2019 Rising Star: Kevin Sandrella, PE, LEED AP, senior project manager, CMTA (Louisville, Ky.)

Kevin Sandrella joined CMTA as an intern in 2005, later becoming a full-time employee after graduating from the University of Louisville’s Speed School of Engineering in 2009. Currently, he serves as a senior project manager for CMTA’s corporate office. His responsibilities include overseeing the engineering firm’s healthcare department and emerging design concepts while leading other electrical engineers throughout assigned projects. He works closely with his team to establish project goals and seek new opportunities, while also helping colleagues grow in their careers.

Healthcare Design: What drew you to a career in healthcare design?
Sandrella: As a kid who was naturally drawn to anything involving math or science, I knew I had to find a career that allowed me to work in the STEM field. Throughout my childhood, I can vividly remember my scientific curiosity pushing me to learn how things are built and operated. While attending college, my undergraduate years solidified my dream of becoming an engineer, but I struggled with choosing a specific project pathway. It wasn’t until I joined CMTA and began solving healthcare project conflicts that I was drawn to the healthcare sector. Now approaching 10 years in the healthcare industry, my concern for patients’ well-being drives me to design sound, sustainable, innovative, and comfortable facilities. Since healthcare is continuously evolving, and so is the design process, the challenge to stay ahead of that curve and solve the newest issues constantly drives me.

What’s one recent project that you’re most proud of?
I’m most proud of the way I managed the system engineering for River Parishes Behavioral Health Hospital, located in LaPlace, La. This renovation project focused primarily on improving the existing building with major infrastructure replacements and repairing envelope issues. The result was a significant facilities upgrade. From the first day of team meetings to the last day of construction, I assured the clients that we would transform the facility into an inviting place for people to receive much-needed treatment and care. Although the project’s budget was unforgiving, we adopted creative methods to find efficient solutions. By the end, my team and I successfully orchestrated multiple MEP system improvements that required extensive site investigations and use of old infrastructure to support the revamped architectural and programmatic goals.

What do you think is the number one issue facing the healthcare design industry in 2019?
One ongoing issue I find myself frequently concerned about is patient safety and regulatory changes and how they affect behavioral health, specifically. Keeping abreast of ever-evolving regulatory conditions and product development is a constant challenge. However, I, along with healthcare clients and design partners, are seeking innovative solutions to address this concern.

What’s one idea you have for overcoming that problem?
Although behavioral health patient safety can come across as a complex task, I believe issues like regulatory changes can be resolved by using a holistic approach—specifically, involving direct interface between the owner, team, and manufacturing communities to produce solutions. To keep up with the evolving healthcare project field, it’s essential to address and approach all projects in unique and innovative ways. I like to view the healthcare patient as the “real” A/E/C master. On several occasions, patients who identify facility and/or experience issues are the ones who ultimately teach engineers new project concepts and approaches. For example, as more patients use CMTA-designed buildings, we continuously receive vital feedback in regards to patient experience, comfort level, and preventative measures for patient and faculty errors. To learn from them, I review every issue that arises from three different viewpoints: the patient, provider, and community members directly affected by the project. By reviewing previously unexpected errors, the design team, clients, and I can discuss all ideas for resolutions.