty, and a couple times at that! Big bulky solar homes were the rage when I was in school, then they went away. I learned water vapor transmission analysis by hand by the guy who literally wrote the ASHRAE standard, which I thought was useless – until I now use it daily. The importance of insulation went away…then came back. Now air barriers are challenging in the way we can control air and water movement, sometimes even too much without air changes.
Tools have changed. When I started, we were excited to get a bulky argon cooled thermal imager, now it can even be on your phone. I’ve even checked for moisture with a nuclear density meter, monitored temperature and humidity with paper dial type meter and did calculations by hand. It’s much easier now.
What traits or skills do you think are necessary to be able to succeed in your industry?
A: Curiosity, service to others and the ability to understand a complex variety of products and applications are needed skills. It changes rapidly.
Do you have any advice for anyone starting out in your field?
A: This is a specialty so cut yourself some slack. It will take a few years to gain confidence and a few more than that to become an expert.
What do you think the industry will look like in five or ten year’s time?
A: I think it will continually evolve for the better. Fluid applied air/water barriers have been a game changer in the construction industry, reducing water intrusion claims to near zero. I think we’re just starting to explore how controlling air movement in buildings will improve a building owner’s satisfaction.