Imad Naffa was a true leader in the adoption of social networking within the professional community of architecture, engineering and construction. He passed away last week.
Imad Naffa, an Atypical Engineer & Building Code Consultant
According to his bios on the numerous social networking sites that he enriched with his presence, Imad Naffa was born in Amman, Jordan. After graduating Bishop’s High School in Jebel Amman, Naffa moved to the US in 1980. He earned his degree in Civil Engineering from Fresno State University in 1984.
From 1984 to 2001, Imad worked for CMA, a Fresno-based consulting firm. During that time, he served as a plan check engineer for the city of Salinas, CA, and later as the deputy civil engineer for the city of Sanger, CA. As a self-described geek, Naffa applied his engineering abilities to computer technologies, creating the CodeBuddy software, which is the “fastest and easiest way to lookup for common code requirements.” In 2000, Naffa was the recipient of the NCSBCS national award, “Streamlining the Nation’s Building Regulations” in recognition of the contribution that the software represented to the profession.
Along with CodeBuddy, while at CMA, Naffa also created the Building Code Discussion Group (BCDG). The online members-only forum has been unique among industry online discussion groups due to the high quality engagement of professionals. Contained within the myriad posts is a wealth of knowledge pertaining to building codes, accessibility and standards. There are more than 19,000 registered members from more than 100 countries.
In 2001, the entrepreneurial and creative engineer launched NAFFA International, Inc., a “multi-discipline consulting firm of architects, engineers, ICC certified (Plan Examiners, Inspectors) professionals and building code resource developers specializing in providing building code and engineering review services (plan check) to local governments and their applicants worldwide.” The firm has served as an invaluable resource to both local building departments and A/E/C professionals by facilitating the plan review and code consulting/interpretation process. To get a sense of the contributions NAFFA International has made, check out the testimonials and the database for consulting services feedback.
@ImadNaffa – A/E/C Social Media Pioneer
Building off of the exceptional community that Imad developed through the BCDG forums, in 2007 Naffa (at the insistence of his wife, Loretta) threw his efforts into the rapidly growing world of social media. While many professionals at the time derided tools such as Twitter and LinkedIn, Naffa saw the immense potential in such networks for furthering human understanding. Whereas BCDG provided a safe harbor for professionals to share information and ask questions of their peers, Twitter was the Wild West. Naffa’s Twitter account, @imadnaffa rapidly gained followers due in large part to the valuable insight he provided. Imad experimented with a number of tools that facilitated his curating and sharing of information. As a busy engineer and business leader, Naffa somehow managed to balance professional, personal and online involvement successfully.
The incredible investment Naffa made in social media should serve as an example to the many naysayers out there. Here are just some of the accomplishments he achieved through social networking (the ones that come to mind, although I’m sure there are many more I’m not aware of):
- Increased traffic to BCDG 30%, which also increased paid subscriptions to the service
- Imad was featured in a special report social media on Fresno’s CBS47 in 2010
- He was also featured in a ABC30 news special about Fresno’s most followed people on Twitter
- In February, 2010, Imad’s blog post about the passing of a peanut salesman from Jordan gained international and royal attention when it was retweeted by Queen Rania of Jordan
- On September 4, 2010, Naffa spoke at TEDxCanton in China in a presentation about his personal and professional experience using social media to reach a global audience
- On April 30, 2011, Naffa presented at TEDxDeadSea
- At the time of his passing, Imad had nearly 56,000 followers on twitter, was in 4,738 circles on Google+, more than 500 connections on LinkedIn (the counter stops at 500), 1,417 followers on Quora, etc., etc.
A Life Cut Short
On Tuesday, September 6, 2011, Imad Naffa suffered a fatal heart attack. He was only 49 years old. Perhaps fittingly, his death was first announced via his wife on Twitter. Services for Imad were held on Saturday, September 10th.
Although I never met Imad in person, I considered him a friend. The world was made richer because of him, and the architecture, engineering and construction community owes him a debt of gratitude.
So long, Imad. And thanks for all the tweets.
Below is Imad’s presentation from TEDxDeadSea: