Member Spotlight: Don Williams
The Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA) dives inside the career of Don Williams, President / CEO for Project Manager for Moisture Intrusion Solutions in Daytona Beach, FL. 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.
Don worked for a national waterproofing consulting firm for over 8 years as a regional director in charge of numerous projects and personnel. In March of 2013 Don started Moisture Intrusion Solutions (MIS). Since then, MIS has grown to over 70 team members. Over the years MIS has made two acquisitions, one of which has become an IOS 17025 laboratory for air barrier and AAMA testing in Daytona Beach, FL. MIS currently has local personnel based from Texas to Colorado and New Jersey and throughout the southeast. Our mission as a company is to “Serve Others Well”. This statement was borne out of our foundation of serving others. This not only includes our clients, but also our fellow team members, trade partners, subcontractors, manufacturers and the industry as a whole.
Before joining the consulting industry, Don worked for a general contractor and attended college in Houston Texas. He received an Associate’s degree in Engineering Design Graphic. While in college Don received specialization certificates in Architecture and Structural design.
Name: Don Williams
Title: President / CEO
Firm: Moisture Intrusion Solutions
City: Daytona Beach, FL
What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession as a Building Envelope Consultant?
A: I found that my passion intersected at building businesses and buildings. I worked my way up through the ranks and helped grow an ambulance company while going to college, igniting my passion for growing businesses. After graduating, I began working for a general contractor, igniting my passion for building buildings. I really enjoyed being part of building something from nothing. After a few construction projects, I got the opportunity to work for Water Management Consultants following Hurricane Katrina. It was there that I began learning the science behind wall systems and protecting buildings from potential water intrusion. I was given the opportunity to help grow the company from the panhandle of Florida to over 15 states. With my dual passions for growing business and buildings now combined, I decided to build my own consulting firm in 2013. We now have more than 70 team members working across the country every day to serve others well.
Is there anything that you believe everyone in this industry should be working towards?
A: Continual self education is critical. Manufacturers are innovating new products and offering a wider selection to the industry. There are continual changes to code and common building practices are continually evolving. As envelope consultants, we must understand how all these pieces and parts connect, interact, and perform as a system. One of the things I really enjoy is taking new products and testing them in our lab under a more “real world” condition and seeing how they perform against their peers.
What role have peers, mentors, or advisors played in your career?
A: I have had several business mentors over the years. These mentors have helped guide and advise me on sustainable company growth. The growth of knowledge within my field I attribute to my peers pushing me to be better. As a principal centered leader, it is important to me to recognize that talent and knowledge are not tied to position or function within the company. Listening to the thoughts and ideas of others helps to fill in the gaps putting into practice Aristotle’s idea that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. When you surround yourself with smart people it naturally makes you want to be better.
What led you to become an ABAA member?
A: I received my ABAA Auditor accreditation in 2012. It was an initiative by the company I worked for as part of their continuing education program. Being part of ABAA and watching it grow and expand its reach and level of influence and support has been fascinating, so much so that becoming an ABAA Auditor is now part of MIS’s continuing education program.
Are you involved in any ABAA committees? Do you have any ABAA certifications?
A: I currently sit on the ABAA Research and Development committee, as well as a related sub committee. I am also an ABAA Auditor.
How long have you been in the industry?
A: I have been in the building envelope consulting and testing industry since 2005.
What major changes have you seen?
A: Wider use of the STPE technology and fluid applied materials in general. I watched it transition (after sealant) from a flashing made for wet wood in the Seattle to fluid applied air barriers. Another one that comes to mind is the emergence of integrated weather resistive barrier panels. Maybe the most impactful has been the increase in the requirement and understanding of the need for continuous air and thermal barriers, and how those are now combining into foam products that can serve as an air, thermal and moisture barrier in one product. As with any of these innovations, there are positive and negative impacts and stumbles that can happen with manufacturers or products. This is what makes our industry so interesting and enjoyable to be a part of.
What traits or skills do you think are necessary to be able to succeed in your industry?
A: Leadership and Relationship. Whether you’re in the field with the contractor and subcontractors helping them succeed or in an OAC meeting discussing project details, testing, VE options, submittals that don’t match the spec, etc., as the consultant we must hold the line on quality of products and installation. No matter your role on the project, we all have the responsibility to the building and doing right by the building. On the relationship side, you must be able to relate to and understand the needs of the client and the entire project. If you go in with a rigid and inflexible mindset, you do a disservice to the team. Having the strength to lead and the courage to listen are critical to this industry.
Do you have any advice for anyone starting out in your field?
A: “Fail forward” and keep plugging away. As you start gaining accreditations and certifications, remember that you may not pass on your first try. Keep going! There is a lot to learn about building envelope consulting that is not taught in schools. There are no short cuts for experience in the field, but you can shorten the curve by joining and participating associations such as ABAA and getting industry specific certifications. Finally, do not be afraid to reach out to others for advice when you need it.
How much demand do you think there is for people in your profession?
A: The demand is growing every day. As a company, we are seeing growth in all regions and climate zones. Insurance drives so much in this industry, as it does in other industries. We help all parties understand and minimise the risks associated with water intrusion in a building. When lending institutions put up the capital it takes to build these projects, they want some level of assurance the buildings will be constructed properly and their risks controlled. It used to be all responsibility was placed on the Architect and General Contractor. Now that buildings and systems have gotten more complex, combined with code and other regulatory requirements, it has increased the realization of the need for specialized subconsultants in the industry, such as Building Envelope Consultants.
What do you think the industry will look like in five or ten year’s time?
A: Our industry is currently evolving from envelope / waterproofing consulting to building science role. Historically the envelope was considered sheathing out and our goal was to stop water. As energy codes change, the entire wall system must be considered, and even the HVAC system. I believe building envelope consulting firms that do not focus on the entire envelope assembly, including water, air and thermal, will be a thing of the past in 5 years. The firms that are around will have incorporated consulting on HVAC, fresh air and dehumidification within 10 years. This will help prevent a disconnect in the overall building performance.