Coastal Engineering's President/CEO John Bologna shares his story from growing up in the construction industry in East Buffalo, NY, to graduating from Rice University and designing high rises in Houston, TX, leading up to 1987 "homecoming" to Cape Cod. John also discusses the firm culture and gives an update on the most prominent of the projects in the works.
Bologna joined Coastal Engineering in 1988, after interviewing with company founder, the late Thomas “Will” Joy. He worked his way up from a project engineer to senior vice president and in 2005, when he and four partners bought the business from Joy, and Bologna became the President/CEO.
“The success of the company is the unity and collaboration of the firm’s principals and associates who share core values including integrity, strong work ethic, and a high degree of client and community service.
Whether it’s commercial or residential structure, a civil site plan, wastewater treatment plant, drainage design, or shorefront protection for waterfront facilities, there’s a lot of engineering that goes into what we do, but most of that is behind the scenes. In Mike Rowe’s words, we are the people doing the work that everybody needs, but nobody knows about. Our work is about creating engineering designs that are resilient and improve the quality of life.
I like to say we can’t solve all the world’s problems, but in this little corner of the world that we operate in, we can solve some of them and provide for better living conditions for people. Thinking deeper than bending moments and shear diagrams gives a philosophical underpinning to the work that we’re doing."
Bologna sees his role as passing on the knowledge gained from over 40 years of engineering practice to the next generation.
“Coastal Engineering has long focused on helping our staff grow, and encourages professional development through mentoring and training."
In the world of COVID and beyond, Bologna foresees more internal and online training, providing junior staff with career development opportunities. Coastal Engineering conducts weekly all staff briefings and offers online staff training, with sessions covering anything from engineering design to contracts, insurance, and professional ethics.
“I am proud of our entire team, and measure my success in seeing them each succeed and advance in their professions”.
With much of the company’s projects located on Cape Cod, there are often historical and environmental sensitivities that come up that might not be a factor in other locations.
“We live in a beautiful place. It is a microcosm of small coastal communities facing the threat of sea level rise, degradation of water quality, and the need to protect the environment while balancing the need for housing and economic development for the people that live and work here. These are all challenges that need engineering solutions.”
Another one of the company’s projects, currently under construction, is the inclined elevator at Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown that will connect Bas Relief Park on Bradford Street to the top of High Pole Hill at the base of the monument.
“There’s a lot of interesting technology involved in this project. We've had to run an extensive structure and geotechnical evaluation for the project’s slope stability requirements.” The inclined elevator is a basically an elevator cab that runs up and down the hill on an elevated track set between two landings. “Provincetown is essentially a big sand dune, created by the advance of glaciers that formed Cape Cod ten thousand years ago, so we had to design a deep foundation system to anchor the pile supports into the sand to hold up the landing platforms and track rails.
Another challenge was coordinating with the inclined elevator manufacturer who’s located in Switzerland. There aren’t too many of these structures on the East Coast, so there was a bit of a learning curve for the entire project design team. How do you get electrical power up there? What are the security needs, operational logistics, IT, the telemetry? The design requirements are very sophisticated."
Coastal Engineering provided guidance for the regulatory side of the process as well; obtaining the permit approvals took the team almost a year.
Coastal Engineering also tackles residential projects including both single and multi-family complexes. The firm is currently working on several multi-family housing projects in Sandwich, Yarmouth, and Dennis, and has received a BRICC Award for the development at Brewster Landing. Coastal is also responsible for the site design for a number of assisted living facilities, including the recently completed Cape Cod Villages, a housing community for adults with autism in Orleans.
“There is something deeply embedded in the human race that drives the need to safe shelter. These housing projects provides for a fundamental need for a safe place to call home. It’s deeply satisfying knowing that we are helping to fulfill that need.”
Bologna recalls a conversation with Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.
“She told me, ‘You guys are the best kept secret on Cape Cod.’ I said, ‘Well, let's not keep it such a secret.’”
Read the full article by Bill O’Neill in the At Home on Cape Cod Fall 2020 issue.