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A plant engineer has the ability to cooperate with others and is well grounded in fundamentals, mentally alert under pressure, and happy with diversified work. A plant is a product of the twentieth century; plant engineers have since evolved into facility managers, engineering directors, chief engineers, operations managers, etc.

The first public recognition of the plant engineering profession was in New England, the cradle of American industry. The story of the Association for Facilities Engineering (AFE) began in Boston, Massachusetts in 1915.

Harry S. Dennison, the president of the Factory Managers Association (FMA), and E. B. Freeman, the FMA's secretary, were instrumental in founding AFE.

They provided a forum to discuss common problems and facilitate the exchange of ideas in order to assist the other members of the FMA. Many members, though well-versed in practices of management, didn't understand how to operate or maintain the production machines; the plant engineers, however, understood these machines and kept them running, allowing the plants to run smoothly and gain profit. Dennison and Freeman realized a factory's success was intrinsically linked to the abilities of these professionals to work together, rather than each member's separate abilities.

Invitations went out to between twenty and thirty mechanical engineers, master mechanics, and chief engineers in plants within metropolitan Boston and the surrounding towns bearing the following message:

"You are invited to a dinner at City Club in Boston on the evening of Friday, 14 May 1915, to discuss the possible formation of a Society oriented towards the technical aspects of operating a plant.
Your Host, Harry Dennison"

A large number of those invited attended the dinner meeting, as they were impressed with the potential for such a society and eager to help in its formation. As a result of this favorable response, a formal meeting was held on 9 June 1915 to approve a draft of the constitution and to elect the officers for the new society, entitled the Plant Engineers Club. The meeting included the society's first tour, a visit to the Charlestown Navy Yard and the USS Constitution.


G. L. Finch was the first president of this club. The members elected other officers and appointed several committees to deal with current issues of importance. The model of the Boston chapter was largely followed in other parts of the country.

Finch served as President for four years (1915-19). Following him were H. C. Eaton (1919-21) and Fred Gibson (1921-25).

During the early formative years, members met regularly to exchange ideas, make plant visitations, and volunteer on technical committees to resolve day-to-day operating problems. Members also spent considerable time and effort preparing codes and standards "so that [they] could all talk the same language and compare results," and "optimize plant performance."

The Care of Steam Boilers and Other Pressure Vessels subcommittee produced a standard for continuous boiler room tests over the course of a five-year effort, notably driven forward by Gibson, W. H. Larkin, H. F. Scott, and J. R. Gill. This committee also produced a clarification of the causes of caustic embrittlement of pressure vessels, and came up with a solution to prevent this issue. These standards proved of such great value that the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) adopted most of them without any major changes.


Early in 1922, many prominent engineers felt a lack of solidarity within the professional community. This led to a series of meetings between Gibson, Edwin Burnham, and engineers from eight other technical societies, during which the Affiliated Technical Societies of Boston was chartered. This society was intended "to bring the technical societies and their members into closer touch with one another for more effective public service, and for the advancement of scientific investigation, education, and research."


The Affiliated Technical Societies of Boston grew strong as more societies joined in the following years, and its name was changed to the Engineering Societies of Boston.


As a number of other societies from the New England area joined the affilation, the name was again changed to the Engineering Societies of New England.

The Plant Engineers Club was a charter member of the ESNE throughout its existence. In later years, after the formation of the American Institute of Plant Engineers (AIPE), the New England Region of AIPE also joined the affiliation.

The ESNE published the New England Journal nine times a year. In addition, it co-sponsored the annual celebration of the National Engineers Week every February from 1951 to the present alongside the Massachusetts Society of Professional Engineers, AIPE, ASME, AIEE (American Institute of Electrical Engineers), IRE (Institute of Radio Engineers), the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), and many others.

The ESNE also joined the American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES), a national organization based in Washington, D.C., when it replaced the Engineers Joint Council in 1980. Later, AIPE also joined the AAES.

In 1928, Kenneth Hamilton of the Plant Engineers Club published a document entitled "Principles Governing the Responsibilities of the Plant Engineers" in the Industrial Engineer magazine. In 1955, Hamilton was honored as an AIPE Fellow. In the following year, this document was adopted by AIPE as "The Code of the Plant Engineer."

During World War II, when spare parts and scrap iron became critically needs, the British Government actively sponsored an industry group to act as a clearinghouse for the interchange of these items. At the end of the war, the seven charter members of this British wartime group became the nucleus for the formation of the Incorporated Plant Engineers in 1946, which was later renamed as the Institution of Plant Engineers, with its headquarters in England. The organization had over 10,000 members dispersed throughout the British Commonwealth.

When Gibson retired, he moved to New York, where he interested three plant engineers in the New York area to sponsor and form a similar club. In 1945, a Plant Engineers Association of New York was formed. In Pennsylvania and California, plant engineers had also begun to organize themselves. The Philadelphia group had several informal meetings before forming a single club similar to Boston's. California, on the other hand, decided to interest engineers from various parts of the extensive territory to later serve as starting points for several clubs. Chicago followed the same track, with the Calumet group and the Northern Chicago group both started by the charter members of the Chicago Club. The Rochester New York Club and the Dayton Ohio Club were organized around the same time as the Chicago Club. The Union-Middlesex County group in New Jersey was started by members of the New York Club.

Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Marion, and Cleveland followed in rapid succession in 1952. The Cleveland group was a revival of the Cleveland Engineering Society, which had become inactive during the war. The period from 1945 through 1952 saw the formation of nineteen other plant engineering groups within the United States.

The first coordinated activity involving several clubs was held in Philadelphia and Chicago in 1952. Members of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Dayton, Calumet, and Northern Illinois clubs hosted a plant engineers team from Great Britain. The group toured in this country for six weeks studying American plant engineering and maintenance techniques. The movement gained momentum in the year 1953, when Milwaukee, Niagara Frontier, Northern New Jersey, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kentukiana, Evansville, and Toledo groups were organized in rapid succession. Continuing interaction between these groups led to a growing movement for a national organization to cater to the needs of the plant engineering profession.

A regional conference was held in Whiting, Indiana on 17 November 1953 with 75 representatives from Northern Illinois, Chicago, Calumet, and Marion, Indiana, where the idea of a national organization was first debated. Later, officers of the three Illinois clubs met to consider the proposal and discuss the type of organization most likely to receive approval of the majority of the clubs already organized. This proposal was followed up with other clubs around the country.


In January 1954, the Illinois clubs sponsored a luncheon in honor of a team from the Netherlands. They also hosted the first national meeting at the Stock Yard in Chicago on the 27th of that month.

The delegates from the Boston Plant Engineers, past presidents Leo Monty (1951 to 1952), John C. Coffin (1953 to 1954), and James Sweet (1954 to 1955) joined delegates from eleven of the nineteen active clubsNew York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Calumet, Northern Illinois, Detroit, Kentuckiana, and Northwestern Ohioto discuss the aims, objectives, and membership requirements of the proposed national organization. At this meeting the delegates authorized Richard Morris of Chicago to incorporate a non-profit organization to be known as the American Institute of Plant Engineers.

On 1 June 1954 the Illinois Secretary of State granted a charter for the formation of AIPE. On 20 August 1954 the corporation held its first meeting in Chicago to elect the interim officers and adopt the working by-laws. The annual membership dues were fixed at $3.00. The five members of the organizing groups who had paid membership dues, E. C. Burns, T. E. Hanson, R. H. Morris, T. S. Raymond, and S. A. Simonson, were named the "Original Members of the Corporation."

The Northern Illinois Chapter in Waukegan was the first group to seek a charter from AIPE. Chapter 1 was chartered on 17 September 1954, and is still active today with 60 registered members.

This chapter was quickly followed by Kentucky, Baltimore, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia Chapters in October 1954; Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Union-Middlesex Chapters in November; and Dayton, Detroit, Milwaukee, Twin City, Calumet, San Francisco, Central Indiana, Los Angeles, Tri-State, and Northern New Jersey Chapters in December 1954.

The first national business meeting of AIPE was held at the Palmer House in Chicago on 20 January 1955. Delegates attended this meeting from the above nineteen charter chapters, representing about 500 registered members and several other clubs who had not yet joined. The national officers were elected:
President Richard Morris
Vice President Robert Hiller
Treasurer Ted Ramond
Secretary Sig Simonson
Geographic Regions were established and the first Regional Vice Presidents were later elected:
Northeast John Waligora
Southern John Parchman
Central Edward Applegate
North Central Edward Potter
East Central W S Duncan
Western Thomas Hardgrove
By the end of the first year of operations, the membership was at 850 and there were 26 chapters on the rolls.

During 1956, AIPE expanded its membership and outreach. The constitution and by-laws were adopted and AIPE had its first booth in the Clapp & Poliak Maintenance and Engineering Show. Four issues of a new publication, AIPE Digest, were published. Robert Hiller of the Pittsburgh Chapter designed the familiar AIPE globe logo. Chapter 27 in Merrimac Valley became the first chapter from Massachusetts to join the AIPE. With the acceptance of the Montreal Canada Chapter, AIPE became an international organization.

In July 1957, the AIPE headquarters were moved from Chicago to Barrington, Illinois.

The first AIPE Fellow Award was bestowed on Oscar Graveley of Niagara Falls, New York in 1957. The AIPE Fellow Award for meritorious services to the plant engineering profession is the highest award bestowed upon a plant engineer. Since its inception in 1957, 39 individuals have received this honor.

It was not until three years after the incorporation of AIPE that the Boston Plant Engineering Club, the originator of the plant engineering movement, decided to seek a charter from the national organization. Boston Chapter 33 was chartered on 26 August 1957 with 199 members.

Chapter President Leo J. Monty served two terms as the AIPE National Treasurer, and as the National Vice President of Professional and Public Affairs for several years. He received the AIPE Fellow Award in 1967. Chapter 33 of Boston later named their Scholarship Award after Monty. Another chapter president, Gulab G. Hira, received the AIPE Fellow Award in 1981. The chapter received the Chapter Activity Award three years in succession, from 1973 through 1976.

The first major survey, "The Profile: The American Plant Engineer," was developed and compiled from over 500 plant engineers in 1958. Its findings reported that the typical plant engineer was male, 43 years old, a college graduate, and had about 13 years of work in his field. He was responsible for a plant covering over fifteen acres of floor space and represented a plant investment of $15 million.

The AIPE was admitted as an associate member of the Engineers Joint Council on 10 July 1958.

National dues were increased from $3.00 to $10.00 in 1959.

Massachusetts Route 128, Chapter 52 was chartered on 1 April 1960 with 83 members. The first chapter president, Corliss T. VanHorn (1960 to 1961), secured the chapter charter and later served as the National Treasurer (1963 to 1965), AIPE Vice President (1965 to 1966), and AIPE National President (1966 to 1967). He received an AIPE Fellow Award in 1973. The chapter received the AIPE Chapter Activity Award in 1962.

On 1 May 1960, the AIPE Headquarters were moved from Barrington to Arlington Heights, Illinois. An "Organizational Manual for Officers" was developed in 1961.

A Foreign Affairs Committee was appointed in 1962 to promote the international growth of the AIPE, with engineers from England and Australia. As a result, a chapter in Athens, Greece was chartered. AIPE also had a representative at the Third Plant Engineering Show and Conference in Tokyo, Japan, and seven at the London International Plant Engineering and Maintenance Conference in June 1963. A group of AIPE members also went on a Study Tour of Europe from 25 April to 16 May of 1966.

John J. Novotny of Orlando, Florida received the first "AIPE Plant Engineer of the Year Award" in 1963.

A major change in the constitution was approved in 1966, incorporating centralized billing from headquarters for both the national and chapter dues. The national dues were increased from $10.00 to $15.00.

In 1966, the AIPE's strong influence in the plant engineering field became evident when the Industrial Relations committee received a grant from the United Nations to cover the cost of preparing a thesis for its technical division. The purpose of this thesis was to help developing nations prepare a program of plant engineering and to describe how a graduate engineer should be trained in plant engineering.

AIPE members were awarded seven of the fifteen Maintenance Merit Awards made by Factory magazine in 1967.

The first pollution control study tour of six countries in Europe was sponsored in the fall of 1967.

Robert F. Curran of Providence, RI was the recipient of the first "Mr. Pollution Control Award" in 1967.

AIPE became a full member of the Engineers Joint Council in 1967.

National annual membership dues increased from $15.00 in 1966 to $20.00 in 1974, $25.00 in 1976, $40.00 in 1978, $50.00 in 1982, $55.00 in 1984, and the current dues level of $60.00 in 1987.

The New England Region held annual regional Plant Engineers Conferences from 1969 to the present. The first conference was in May 1969 at Hotel America in Hartford, Connecticut under the chairmanship of Ray Bennettson.

A program to certify Plant Engineers as a Certified Plant Engineer (CPE) was instituted in November 1975. At the end of the first year of the program 400 plant engineers were certified.

A group of plant engineers from the Institution of Plant Engineers in Britain visited the U.S. again in 1976. They stayed as houseguests of several members of various AIPE Chapters around the country, including the Boston and Massachusetts Route 128 chapters.

In June 1980 AIPE Headquarters moved to 3975 Erie Avenue, Cincinnati.

Strategic Long-Range Planning (SLRP) was started in June 1981 to enhance the effectiveness and image of AIPE as a strong and valuable contemporary engineering association. New ideas and a multitude of programs were conceived to give more value for the dues dollar to the plant engineer. Increased emphasis was placed on recruitment of new members.

The AIPE President Club Award was instituted in 1981 for AIPE promotion. Gulab G. Hira of the Boston Chapter won this award twice in the first two years.

The AIPE constitution and by-laws were adopted in 1984.

The latest chapter to receive the AIPE charter was the Shellrock River Chapter 172 of Clear Lake, Iowa on March 15, 2016, which had only twelve members. To form a new AIPE chapter requires at least ten charter members. At times, a chapter must surrender its charter when its membership falls below this number. The merging of two chapters results in one chapter surrendering its charter.

The New England Region of the AIPE was comprised of six states; Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont; with a total of seventeen chapters, plus one Student Chapter at Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Total New England Region membership ran into 1,200.

As of May 1988, the North American geographic area was divided into nine regions; eight in the United States, and one International. There were 141 total active chapters, with an additional group called "Members-at-Large," where members were not attached to any specific chapter. The current count with all classes of membership in the AIPE climbed to 8,000 members.

In 1954 the American Institute of Plant Engineers (AIPE) was incorporated by Richard Morris, Sig Simonson, and Theodore Ramond as a national organization to unify the assortment of plant engineer clubs. In 1995 AIPE changed its name to the Association for Facilities Engineering (AFE), in order to welcome in members and like-minded professionals from all buildings and facilities worldwide.

AFE has come a long way since that historic day of 14 May 1915, when Harry Dennison hosted a dinner at the City Club in Boston and the club completed its first tour aboard the USS Constitution at the Charlestown Naval Shipyard in Boston, Massachusetts.

Within the current technology-oriented global economy, the survival of this nation is contingent upon facilities and engineers being at the leading edge of new innovation. Most of the building automation systems, building systems and technology, and products seen in the world today did not exist a mere ten years ago. It is incumbent upon the facilities engineer to keep updating their ability to maintain the technological wonders they continue to build. The Association for Facilities Engineering will continue to be the advocate and voice for facilities worldwide.

May 1988 (Revised December/2018)