Recently, I have been contemplating the impact of our college teaching styles on the future of our workforce. With technologies and global needs changing so rapidly, what should undergraduate programs foster to prepare graduates for the future needs of the workforce? On a professional level, this has been instigated by our company’s recent search for new employees. On a personal level it comes from being the parent of three young adults who will be entering the workforce in the coming years, as well as discussions with two of my siblings who are college educators.
As someone very new to the engineering world, I’ve learned a lot in the last few months about the impact that engineers can have on climate change. I came to Cx Associates and the world of commissioning in a rather round-about way. My background is in molecular genetics, specifically lung cancer research, but when I moved to Burlington this past summer, I decided to pivot in my career path. I’d found myself desiring more and more to move into a field that was doing some good for the world. I know, I know, many would say “Hey! Cancer research is good for the world!,” and I certainly don’t deny that, but what good is finding new cancer treatments if there isn’t a planet that can viably support the patients those treatments would be for? As I’m sure many of you heard or read in the news some months ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s 2018 Climate Report showed that “global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate” (something some climate scientists have argued is a conservative estimate). This will have devastating effects on people’s lives, and not only in poorer nations of the world – the Fourth National Climate Assessment released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program in November 2018 predicts U.S. economic losses due to climate change in 2090 as $280-$500 billion/year. These reports cemented my feelings in the weeks and months after I began at CxA, but I had already felt myself pulled towards the idea of working for a company or organization that was doing solid, on the ground work to combat climate change. I did not expect that pull to land me at a consulting engineering firm.
Last week in part I of this post, I discussed the advantages of companies allowing some workers to work remotely, and what my transition to a remote worker was like. In this week’s follow up post, I’ll get a little more into the logistics of working remotely and flag some recommended practices and tools that have worked well for us.
Topics: Workplace & People
In 2014, due to life and professional circumstances unrelated to my job as Operations Manager at Cx Associates, my wife and I relocated from Burlington, Vermont to Chicago, Illinois. Having worked for Cx Associates since 2009, I was reluctant to leave behind my job – I was happy there, the people I worked with were fantastic, and the work was meaningful and interesting. Luckily for me, when I approached the owners about the possibility of continuing to work remotely for CxA from Chicago, they agreed to let me stay on. I was ecstatic!
Topics: Workplace & People
The first project that I managed as a young engineer was a tenant fit-up for a high-rise building in San Francisco. Through a variety of random events, as a 22-year-old electrical engineer, I became the project manager as well as the project engineer for over 30 floors of mechanical, electrical and plumbing design for an oil company building out of its new west-coast headquarters. Early on, I recognized that our fees were based on a limited scope of work and, as the client changed what they wanted in the space, I needed to make a case for the additional effort necessary to provide the services needed for the fit-up. In some cases, it’s obvious when a project exceeds the contracted scope of work; for instance, the client added a large data center that required a code variance (another blog topic perhaps).
Topics: Workplace & People
Optimal start/stop (OSS) is available as an out-of-the-box function in almost every HVAC building automation system sold on the commercial market today. Folks toss the term around with a very loose understanding of what it means. PID controls suffer the same dilemma. When you ask any industry professional to define OSS, you’ll get this generic and common response (Figure 1):
The title of Project Coordinator, as well as Project Manager, is ubiquitous in most industries, but also rife with preconceptions that stem from an individual firm or team’s experience with the role. I was hired at Cx Associates as a Project Coordinator, filling a position that had existed before my arrival. My role was 1/3 Project Coordinator and 2/3 administrative support for at least a year. As a Project Coordinator, I learned how to coordinate measurement and verification of incentivized energy efficiency projects, among other things.
It can often be an afterthought as to how much outdoor air (OA) is actually being drawn into a hospital through air handling equipment, but maintaining proper outdoor air volume is a vital part of achieving effective infection control, as well as meeting space pressurization requirements. Proper OA volumes are also a metric that can be reviewed for non-compliance during Joint Commission audits. The amount of outside air that a hospital’s air handling equipment should introduce into the building is defined by the ASHRAE Standard 170, which was discussed in one of our previous blog posts, Optimizing Air Handling Units for Healthcare. As we pointed out in this prior post, an airflow station, when properly selected and installed, is an effective piece of hardware which can be used to monitor this outside air quantity (typically in cubic feet per minute), and the data provided by this meter can be very useful in a healthcare setting.
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.