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Insights Juggling work, family, and hobbies

image of William in a kayak

23 April 2019

William Kuffner | Senior Fire Protection Engineer, Infrastructure

At the end of the day, you’ll often find William Kuffner pulling a hay wagon with his tractor while listening to music. It’s a good way to unwind from the life-and-death business he’s in, although he’s far too humble to put it that dramatically. Family life on their acreage outside Ottawa includes dogs, horses, and trail riding. His wife is an avid rider and horse enthusiast. Although he was passionate about playing soccer, nowadays he enjoys the challenge of golfing 18 holes when he gets the chance.

Problem solving is William’s true calling, and what he engages in daily. The standing joke within his group is that engineers are like wolverines: be careful if you pick a fight with one because they actually enjoy it. The unique challenges inherent to each project provide plenty of diversity in his field.

He cites a recent project: designing the fire protection system of the Ottawa LRT maintenance and storage facility. Rows of trains are parked in the building with people cleaning them and doing minor repairs. Because of its design and the maintenance activities that generally happen inside, standard ways of getting people out if a fire occurred wouldn’t work. His team applied the fire safety sciences to develop an alternative that keeps people equally safe. Their solution involves large fans to exhaust the smoke that would gather first near the top of the high-ceilinged space. It extends the time people would have to leave the building, and it’s smart because being able to see exit signs through the smoke is a critical factor in getting out safely.

William’s areas of expertise include fire modeling, fire dynamics, human behaviour in fires, and design for fire resistance, which are all things we don’t think about until the unthinkable happens. Coming up with acceptable and safe alternatives requires leadership, attention to detail, and dedication. William is passionate about fire safety engineering and is driven to see it become more widespread in Canada. While things are trending that way, the industry is still young. The building code only changed 10 years ago to allow alternative fire safety solutions.

If you look beyond William’s poised and professional presence, you’ll find someone who enjoys camaraderie among colleagues and downtime with his family. When he’s not mending fences or clearing trails for his wife, you’ll find him on the golf course or relaxing with a good book.

William in 5 takes:

Love: Family

Food: “I love food. I’m not one of those people who live to eat, but I’m not an eat-to-live person either. I enjoy all kinds of different foods and it’s really a joy to experiment and to cook and to enjoy the food. In our house, everybody cooks.”

Song: “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. “I’m old, but I’m allowed,” he says.

Place: Home

Structure: It’s important and we all need it, but don’t get stuck on it.

Learn more about William’s fire protection expertise here.