HONOLULU, HAWAII (March 16, 2023) – Coffman Engineers, Inc. (Coffman) is pleased to announce a 30-year career milestone for Fire Protection Engineering Principal Robert Bigtas, PE, FSFPE. Since 1992, Robert has been a trailblazer as a fire protection engineer, having executed over $80 million in services in the Pacific.
Coffman’s Pacific Region Managing Principal, John Thielst said, “Robert’s career is marked by his dedication to this profession, his loyalty to clients, and Coffman. We congratulate him on this significant milestone and look forward to his leadership for many years to come.”
Robert was born and raised in North Kohala on the Big Island of Hawaii. After graduating from the University of Hawaii Manoa, he joined Hawaii’s first full-service fire protection engineering consulting firm, S.S. Dannaway Associates (SSDA). SSDA was the Pacific Rim’s leading fire protection engineering and building code consulting firm specializing in design and construction quality control services for facilities in Hawaii, CNMI, FSM, Australia, Guam, Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Diego Garcia, Marshall Islands, and the Philippines.
SSDA joined Coffman through an asset acquisition in 2016. Today, Robert is a principal and leads the Honolulu office’s fire protection engineering department.
Robert has worked on more than 80% of all military bases in the Indo-Pacific and completed services on more than 90% of all military facilities in Guam. The Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC) military standards require a Qualified Fire Protection Engineer (QFPE) to review the complete 100% design drawings and specifications submissions from all disciplines to certify the facilities are in compliance. A QFPE is the only engineer required to understand, review, and sign off on the entire DoD Facilities design submittals for compliance with all required Unified Facilities Criteria. Robert’s depth of technical knowledge, interpretation, and accuracy has led to trusted relationships with the local architectural and engineering communities and the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Air Force for the past 30 years.
Clients and colleagues across the industry celebrate his dedication and experience:
“Congratulations, Robert, on 30 years! It’s been a pleasure working with you these last 20+ years. Not only are you a great engineer, but you are also so much fun to work and travel with. You are one of my favorite consultants we work with! Looking forward to more future projects together,” Kendall Ellingwood III, AIA, LEED AP, Design Partners Incorporated.
“Robert is the preeminent fire protection professional – he is the best. I can always rely on him for thorough, up-to-date, and accurate information. It is always a pleasure to have Robert on the team, especially when traveling. His openness to trying new things and his sense of humor make the whole team more comfortable. Robert, congratulations on a great 30 years. Please keep going. We need you to keep us all at our best,” Francis T. Hino, PE, HDR.
“Robert Bigtas is a great team player who has worked closely with the entire design team and client on all WTN’s projects that required fire protection. He is knowledgeable, hard‐working, and a really easy and fun person to work with. As the Prime, it is “reassuring” knowing that our clients and government engineers are familiar with Robert professionally and respect his fire protection experience and knowledge. Thanks for teaching engineering to us architects, but most of all, mahalo for being a true friend. Robert, you da man,” Warren Nakamura, WTN Architecture.
“Robert is very well educated and well known amongst the fire protection community. Having Robert on our team has been such a relief knowing that our projects are in good hands and that we are able to rely on his prompt, accurate, detailed response. Robert is a great mentor to the younger engineers-in-training both within Coffman and to other younger engineers/architects from other offices, such as myself. He is a phenomenal fire protection engineering consultant, a fantastic person, and friend,” Shanton Antolin, WTN Architecture.
Local Boy at Heart
Robert embraces the true meaning of giving back to the community. He is the current President of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) Hawaii Chapter, an active member of his community neighborhood watch council, and values his deeply rooted relationships with the Hawaii fire departments. One of his recent achievements is recognition by the national SFPE as a Fellow, a title nominated by his peers and given to members demonstrating dedication and significant contributions to the profession.
Robert’s Secret to Career Longevity
One can’t blaze a trail without a fire. For Robert, this has been maintaining trusted relationships. He has worked beside Jay Higashi, PE, for 29 years. Robert humbly credits much of his success to his partner in crime, and to those who paved the way for fire protection engineering in Hawaii. “I’ve worked alongside Sam Dannaway, PE, FSFPE, since I was 21 years old. Sam is a pioneer in Hawaii, and I’m grateful to him for establishing a fire protection engineering practice here and training up leaders around him.”
Passing the Torch
When asked what advice he would give to someone starting their career in engineering, he answered, “Don’t be afraid to do the heavy lifting – you need to identify where you want to be and what you are willing to do to get there. None of my success in sports and in my career is from just being a participant. I learned early on that I needed to be the hardest worker in the room to realize and achieve the goals I set forth.”
Robert’s work ethic is shaped by his community in Hawaii and has carried him over the past three decades. This same determination is what he will lean on as he trains up the next generation of leaders. He looks forward to the decades to come serving his clients and colleagues in the Pacific region.