I recently had the privilege to travel to Colombia with Engineers Without Borders to assess the needs and resources for an irrigation project for family farms. Colombia is very well suited for coffee and sugar cane, but the dry season is too harsh for more sensitive plants like basil, lettuce, spinach, and peppers. For this, farmers need drip irrigation, water catchment, water reservoir, and water diversion. Our group’s goal is to develop an affordable, sustainable, and replicable design as a pilot project for ten farmers in central Colombia. We are working with Food 4 Farmers, an international non-governmental organization (NGO), Nueva Realidad, a Bogota based NGO, and Nuevo Futuro, the local coffee cooperative. We knew what our goal was before we started, but we had no idea what to expect from the trip. Here are our impressions of the country with which our team returned.
Are meetings a waste of time? Deriding them as such is common. But with some upfront effort, meetings can deliver outcomes that would otherwise take much longer to achieve.
Topics: Workplace & People
In a recent blog post, I shared my experience as an Owners’ Project Manager for a mechanical system upgrade in an office building for a large organization in Burlington, Vermont. This role has provided me with several new related projects in a healthcare facility, each varying in type and having a very different effect on the overall environment of the organization. In the healthcare environment, I have become familiar with its unique construction challenges. This post will discuss a couple of these challenges and approaches for preventing these challenges from adversely affecting the overall success of the project.
It’s that time of year again – summer – season of vacations, sunscreen (for me at least), mowing the lawn and (queue ominous music) the dreaded “Battle of the Office Thermostat.” We all know what this is. You go to work in an office and, if you’re a woman, when the man sitting next to you is perfectly comfortable you are teeth-chattering freezing. If you’re a man and the woman next to you is comfortable, you feel hot and stuffy. Disclaimer – I am a man. Second disclaimer – I don’t wear skirts and sandals to work, even if it’s 90 degrees outside.
I recently had a meeting with one of my favorite long-term clients. We met to discuss some upcoming work, and while there, I poked around in the chiller plant mechanical room to see how things were running. We were involved in design review and commissioning for the new chiller plant, and have been impressed with its efficiency. It’s a water cooled chiller with high efficiency, magnetic bearing compressors and all the bells and whistles. In the past, we’ve metered consistently high performance out of the chiller plant as a whole, saving the client many thousands of dollars per year in electrical savings.
A year or so ago I was part of an “office share” office where I had my own desk in shared office space with other professionals in unrelated fields. At the time, I lived 40 miles from our company offices here in Burlington, and to cut down on the daily commute, for a few days each week I worked out of this shared office closer to my home. It was really a great place to be, interesting, and much better for productivity that siting at the kitchen table!
We live and work in an age where communication can happen in an instant. Emails circumnavigate the globe in a couple of seconds, text messages ding on our phones as soon as they’re sent and usually expect an immediate response, and our cell phones can be called no matter where we are or what time of day it is. While this hyper connectivity does have the potential to streamline how we interact and do business and make our lives easier, I am finding effective communication to be more and more difficult. From what I’ve observed, people are simply overwhelmed by the volume of input they are receiving. This results in their inability to respond to requests in a timely fashion or, if they do respond, it is often incomplete, misses the point, or is unclear because of a misunderstanding of the original request (likely due to the fact that they didn’t think they had the time to listen to the entire voicemail or read the whole email).
Topics: Workplace & People
In my last blog post, I discussed the short- to medium-term hiring of an Energy Auditor. But if your firm is dedicated to energy efficiency as a matter of doing business, you are looking for a person to act in a long-term role of an Energy Manager. This position doesn't have to be full-time and it can be held by an outside consultant, but you want someone who will learn your facility, your equipment, your employees’ needs and your process needs. This can’t be a tactical strike as the energy audit is, because an audit is only a snapshot. If energy management is a goal, you need someone who will stay with your business and keep abreast of the changing needs and circumstances. This takes a high level, managerial decision to invest in the efficiency of the facility.
As Eveline discussed in her last blog post on green banks, there are significant hurdles to gaining the trust and investment dollars of building owners to support energy efficiency investments. Because as efficiency providers we see these investments as certain, we expect owners to share our view and jump at the opportunity to invest in their property and get a great return. As Eveline mentioned, energy efficiency providers have a significant role in getting owners to adopt efficient practices. Here are five rules that can increase the success of energy efficiency programs and providers:
As an engineer myself, I was struck recently by fresh evidence of the pervasive challenge of communicating technical information effectively. I attended a building conference where the focus is designing better buildings and one common thread emerged. “Death by PowerPoint” is alive and well in the building and design industry.