Skip to content

2012 Engineer of the Year: Timothy H. Haahs, PE, AIA

Haahs_Tim_uriMagazine cropAs part of the annual Delaware Valley Engineers Week celebration, one engineer from the Philadelphia region is recognized by the engineering and technical societies of the Delaware Valley, through the Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia, to serve as an ambassador and leader for the engineering profession. The highly coveted Delaware Valley Engineer of the Year Award is bestowed upon a colleague who reflects the qualities and talents that define professional excellence, civic duty, and community stewardship.  The Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia is pleased to present the 2012 Engineer of the Year Award to Timothy Hyungrock Haahs, PE, AIA, president and CEO of Timothy Haahs & Associates, Inc.

“We exist to help those in need.”

This simple statement is Engineer of the Year Tim Haahs’ mission in life and the principle under which he founded his company, Timothy Haahs & Associates, Inc (TimHaahs) in 1994. It was not without adversity and struggle, though, that Haahs came to define his life’s work in this way.

In 1992, Haahs was in the prime of life — working as a professional engineer at one of the largest parking consulting and design firms in the United States, and married with two young daughters. His life changed dramatically when he lost consciousness while driving on the New Jersey Turnpike.  Escaping an accident, Haahs was rushed to the hospital where it was found that he had significant heart disease and needed a heart transplant. Haahs spent six months in the hospital waiting for a donor, and in January 1993 he underwent the first of what would be two heart transplants.

During his time in the hospital, Haahs reflected on his life and realized that wealth and professional achievements were not as important to him as they once were.  As Haahs’ medical bills piled up, he quickly reached the lifetime maximum on his medical insurance. Left with no money to care for himself and his family, Haahs relied on the support of others and learned what it was like to have nothing. From this experience, he gained a strong understanding that serving others is what is truly important in life.

Success at the helm of TimHaahs

Recovered from the transplant and charged with his new mantra, Haahs started TimHaahs with three other employees – an engineer who he worked with at his former employer, a part-time AutoCAD technician and his wife as business manager. They worked out of his home garage, and just three years later in 1997, thanks to Haahs’ determination and steadfast leadership, the firm was ranked 7th out of the 100 fastest growing firms in the Philadelphia area. In 1998, Haahs was recognized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with the Blue Chip Enterprise Award which honors small businesses that have overcome obstacles to emerge stronger and excel in a competitive marketplace.

Today, TimHaahs has grown to a staff of over 40, becoming one of the leading architectural and engineering firms in the country specializing in the planning and design of mixed-use parking structures.  Since 1994, the company has completed more than 500 projects, opened satellite offices in Miami, Fl., (2005), Atlanta, Ga., (2007), and New Brunswick, N.J., (2008) and expanded the services that his company offers. What began with parking consulting and structural engineering services during the firm’s first few years, has grown to include architects and engineers who have developed a strong portfolio of prime design work, master planning services, asset management services and sustainability consulting.

Turning problem spaces into “people places”

Since Haahs founded his company 18 years ago, parking and traffic have become major planning concerns.  Haahs has always been ahead of the curve.  “Parking needs to be more of a people place than just the storage of cars,” he says.  TimHaahs’ creative and innovative designs combine parking solutions with the pedestrian experience to create active and vibrant “people places” that are mixed-use facilities, integrating parking, retail, office and living space. His firm has proven that parking is a driving force for economic development and can transform university and hospital campuses, main streets, town centers and major cities. 

Haahs believes that it is not only his duty to create parking structures, but also to work to eliminate traffic and parking. This idea is puzzling to many since his business relies on the parking industry. He says, “The role of a doctor is to not only heal, but to also prevent health problems. A doctor is not doing his job if he doesn’t do both, and I would not be doing my job if I didn’t work to reduce traffic and the need for parking.” Most recently, Haahs presented this issue to 37 delegates of the United Nations as part of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).  He devised a strategy to help eliminate the global challenge of parking and traffic, and promote greener, more sustainable development and infrastructure.  The delegates then returned to their countries with Haahs’ plan to work to create self-sustaining communities that improve the quality of life.

Haahs is involved in a number of professional organizations, including the International Parking Institute, where he holds a board position.  He is on the advisory committee of the Philadelphia chapter of the Urban Land Institute and is also a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) where he received the ASCE Philadelphia Civil Engineer of the Year recognition for 2011. He is an active member of the American Institute of Architects, American Planning Association, the Institute for Transportation Engineers, and the National Parking Association.  He is also a part of the Korean-American Scientists and Engineers Association (KSEA), and they recently awarded him the Entrepreneur of the Year award for 2011.

Haahs makes sure to consider his company’s mission statement in every major decision that he makes – from hiring, to marketing, to financial management and client relations. In fact, during the first two years of business, often a financially trying time for new companies, TimHaahs hosted benefit concerts and other events to raise money for several charities. More recently, against the urging of confidants and business partners, Haahs refused to lay off employees during the difficult times in a down economy. While other firms laid off up to 30% of employees, TimHaahs financially took a hit to keep staff as intact as possible.

Related to his mission of “we exist to serve those in need,” Haahs developed core values that the firm follows in its day-to-day business, including “quality at the human level.”  Haahs encourages his staff to go the extra mile for clients and to provide for them beyond expectations with a “can-do” attitude.

In addition to his Bachelor of Science in Civil and Urban Engineering and a Master of Science in Civil Engineering, both from the University of Pennsylvania, Haahs is a registered professional engineer in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington D.C., Virginia and Kentucky, and a registered architect in Maryland. He is also a pilot.

Spiritual beginnings

Haahs’ childhood began in a leper’s colony in South Korea where his father served as pastor.  This upbringing, combined with his new perspective on life after his heart transplants, inspired him to co-found the Calvary Vision Church in Blue Bell, Pa.  Haahs is currently the pastor of this multicultural, multigenerational, non-denominational church that serves a congregation of more than 200.

 Through ups and downs Haahs has managed to become an expert and leader in his field who is looked to nationally and internationally for his innovative ideas and transformative plans. It is with great honor that the Delaware Valley Engineers Week recognizes Timothy Haahs as the 2012 Delaware Valley Engineer of the Year.