POSITION: Chief architect, Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal.
Joe Delaune, a 15-year-veteran of the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal, was recently promoted to chief architect. He began his career in the 1980s as a private architect and now spends much of his time interpreting the state’s fire codes and analyzing the safety, economic and political implications of such laws.
What is your main responsibility?
My primary responsibility is to administer the architectural/engineering section of the OSFM. The program staff collaborates with prospective building owners, entrepreneurs, developers, architects and engineers on codes, rules and laws affecting life, safety and fire protection in structures accessed by the public. The program also provides for the review of plans and specifications of new construction, renovations to existing buildings, fuel storage tank installations, fire protection system installations, licensed health care facilities, and other structures for compliance with state requirements prior to the work being performed.
How does the Fire Marshal’s Office affect Louisiana’s business climate?
Plans and specifications are required to be reviewed by the OSFM Architectural section. One of the first steps toward economic development begins with this section. A large part of our focus will continue to be on education and consultation with our clients during the planning phase — prior to the formal plan review. It is important that information regarding the laws, rules and codes that are applicable to the project is understood before countless hours are invested in the planning of the work. This helps reduce conflicts and provides for quicker turn-around and construction time.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced since you assumed your new position in mid-July?
I have received overwhelming support from our staff and our clients statewide and nationally. So far during this transition period, I have found it a challenge to allocate my time to address each and every question and request effectively, accurately and thoroughly in a timely manner. The limitations of our current outdated technology have not helped with meeting this challenge. We are pursuing a new state-of-the-art system that will bring the level of communication with our clients to where it needs to be.
Do architects with the State Fire Marshal’s Office ever design buildings?
Although most of us have spent years in the private sector and have designed many buildings for various clients, we do not design buildings here at the OSFM. Our staff specializes in understanding the laws, rules, codes, and standards that apply to the designs of various structures. This
knowledge is best applied during the design phase.
What are some of the recent projects you’ve worked on?
Since mid-July, over 1,800 projects have been submitted to us for review. Collectively, every project submitted to this office represents the future of our economy and therefore every project receives equal attention. The scopes of work for these projects range from minor modifications to existing buildings or fire protection systems to major new construction projects. A couple of the more recognizable current projects are the new University Medical Center in New Orleans and associated facilities (totaling well over 1.5 million square feet) and the LSU Tiger Stadium South End Zone expansion.
Advocate staff writer Ben Wallace