Butera, Edward P. Interview, 2016 July 28. OH-02783. [Transcript.] Oral History Research Center, Special Collections & Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.
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AN INTERVIEW WITH EDWARD BUTERA An Oral History Conducted by Stefani Evans and Claytee D. White The Building Las Vegas Oral History Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas ii ©The Building Las Vegas Oral History Project University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2016 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Editor: Stefani Evans, Franklin Howard Transcribers: Kristin Hicks, Frances Smith Interviewers: Stefani Evans, Claytee D. White Project Manager: Stefani Evans iii The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of the UNLV University Libraries. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. The participants in this project thank the University for the support given that allowed an idea and the opportunity to flourish. The transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader’s understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases photographic sources accompany the individual interviews. The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the Building Las Vegas Oral History Project. Claytee D. White Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University Nevada, Las Vegas iv PREFACE Engineer Edward "Ed" Butera spent hours constructing models from the time he was a five-year-old boy in San Jose, California. Besides his interest in building and design, the young Butera also loved math and music—specifically the clarinet, at which he excelled, and which he still enjoys. After earning his Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering at San Jose State University he was hired by Ralph Joeckel as a consulting engineer for Trane, a heating and air conditioning company. Joeckel became a mentor and "second dad" to Butera after the company sent him to Las Vegas in 1972, and the two remain close to this day. In this interview, Butera shares how he engineered and designed power, water, sanitation, utilities, and heating and cooling systems on many Clark County high schools, hospitals, and data centers while considering such factors as the building's shape and its affect on the way wind forces act on its glass, windows, and doors. He talks of his casino work that began with the Stardust soon after he arrived in Las Vegas, and before his client list grew to include Tony Marnell, Steve Wynn, and MGM. Besides the hotels, he shares his experiences engineering the infrastructure for the Bellagio fountains, The Mirage volcano, Treasure Island's pirate show. v TABLE OF CONTENTS Interview with Edward Butera July 28, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada Conducted by Stefani Evans and Claytee D. White Preface………………………………………………………………..………………………….iv Recalls childhood, family and neighborhood; discusses love for building models; describes high school job at Proctor and Gamble Service Center, and remembers playing the clarinet and playing in band. Talks of San Jose State University; working for IBM, becoming a sales engineer for Trane and moving to Las Vegas, Nevada. Shares influence Ralph Joeckel had on his life; describes on-the-job training at Trane, and speaks to engineering solutions to design challenges created by weather and climate. Talks of marriage and stepchildren, commitment to his work, and his mentors and role models. Describes his company, designing air conditioning systems; hotel-casino projects, local utility companies and their billing processes, and why Steve Wynn went off of the public power grid …………………………………………………………….1-22 Butera explains the impact of solar power on the electrical grid and power companies; discusses his offices, their purposes, and locations; describes his move to work on more than casinos; describes his experiences building in the United Arab Emirates and his work with Howard Poe and Tony Marnell; explains the gas system inside the volcano outside of the Mirage; describes his infrastructure work for the pirate ships outside Treasure Island; discusses the attitude his company has and how it helped drive business; explains how technology has changed his line of work; explains Revit 3D design software, and discusses the impact of email on business. He critiques electronic communication; describes the records his office generates; teaches employees to calculate measurements manually and without electronic aids; discusses the process of reopening a closed casinos; describes the experiences of women in his industry; explains the impacts of the MGM fire and the Las Vegas Hilton fire on building codes and design work, and praises local building departments for making the engineer's job easier……………………………………………………………………………….…………22-43 1 It is July 28th, 2016. This is Stefani Evans and Claytee White and we're here with Ed Butera at his office. Why don't you begin by telling us your first and last name and spelling it for the transcriber? First name is Edward, E-D-W-A-R-D. Last name is Butera, B-U-T-E-R-A. Why don't you tell us a little bit about your early life, how you came to be? Oh, boy. Well, I was born in 1949 in San Jose, California. I grew up in California. We lived in the Willow Glen area. I was one of those guys that was able to live in the same house and go from kindergarten through high school by walking to school. Growing up during those years, we did I guess what most kids did during that period. I kind of miss that period of time when I look at what's happening today. But my dad worked at the post office. My mom was a nurse. My mom retired early so that she could stay at home with my brother and I. I had a younger brother that was a year and three months younger than me. He passed away some years ago. But that's where we grew up. We still visit the neighborhood. We've been in the house that I grew up in—it's in Silicon Valley. So that whole area has changed quite a bit, changed dramatically from a financial standpoint. I think my dad bought the house originally for eleven thousand dollars back in 1949 when I was born and it was last sold for, I think, seven hundred thousand dollars and then completely gutted and then completely remodeled. The house still looks the same from the outside as when I grew up in it, as does the whole street. You walk inside the house and you think you're in a different world. It's really amazing. Again, a couple that works in the technology industry in Silicon Valley are in the house now. We've actually been over there, knocked on the door. They knew our names and invited us in, showed us around. It was pretty amazing. 2 So growing up was the usual, really the usual. I guess I was fortunate. I didn't get into any trouble. Back then, if the teacher said something, you did what the teacher said. If my parents said something, I definitely did what they said. If I didn't do what the teacher said, I knew I was going to be in more trouble when I got home when my parents found out. So that's how we were raised. Some people today hear that and they think it's pretty strict, but I think that's probably the reason for my level of success in a business where most people don't see that level of success. It was different. As I say, my dad worked for the post office. I think I was the first college graduate in the family. My dad and I built models when I was young, five years old. From that time I would talk to my dad all the time, "What should I do? I've got to get a job someday. I love building models. I love math." My dad would always focus on engineering. He says, "You want to think about engineering." And so really from the time I was five years all I ever wanted to be was an engineer. CLAYTEE: Did you work a part-time job in high school? I worked part-time in high school. Actually during my senior year I got my first job in high school. I actually worked for an appliance repair company. Again, none of you are old enough to know any of this. But when you would have a problem with your Procter and Gamble coffee pot, you'd package it up and send it to a service center. Well, I worked at one of those service centers. Now, I started out working in shipping and receiving. So I'd receive it, fill out the paperwork, look at the warranty, get it to the service guys, get it back, package it up and ship it back out. I did that after school. So I would finish up school, come home, catch a bus that was at the corner of our street, take it to downtown San Jose and work until later on in the evening and then take a bus back home. Later on when I got my first car, I was able to drive to work 3 after school and then drive home. So that was my first job. Prior to that I mowed lawns. I never delivered newspapers, but mowed lawns and did whatever I could do around the neighborhood. So I'm going to ask a really superficial question. What was your first car? My first car? It was a 1964 Ford Fairlane three-speed on the column, no frills, no nothing, just an AM radio. That's how my dad bought cars. My dad was one of those that would save up enough money until he could pay cash for the least expensive car that he could find and that was the first car that I had. How long did you drive it? I drove that from 1967—1966 through getting my bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1972. And did you do the repairs on it yourself? No. I changed the oil. But I was always working. Actually also during that period—in fact, something that I always try and tell the young guys here and something that I've tried to do with my younger grandchildren who know me—my older grandchildren don't really know me; that was during that period of time when this was the focus and I was gone, so my wife took care of everything—but I remember in fourth grade coming home from school with a note to the parents about whether or not you would like your child to play a musical instrument. Of course, I wanted no part of that but I knew I better bring the note home and I figured, my mom and dad, they're not going to...That won't happen. But sure enough, that's when I found out that my dad said, "I always wished I could play a musical instrument. I never had the chance. Pick an instrument." "Ah, come on, Dad. I don't want to." He said, "No, you pick an instrument. You've got to give it a try. Try it for three months, four months, six months. If you really don't like it after six months, then we'll talk about it and you can stop." That probably turned out to be 4 the single best thing that ever happened to me in my entire life. What was the instrument? Clarinet. Actually, even though I was never interested, I did end up with a music scholarship. I turned it down because engineering was always my focus. But the people that I associated with, the things that I was able to do...My best friend that I grew up with in San Jose who I met through playing the clarinet in the fifth grade, he's now the music director at San Jose State University. We're still best friends. Some of the things that we were able to do...In high school we were actually the first and second best clarinetists some say in the country, but I'm not too sure about that, certainly in the state of California, and we had tried out and both made the All-American High School Band and Chorus. So we went back to Memphis, Tennessee. We rehearsed for a week in Memphis and then we traveled the Eastern United States and Canada for a month playing concerts. Yes, it was the best thing that ever happened. Again, the people that I associated with were just topnotch people. Sure. So now, where did you go to college? I went to San Jose State. We weren't in a position for me to go to Stanford or some of the other colleges, the top engineering schools. So I went to San Jose State, still a good school. Got my bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. Worked part-time through most of those years at IBM (International Business Machines Corporation). I had always planned on going to work for IBM when I graduated. I worked a little bit for Signetics Integrated Circuits. But IBM was always the goal until I worked at IBM as part of what they called their supplemental program. It was available only to engineering students. You had to work twenty hours a week during school. You had to maintain a full class schedule. You couldn't be a part-time student. So it was full-time school, twenty hours a week work—they'd work a 5 schedule so that you could get the twenty hours in during the week—and then full time during summer vacation and holidays, just an outstanding program. But that's when I found out that I didn't really want to be an engineer working for a big company like IBM as I looked around and looked at people and looked at what they did and looked at what happens when you start moving up the ladder, what happens when you get to the upper levels of engineering at a place like IBM. As you move up you get further and further away from engineering and more and more into dealing with—into management. I was always an engineering geek. Again, probably not the way to look at things if you want to be really successful in any business, but that's how I was. And so I started to look at other things from an engineering standpoint. At the time I graduated in 1972, in January of 1972, it was very difficult finding jobs; there weren't a lot of jobs out there. So I was interviewing on campus. I interviewed with a couple of different companies and had a couple of job offers. I had done fairly well in school and I always had IBM that I could fall back on, but I was trying to look at something different. That's where I found out about the Trane Company, T-R-A-N-E. Air conditioners? Trane air-conditioning, yes, because my bachelor's is in electrical engineering. So I interviewed with them on campus. They liked me. They only hire engineers even though you're actually going to be a sales engineer. I'm thinking, well, I'm not a salesman, but it's engineering. They explained a little bit about what I would be doing. I would be working with consulting engineers. I didn't know what a consulting engineer was at that time. And I'd be involved in the technical side. I'd be involved in the sales side. But your income was based strictly on commission. So it's commercial air-conditioning equipment that was sold that I'd work with an engineer, the equipment would be sold for that 6 project, and then my income was based on that commission. I was raised and I was always one of those that thought, well, okay, so my income is more in my hands. So if I think I'm good and it turns out that I am good, then I'll do okay; if I'm not good, no matter how good I think I am, I'm going to find out because I'm not going to make any income. So I ended up accepting an offer. They sent me back to La Crosse, Wisconsin. I interviewed with them. They liked me. They sent me to a sales office near San Jose, right near my hometown, which is where I would hope to have gotten sent back to if I went to work for them. And I interviewed with the office manager at...I think it was Mountain View. The next week I get a call from Trane out of La Crosse, Wisconsin, and they say, "Ed, not sure what to tell you, but we got feedback from the office manager in Mountain View and they've recommended we not hire you." I said, "Wow, okay." I guess I'm not as good as I thought I was. And I said, "Can I ask why?" And he said, "Yes." He says, "You're too much of an engineer; you're not a salesman." That was actually a very good comment. He was right on. So they said, "We still want you to come to work for us because we think you're going to be good at both. So we'd like you to talk to another office manager." So they sent me to who I found out was one of the legends with the Trane Company, a guy by the name of Ken Mirov who ran the San Francisco [California] office, big office, very, very successful Trane office manager. And so I went and interviewed with him, talked to him. Since I knew my problem, I tried to shade it a little bit more away from the engineering side and he recommended Trane hire me. Sad to say that I think I fooled him because I put on...It really wasn't me. But I thought that's what I wanted to do because it sounded intriguing and it sounded interesting. Trane is the one who sent me to graduate school and that's how I was trained in mechanical 7 engineering. So it sounds like a good company to work for. It's a fantastic company. I know all the Trane guys here. Tom Lawyer who runs the office here, he's the guy that I went to work for when I drove into town in July of 1972. Oh, so you came here with Trane. I came here with Trane. Trane couldn't get me to California. They did everything they could. They said, "We just can't get you there. There are no openings. But we have an opening in Las Vegas." And I said, "Las Vegas?" What had you heard about Vegas at that time? Well, they definitely need air-conditioning. Yes, really, yes. Really nothing. I certainly never heard anything negative about it, never heard anything positive about it. Back in those days growing up in San Jose that wasn't a time where the neighbors would go to Las Vegas for a weekend. So I never really heard much about it other than I knew it was Las Vegas. I knew it was really hot, it's in the desert and there are casinos there. You're right. So that's how I ended up in Las Vegas and that's how I met Ralph Joeckel, who is the other guy in the picture up there. Ralph is the founder of this company. He founded the company in 1966. How do you spell his last name? J-O-E-C-K-E-L. Ralph was one of my clients when I was with Trane, and I was only with Trane for a year and a half after I got here. I knew I wanted to work with the engineers because I was still an engineer. So Ralph and I kind of got to know each other. Ralph was one of those...Let's see. Ralph is eighty-seven now. He still comes in two days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays. 8 He's been my mentor, still is. He became my second dad. We've done everything together. He thinks of me as his son. So it's just been fantastic. So I met him. Back then Ralph was one of those that would not poach somebody from another company, but he liked me and he thought that I might be something that might work for the future of this company, but he wouldn't talk to me; he wouldn't ask me. I found out at an ASHRAE meeting, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. I was an associate member when I came to town and I would attend the monthly meetings. That's when one of the designers who worked for Ralph came up to me and said, "Ed, you might want to give Ralph a call because he won't call you, but he wants to talk to you." And so I called him, never thinking that I was going to leave Trane. Again, the way I grew up, I figured I'd go to work for a company, I'd stay there forever, that was it. And so that was a tough choice because I didn't feel right leaving Trane. Trane did a lot for me. The program is phenomenal. I spent three months, once a week for three months having dinner with Ralph at Marie Callender's on Sahara at the bar, at the counter, talking about things. And then actually the kicker was I met with another mechanical engineer in town, not of Ralph's caliber, not even near. We were having lunch and I told him that I've got the chance to go to work for Ralph Joeckel. He didn't even hesitate. He said, "Ed, if you've got the chance to go to work for Ralph Joeckel and you want to be an engineer and you don't, you're a moron." So that was it. I told Tom. I called Ralph. That's how I ended up here. I think we had ten people on Sahara Avenue. Now, where was this on Sahara? Nine fifty-three East Sahara right across from Commercial Center. So I actually came to work—my first day was, I think, Labor Day holiday—and started with Ralph. He put me in the back of 9 a room and had me start doing non-engineering things. He was training me. He said, "Look, you're not going to like this. You're not going to want to do this. This is not what you do. I know that. But you need to understand what draftsmen do. You need to understand what designers do. You need to understand what they do because you're going to be the one that's going to be..." He always said, "If you do what I think you can do, you're going to be the one telling them what to do and you need to understand where they come from." So I was drawing backgrounds. I had to do some drawing and I can't draw. I mean that's pretty much how the first year went. Then I just kept doing, "All right, whatever you got, whatever you got." And I'd do some calculations. He'd get me started in doing some different things and look at doing different calculations, start looking at conceptualizing some simple designs and then he'd review everything. It was fascinating. So it went from there. It was all based on the premise that I would be able to get registered as a mechanical engineer. Ralph was one of those guys that doesn't hold any punches. He says, "If you can't get registered, none of this plan is going to really work. You'll always have a good job, but I've got to go find somebody else." I said, "I understand." So I took the exams, passed the exams and off we went. So explain to me what the work really is. Well, probably the easiest way, today—or when I was, let's say, in the prime of things, as things were growing, as we were doing bigger and bigger work, a client, usually an architect, one of our architectural clients will contact us. They've got a project or they're interviewing for a project. They'll want our information; who are the engineers and key personnel that will be involved in this particular project? Here is the type of project. In most of those cases when we were smaller, I would be the one attending all of those interviews and we would put on our show and talk 10 about how we're going to handle this project. I would always be the one that was talking about not the management side but the real engineering side because that's actually all I've ever done with the company. As we've gotten bigger and we've gotten into managing people, I don't like that. My way of managing people is to...You respect everybody; you work with them; the lowest man on the totem pole here is as important as anybody else because if he doesn't do what he does, I can't do what he does; so we're going nowhere. Ralph is the one who really taught me that. If it wasn't for Ralph, I might have picked up other traits that a lot of other engineers had picked up. You're the engineer; you're the guy that tells everybody what to do and they better do exactly what you tell them to do. Ralph is the one who always said, "No, you might be the engineer, you know the numbers, you can put lines on paper, but you go out to a job site and you look at what a contractor does and what he has to do to build what you put on paper, you don't have a clue as to what he has to do." And somebody has to get you that paper. Yes. So anyway, but we get the project. The architect is already thinking about conceptualizing the building, the building envelope, here is what we're going to do. We'll start working with the utility companies. We've got to deal with power. We have to deal with water. We have to deal with sanitation district. Civil engineers will do the bulk of that work as far as sanitation and water is concerned. We'll work with the gas company. We work with the utility company directly and start estimating the power requirements for a large property. I would get involved in conceptualizing the early mechanical elements of a building. If it's a high-rise building, how many pressure zones? How do we get to the top of the building? What are we doing? Starting to look at the materials of construction. How are we going to withstand the pressures as the building has gotten taller and taller? So that's what I would focus on. 11 Now, I remember—and this may have been in the seventies—there was a skyscraper that was built and the glass blew out of it. Do you remember that? That's happened on a number of buildings. So is that the type of thing—would that have been an engineering boo-boo? That's an engineering thing, but that's more—not necessarily a boo-boo, but it's an engineering thing. That's a structural and architectural issue—building envelope, structural elements, glass manufacturer—not necessarily an engineering mistake. Could be, but not necessarily. Sometimes there are wind conditions that you just don't...You try and account for them best you can based on all the data that's available. It's no different than doing work in hurricane country. You're designing for massive wind loads. Well, there are still strange things that happen on buildings and there are strange aerodynamic events that occur based on the shape of a building. I'll give you an example on wind, for example. You may have wind conditions that will create such a negative pressure on the downward side of the building because of the shape of the building and that negative pressure actually will suck the glass out. The forces are amazing. At Wynn we had some issues that came up as a result of the curved shape of the building. On the backside of the building where the pools are there are a series of doors. Well, there are some windy conditions. Although you don't really feel the wind there, there is a strong negative pressure because of the way the wind comes around that building. That's on the inside curve, correct? On the inside curve, yes. Somebody opened one of those doors that opens out and that door just flew open and shattered as a result of the negative pressure on the backside of the building. Now, as mechanical engineers we understand that. We know that. We don't deal with that. We don't develop solutions for that. We work with specialty engineers that focus on aerodynamics. 12 They do CFD analysis, computational fluid dynamics, studies. They study wind velocities and they look at what happens with all of the forces around buildings of unusual shapes. Then the building structural engineers— And we've got them. We work with them, but we do not have structural engineers in our company. So the building structural engineers will then design based on those forces so that you don't have those issues. Wynn was one of the first towers done here in Las Vegas that had a different kind of a shape and so some of those studies were done after that door shattered. You learn. You learn. It happens. Sure. So what was the first project you got to work on as an engineer here in Las Vegas? Let's see. I think the first one as a registered mechanical engineer was one of the new high schools. Do you remember which one it was? I'm trying to think of which high school it was and I can't remember. This would have been in the late seventies. 1978 I think it was, or 1976. But anyway, yes, one of the new high schools. It had a chilled water central plant. So we were making chilled water and making hot water. We had all of the technology that was available for that type of engineering and those were the types of systems we were using. I'm a veracious reader, so I read everything. So I know all the new technology and I also understood, again learning from Ralph, you pretty much don't want to be the first one to use that technology. Let somebody else do it first. Unless you have a client that really understands that you're performing an experiment; it's not been tested; we don't have any historical information on it. If the client is the least bit uncomfortable with that then you go a 13 different direction. We've had clients that want us to do both. So I've been able to have a lot of fun doing some of these things. Quite frankly, the fact that I was in Las Vegas and the clients that we had—and we were crazy. As I say, during those early years after I got married, even my wife, Nancy, says that if she knew what I was like the two years that we dated before we got married, if she knew what I was really like, she would not have married me. Again, I like to think I'm pretty smart. I'm certainly not stupid. I knew I had to put on a show for this lady so she would not know what I was really like. So we got married. Well, she obviously doesn't mind the real you. No, not anymore anyway. And I was gone for the first twenty-five years of our marriage. So it worked. And she had two kids when we got married, so they're my stepson and stepdaughter. Yes, we dated. We got married. Actually, the day that we got married I know was on a Wednesday. A big project that I was involved with was the replacement of the Dunes Hotel, a project that didn't happen. But I was in a meeting with the owners, with Tony Marnell and his group. They were going to be the architect and the general contractor on the project. I was getting married that day at four o'clock and I hadn't told anybody. So Nancy called the office and said, "Is Ed there?" "No, Ed's in a meeting." She said, "You do know he's getting married today?" She said, "Oh, yes, we know. I think he knows, too." So our secretary at that time, she gave Nancy the name and number—she gave Denise, who was the receptionist at Marnell Corrao. And our girl said, "Call Denise and tell Denise what's going on." So Nancy called Denise. I remember Denise walked into that meeting and there's probably twenty-five people in this meeting and I'm talking about the mechanical system, what we're looking at doing and some 14 of the water issues on the site there. Denise says—she just breaks up the meeting—she said, "Excuse me, but this is very important. I'm here to remind Mr. Butera that he is getting married today at four o'clock and your future wife would like you to be there." Everybody just broke up and said, "Are you kidding me? What are you doing here?" I said, "What do you mean what am I doing here? This is a big project." That should have been her first clue. That was the clue. So we got married that day and then we drove to San Diego because I had an early morning meeting in San Diego for another project. Of course, you did. Yes, so we didn't actually take a honeymoon. We went to Hawaii, I think, eight months later. Well, San Diego is not bad. No. But that's not why he was there. No, no. And then that was it. I told her, I said, "Look, this is what I do. If everything goes to plan, it will all be pretty good. You shouldn't have to worry. You can take care of the kids. You do what you have to do." Quite frankly, I never wanted kids. I knew I wouldn't be a good dad. I wanted to do other things. I wasn't going to be there. So I was gone. I mean I was home every night, but I was gone and that's how it went. So we had a nice...She understood. And actually, if it wasn't for her...She supported me. I won't say she encouraged me to be gone. Now, because I'm around a lot, now she encourages me to be gone. But back then she didn't know any better and she'd like me to be around, but I was gone. So that's how it went. It's been thirty-two years now and we have it better than most. That's great. 15 Are you a better granddad than you were a dad? Actually I am taking the thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds to lunch today. My son and daughter-in-law and the three kids—their youngest one is four—they're leaving for a weeklong trip. My son is a battalion chief with the Clark County Fire Department. They know me. They understand me. They really like me. They like to be around me and I do things with them. My daughter's kids are older; they're in their late twenties. When they were young I was gone. And so they were always afraid of me. They didn't know. When I was around I always had something else on my mind. I'm not an outgoing, friendly guy and I don't trust anybody. I just kind of stay away. I lay low. I don't say anything. I just listen. Then usually if I'm around somebody and I hear the wrong thing too many times, then I'll say something and it's usually not what anybody wants to hear, but that's how I am. So do you see any young engineers in your grandchildren? Probably not engineers and I've been kind of...The youngest one—well, Owen and Jaden—Maxwell is the youngest. Kage and Roxanne are their parents. Kage and Roxanne have done an outstanding job of taking care of the kids. They've been the great parents. My wife, Nancy, is a great mom. I'm a lousy dad. So I'm the oddball in this whole equation. So they've done an o