Principal structural engineer Jay Higashi.
Jay Higashi, PE

Coffman congratulates Honolulu fire protection engineering principal Jay Higashi, PE, on his 30-year career milestone. Jay is a principal specializing in the design of fire protection systems for state, military, and commercial facilities. He plays a vital role at Coffman having supported over 1,000 projects across three continents.

“We celebrate Jay Higashi, a fire protection engineer who never says no! We commend and congratulate him for his outstanding 30-year career, and thank him for his leadership, mentoring, and partnership,” said John Thielst, Coffman’s Senior VP and Pacific Regional Manager.

Jay was born and raised in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. After earning his MS in Mechanical Engineering, he worked for four years in Minneapolis before relocating to Hawaii in 1990. He worked at M&E Pacific for three years and then transitioned to fire protection engineering and building code consulting firm: S.S. Dannaway Associates (SSDA). SSDA joined Coffman through an asset acquisition in 2016. Through this time, he has been a leader and project manager for specialized projects across Hawaii, CNMI, Australia, Guam, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Diego Garcia, the Marshall Islands, and the Philippines.

His experience includes hydraulic, voltage drop, and fire alarm audibility calculations; fire hydrant flow tests, the design of wet pipe and preaction sprinkler systems; fire suppression systems, review of fire sprinkler and fire alarm shop drawings; evaluating code compliance, and inspection of fire protection systems.

Jay was past president of the Hawaii Chapter of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, past chairman of Hawaii’s American Society of Mechanical Engineers, vice chairman of the Building Board of Appeals, and an active member of the National Fire Protection Association.

In honor of Jay’s career milestone, clients and colleagues across the Pacific celebrate his commitment to the industry.

What words come to mind when you hear Jay Higashi?

“Jay is one of the leading experts in Hawaii with regards to fire protection work and is well respected in the engineering community.” – Benton Ho, State of Hawaii Department of Transportation Airports

“Creative and Reliable!” – Bryan Ginoza, RMA Architects

What can you expect from Jay while working together on projects?

“Confidence that the assigned tasks will be done and have confidence in the direction of the design or technical response.” – Benton Ho, State of Hawaii Department of Transportation – Airports

“Practical solutions.” – Bryan Ginoza, RMA Architects

Do you have any words or well wishes to congratulate him on his 30-year career milestone?

“Congratulations, Jay!  It’s been a pleasure working with you since 1997. I still remember the first project we worked on together. Thank you for your great service all these years. I’ve enjoyed working with you and appreciate the great service you have provided to our projects. You are one of the most professional and nicest engineers I have worked with. You have always worked with us to make our building designs work life safety wise, for you are one of the best, if not the best fire protection engineers in the Pacific. Truly grateful for your great service. Thank you.” – Kendall Ellingwood, Design Partners Incorporated

“Congratulations and appreciate all the support on our projects over those years.” – Bryan Ginoza, RMA Architects

“Congratulations and best wishes.” – Benton Ho, State of Hawaii Department of Transportation Airports


Personal Legacy

Jay reflects on this memorable journey.

What is one of your favorite or most memorable projects?

“The Hawaiian Airlines Maintenance Hangar and Cargo Facility. It was a large aircraft hangar along with high rack storage, shops, a paint booth, and offices.  The project was design-build and during construction, the project was stopped. It didn’t appear that I would be able to see the building completed and the fire systems tested. In the end, I was lucky when the contractor and design team that was selected to complete the project were companies I had previously worked with, and we were invited to be part of the team to complete the project.”

What are some of your greatest joys over the past three decades, and what do you look forward to in the years to come?

“I have partnered with individuals who have the same path/plan for fire protection. I would not have lasted this long without Sam Dannaway, PE, FSFPE, and Robert Bigtas, PE, FSFPE, because the work often results in an answer, “It depends.” Having colleagues of this caliber to exchange ideas with makes the difficult projects easier and the hard projects possible. I enjoy the accomplishment of seeing a building completed, knowing it will serve, shelter, and protect people for years to come. I hope I can pass on this reason for doing a good job to future engineers in the field.

In January 2023, my son, Ryan, joined Coffman as a mechanical engineer. I was happy when he chose engineering, and ecstatic when he chose Coffman. Usually, after your child graduates from college, you rarely see them. I get to enjoy lunch on a weekday with my son.”