T&M Partner Spotlight from VUSP Newsletter

August 11, 2023

Reprinted from The Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership Summer 2023 Newsletter:

Our student spotlight, Catherine Marino, had the opportunity to speak with VUSP Partners Zach Ranstead, Associates & Supervising Engineer and Keith Lieberman, Sr. Vice President & Regional Operations Manager from T&M Associates.

Zach and Keith discussed how they got started in the civil engineering field. Upon moving to the Philadelphia suburbs after college, Zach started his career at a small mom-and-pop company, before moving to T&M where he feels that he has had the opportunities to work on the “best projects there could be in terms of coming up with innovative land development designs for stormwater erosion control and permitting.” Keith is a Villanova alumni, completing both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the College of Engineering. While at Villanova, he traveled to Panama with Villanova Engineering Service Learning (VESL), which inspired him to complete similar work in Bolivia for two years following graduation. Upon returning to the US, Keith secured a civil engineering job with a Philadelphia-based firm, eventually making the move to T&M and bringing with him a team of engineers, including Zach. Keith enjoys the challenging nature of his career. “I love solving complex puzzles and I like a challenge, and that’s what engineering is. That’s what we do all day long.”

One of T&M’s clients is the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD). T&M provides PWD with professional engineering services in the design and management of various Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) projects throughout the city. Zach also spoke of several recent successful projects by the firm regarding stormwater management. A work of Zach’s which is especially notable was called Ultra Extended Detention, defined as “the extreme delayed release of captured runoff over many days via a specialized outlet structure to mimic the natural hydrologic process of soil inter-flow and release as baseflow replication.” In 2011 Zach drafted a whitepaper for the design approach and method to supplement the 2006 Stormwater BMP Manual while working extensively with the Pennsylvania Stormwater Technical Work group. This contribution was studied and validated, leading to formal design guidance issued in 2018 as the Managed Release Concept. Another notable project was at the site of the Phoenix Ironworks Steel Mill, which was demolished in the late 90s. While developers approached the site for 20 years, it faced little success due to it being entirely in a floodplain. T&M broke down every aspect of the site, including a collapsed bridge, an old dam, and any other obstructions. Through HEC-RAS modeling, they learned that pulling out the obstructions would open up the site to development and mitigate any adverse impacts to the floodplain. Their work resulted in a newly developed area, including a reconstructed bridge, restoration of the overbanks, and residential units. The site is overall more resilient—it is now safe from storms that otherwise would have caused flooding.

T&M also led a unique program, called the Green Infrastructure Workforce Development Training Program in Columbus, Ohio. This project addressed three issues: the improper construction and maintenance of GSIs, the lack of available qualified contractors, and employment for underrepresented communities. In a 74-hour course, members of different ages and diverse backgrounds received both classroom and hands on experience regarding GSI. A certificate is awarded to members after completion of their education and training, recognizing their ability to manage GSI. Members’ new employment following the program left them feeling more fulfilled with their lives and what they are capable of, in a more inclusive community. Overall, the program led to a very special outcome, which is improved GSIs across the city supported entirely by a local workforce.

When asked about the company culture at T&M, Keith explains that “first and foremost, we’re a people business.” T&M excels so strongly in their technical solutions due to all the people who work together throughout the process. Between the clients, engineers, stakeholders, attorneys, contractors, the public, and more, their work touches a lot of passionate people. At the root of their success is employee engagement, focus on staff career progression and creating a fun & enjoyable employee experience. “If we can create a culture that treats our employees well, empowers our employees, gets them excited about what they do and gives them the right tools to do great things, the ultimate beneficiaries are our clients.” When hiring new engineers, Zach and Keith look for passion, critical thinkers, and the ability to articulate technical information in a clear and concise manner. These are some of the most important qualities that allow a young engineer to meet their full potential.

In summarizing who T&M is as a whole, Keith says: “We’re passionate about people. We’re passionate about the projects we do. We’re passionate about our clients. We’re passionate about solving complex problems and creating a more sustainable world. We just do that through engineering. That’s really what we like to think we are.”