Facing the Future the Feller Way
Specializing in high-rises, mixed-use projects, condominiums, apartment buildings and hospitality, Feller Engineering, the leading MEP/FP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection) engineering consulting firm in Florida, might be well-known for its impressive core projects, but it also takes great pride in its numerous other designs. These range from restaurants to high-end single-family homes and car dealerships, and the company welcomes not only large projects, but the smaller ones as well.
Founded in 1979, Feller was bought in 2016 by Musa Yenni’s private equity firm. He became executive chairman, and following founder Steve Feller’s retirement a year and a half ago, Yenni also became CEO and, subsequently, more hands-on with the company.
“Coming from New York, I enjoy running a firm that has designed some of the most iconic buildings in Florida,” explains Yenni. “It is a blessing to work with a terrific group of dedicated engineers.”
Indeed, Feller boasts the most experienced engineers in Florida in all of its departments including mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection and alarm, with many of them employed with the company for decades. “They continue to serve as key executives helping run the company,” says Yenni. “Where I get involved more is client relations, business development, financial and legal matters, and staffing decisions.”
Yenni coming aboard meant various changes within the company, but Feller’s business leadership has maintained ongoing success, as its 50-plus engineers continue to work with the largest developers and architects both in Florida and nationwide. Although most projects are located within the state, there are many others flourishing elsewhere, including the Caribbean, Latin America, and other U.S. states as well.
“What I have focused on is improving our quality and responsiveness,” says Yenni. “We’ve always been good in those areas, but I have gone one step further: I have created a quality control department and hired an executive — who worked for us many years ago — back to the firm. He has decades of experience not just in one industry and discipline, but in all of our disciplines. He’s also become the signer and sealer of all our projects.”
That means before any projects or drawings are delivered to Feller’s clients, the Quality Control Department reviews those projects to ensure they’re up to par and any errors are eliminated.
“Even before that, our department heads also review the projects for their disciplines and make sure they are satisfactory before they reach the quality control department,” says Yenni. “So all of that enhances the overall quality of our drawings and minimizes any large or small errors in them.”
Feller is focused on its responsiveness “with a vengeance,” setting up internal timelines that are met several days before projects are due to clients; in the final days, employees make sure the drawings are well coordinated within the departments, with a second set of eyes to check them for quality.
“Our project managers and engineers are very focused on delivering the projects prior to the time negotiated with our clients,” says Yenni. “Part of that is enhanced communication not just among our departments, but also with our architects, developer clients and sub-consultants, making sure our drawings are well-coordinated with the architect’s drawings. We are also very responsive on RFIs and shop drawings, saving our clients money during construction.”
Feller also maintains a strong focus on developing new engineers and building the company’s future leaders. As many of its executives and engineers have been with the company for decades, the firm boasts the most experienced engineers in all its disciplines, says Yenni. In addition, the company has hired more than ten “very talented” younger engineers in the last year towards building the company’s next generation of leaders. Several of these engineers are also project managers, enabling Feller to manage more than 75 projects at any given time.
“Our experienced engineers work with our new engineers, training them the Feller way to make sure the high-rises we specialize in are handled in the most cost-effective manner,” says Yenni. “That makes me feel a lot more comfortable and confident in our company’s continued prominence in our industry for many years to come.”
Are there specific qualities that Feller looks for in its potential candidates?
“We look for experience in the type of commercial and residential projects we specialize in,” says Yenni. “They typically come from another MEP/FP firm. Given the current high demand for engineers in Florida, we have expanded our search and also hired some good talent from other states and countries. They have to have good communication skills and good attitudes in addition to good engineering skills.”
In terms of its ongoing commitment to evolving with the industry, Feller is leading-edge, a pioneer in adopting REVIT in its designs and using the cloud effectively over the years.
“We’re very good in REVIT and BIM coordination in all our disciplines,” Yenni says. “In addition, we have been very proactive, taking the cue from our clients to become more of a one-stop shop for them and incorporating alternative services to our product offerings.”
As an example, Feller provides low-voltage, commissioning, rational analysis, lighting design and other services clients need and would otherwise have to contract on their own. Feller takes responsibility for all those alternative services and offers them competitively to its clients, including its pioneering efforts in LEED and eco-friendly projects.
While Feller was challenged by COVID along with the rest of the industry, with many of its projects put on hold during the pandemic, the company rose to the occasion successfully, says Yenni.
“During the pandemic we enhanced our abilities internally to work remotely, and thanks to the help of our competent IT consultants, our engineers have successfully worked from their homes, accessing our secure remote servers and delivering on their projects. Many projects put on hold are now coming back or have come back, so we’re happy about that.”
The company has also rid itself of a heavy debt load taken on to finance the 2016 acquisition and today is completely debt-free and “very financially sound,” a significant relief and accomplishment.
The team’s major accomplishments, Yenni adds, are the amazing projects they have had the honor and pleasure of working on, such as the Formula 1 races that took place at the Hard Rock Stadium in May. Feller has served as the exclusive MEP/FP engineering firm for the stadium for the past 13 years.
“We’ve been working feverishly with the stadium, the general contractor and other sub-consultants to make F1 happen seamlessly,” says Yenni. “It’s very exciting and was televised even more broadly than the Super Bowl held at the stadium. It’s a high-profile project we were fortunate to work on.”
Other notable projects include the Panorama, currently the tallest building in Florida, and working with the same longstanding client to design the next tallest building (One Bayfront Plaza).
“It’s in very early stages, but that’s been interesting to work on,” Yenni shares. “It’s an accomplishment to have repeat clients and remain their go-to engineers for decades to come, and to work on the most amazing, challenging and iconic projects in Florida and elsewhere.”
Feller is also proud of its work on Acqualina Estates in Sunny Isles, arguably the most high-end condo project currently in Florida. “We’ve been working twelve years on it, starting with tower one; now we’re with tower four and still working diligently to finalize the customization for the last tower and all the additional services around that,” Yenni says. “It’s one of the premier condo projects in Florida.”
Feller is also the engineer of record for the Margaritaville Hotel in Hollywood, where the team just started a major renovation of the hotel’s restaurants. “It’s a pleasure to work on projects that I personally drive by or bike by most days,” Yenni says.
Along with all its impressive work, Yenni says what sets the company apart from others is that while there are only a couple other companies Feller’s size in Florida, Feller has more than 50 engineers, enabling them to work on the largest projects.
“We have the staying power, the experience and the number of engineers in every discipline to manage the largest projects from start to finish,” he says. “We’re known for our high-rises, and we’ve developed the most cost-effective way to build such towers. We are many times hired by clients to do peer reviews on other engineers’ work for them where we come up with significant cost savings to them, and save our clients a lot of money.”
On the other hand, it’s rare that clients save significant money on peer reviews on Feller’s work, he adds, which shows they’re doing something right. They’re also doing something right when it comes to employee satisfaction and care.
“Our company culture is such that it’s a family atmosphere,” says Yenni. “We have some members of the same family working for our firm, and we welcome that.”
Whether it’s spring fishing trips to Key Largo, Christmas and Thanksgiving parties, or pre-pandemic beach outings and annual Bahamas cruises for employees and significant others, Feller is proud to embrace its welcoming atmosphere and generosity. “We are known for such events in the industry which enhance loyalty and camaraderie among our employees,” says Yenni.
This is coupled with strong relationships with city officials, general contractors, sub-consultants and manufacturers in the industry, he adds, which makes it easier to get projects done.
In terms of continuing to evolve with an ever-changing industry, the company prides itself on keeping pace, such as providing clash detection testing in-house. “We have the ability to make drawings better quality,” says Yenni. “We’re known as The Cadillac of the industry.”