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Successfully Yours

Barry Sullivan

Barry Sullivan is the managing director of the Asia Pacific Engineering Group, a dedicated engineering resource company. He also probably knows more about environmentally friendly building material from rice straw than anyone else on the planet. In addition, he is the managing director of Asia Pacific Export Arts, a dedicated fine art company, and to fill up his evenings, he is a partner in the Blues Factory, a musical entertainment outlet in South Pattaya.

Barry is a Canadian, born and raised in Vancouver British Columbia. “I’m an English speaking Canadian.” The youngest child in a family of three, he grew up in a family that ate and breathed engineering. He describes his grandfather as a “natural born engineer” and his father as being another multi-talented engineer, who also played boogie woogie piano blues!

Unlike so many young people as they move through school with no real idea of a career path, Barry was destined to be an engineer. “My father was determined, when I was 5 or 6 years old, that I was going to be an architectural engineer. I was indoctrinated at a very early age!”

After high school he moved from the University of British Columbia to the University of Southern Illinois. This was a deliberate career move, as the famous engineer Buckminster Fuller (the man who invented geodesic domes) taught there. This was one man who has influenced Barry Sullivan above most. “He was my mentor.” It was Buckminster Fuller who imbued the young Barry with the concept of doing the most with the least amount of materials complete with total environmental integration, all executed with a global, non-political view.

Southern Illinois resulted in a degree in design, and from there he won a scholarship to go to Alberta where he did a Masters in Architecture. If you think the young undergraduate Barry was spending all his time listening to lectures in the cloistered halls of academia, then you do not have a handle on this man. He worked! “I never stopped, all the way through university I worked as a designer.” On enquiry it appeared that he even had his own design house!

He then worked all over America and Canada and fondly recalled the days when he was the manager of a research and development team for ATCO Industries. “We had to design demountable portable housing for 5000 people in Saudi Arabia. It was a good project.”

Following on from this, Barry began to become very interested in the production and use of chipboard and polystyrene in large scale laminated panels for housing walls and floors. The next step was to use a natural product in the laminations - back to Buckminster Fuller’s total environmental integration - and the 100% natural product he selected was straw! He worked on the production of 3 inch solid slabs, done in an extrusion mill, and took the concept to America. It was there that he built the first housing in the world with structural straw panels. These were later erected in Canada, seven states in America and even the Caribbean.

After this initial foray into the small construction materials, Barry spent the next seven years in large scale construction management, building hi-rises and hotels. However, the attraction for straw was still there and Raytheon Engineering asked him to come back to the straw business in 1992, to become involved with their hi-tech panel systems. “It was a dramatic development,” said Barry, the engineer. “Even the United States Department of Agriculture came on board, buying 35% of the company.”

It was around this time that Barry became exposed to Thailand. His girlfriend in Texas was a Thai, and he came over with her for a holiday with her family in Esarn. There was nothing for him to do, so he helped her brother build a house. “It was in the middle of hundreds of thousands of acres of rice straw.” So when his Raytheon contract finished he returned to Thailand and commenced a research project at Suranaree University in Korat. The project was to look at the use of rice straw for low cost housing materials. He had both government and financial backers, but when the economic crash was imminent, the financiers pulled out and the project stalled. However, four years down the track there is renewed interest and Barry is working with a large Thai company advising them on Thai rice straw technology, a subject that he becomes quite passionate about.

Another passionate interest is art, and he has been an art collector for many years. Seeing what he believes is an incredible capability of Thai painters with art, he has commissioned a select few to do original oil paintings of Asian culture - in particular, Buddha images. These he sells from his gallery in North Pattaya Road, and is very heartened by the interest that has been shown from all over the world.

His artistic side has led him into a personal study of meditation which he says, “It’s an efficient way to recharge your batteries and is an unlimited reservoir of creativity.”

So to the Blues Factory. With the interest in the Blues given to him by his father it seemed natural that he and Greg Carroll (also a previous subject of Successfully Yours) should get together. With like minds, it was a simple “Let’s open a club.” And it went from there.

For Barry, success is, “Inner peace and personal satisfaction.” The inner peace he relates to lifestyle, with healthy living and meditation, and personal satisfaction comes from such things as creating the Blues Factory.

His advice to others was, “Try and uncover the most intimate experience of yourself and then listen to that experience, and make use of your attributes.”

Barry Sullivan has certainly made use of all of his.

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