Continuing the Family Legacy

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Tinkering with scraps in the garage taught Bill
 Morris that he loved to build, and an aptitude
 for math and science led him to follow his father, Mike Morris, into engineering. He graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1995 and, two years later, joined Morris-Depew Associates, the Fort Myers firm co-founded by his father.

“I enjoy creating things that are long-lasting and that marry together the need for people to have a place to exist with functionality, safety,” says Bill, the firm’s vice president and principal. “It’s a neat thing to attribute that usefulness to something that you do.”

Morris-Depew Associates, which has 25 employees and was founded in 1989, provides land planning, civil engineering, landscape architecture and surveying/mapping across Florida. Current projects include the Gulf Coast Medical Center expansion, Fort Myers’ Premier Airport Park, Southwest International Commerce Park and the Margaritaville project on Fort Myers Beach.

What changes have you seen in the engineering industry?

When I first started out, we were mostly using computers to draw the projects. Now they’re used more to create 3-D models of what we’re building. Where we’ve increased the complexity of how these things get put together, it has made the process a lot more concise and it’s done in a much shorter time frame.

What types of projects are challenging and how do you problem-solve?

I find redevelopment work to be one of the more rewarding things, and it’s becoming a lot more commonplace. One reason that I enjoy it is that a lot of the regulations and requirements are geared to regulated green development, new development; they don’t all speak to redevelopment projects. So trying to whittle down which things apply and which things don’t apply and trying to adapt newer standards to older things is a challenge. The result is usually getting a brand-new product out of something that had previously lived its life.

What do you do when a client’s expectations are beyond the realities of engineering?

It happens routinely where … a client’s desire to do certain things is limited. Not everybody can afford to spend significant amounts of time trying to modify regulations, so we work within the parameters that the codes allow and try to find 
a way to get them as close as we can to what (the client’s) intended goals were. Sometimes it requires them to temper what they were expecting, and sometimes it’s an opportunity to look at the project in a different way.

Does it ever turn out better than they planned?

Yes, it has. We do a good job of coming up with ways to justify exceptions to the regulations where they’re allowed, a lot of times finding ways to meet the code. The codes are not always black-and-white documents. They are oftentimes kind of vague and are subject to interpretation. Not all situations are equal and they don’t always all fit the intent of the code perfectly, and so trying to come up with ways to demonstrate why a particular code either applies or doesn’t apply, or needs to be applied in a different way, is oftentimes the measure by which the ultimate design is achieved.


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