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Day in the Life of an Onsite Project Engineer

Day in the Life of an Onsite Project Engineer

Loren Horan DITLHave you ever wondered what our engineers actually do all day? This year, we’re continuing our “Day in the Life” series started in 2014. Each quarter, we will feature someone within the firm who will provide insight into their typical day. This quarter showcases one of Applied’s owners, Project Engineer Loren Horan, PE, RCDD, LEED AP.

As a project engineer, my day is typically laid out in one of the following three ways. The first option is a day in the office where I work on designs, specifications, review shop drawings, collaborate with team members, and perform engineering calculations. The second option is a day where I am in the field to attend construction meetings, observe construction in progress, perform a site survey for a new project, meet with clients to determine their needs and requirements, and collaborate with architects, structural engineers, and civil engineers at their offices. The third option is somewhere in between the first two. I chose to write about a day where I was onsite.

7:00 am – My day starts as I leave home directly for Purdue University.

8:30 am – Arrive at Purdue University and head over to Lynn Hall to start our observation of the sprinkler system hydrostatic pressure test. I meet the contractor and owner at the site and we watch each sprinkler zone get pumped up to 200 psi of hydrostatic pressure and confirm that there aren’t any leaks.

9:00 am – The pressure gauges on the sprinkler zones have been initially recorded.  I now walk around the building to perform my construction observation.

9:30 am – Stop in at a student commons area to get a cup of coffee and open up my computer to respond to emails. I am able to remotely connect into the office, so I am also able to perform some lighting design and calculations for an industrial client.

11:00 am – Meet up with the contractor and owner to review the pressure gauges and confirm that the sprinkler lines are still holding the same pressure.

11:30 am – I have a few minutes before my lunch meeting, so I work on some specifications for an industrial client that is creating a new headquarters within Indianapolis.

12:00 pm – Have lunch with an architect that we are working with on some classroom renovations. We catch up and review the submittals that have been issued to date on the first classroom project. We also discuss a recent change request by the owner to add some art to the second classroom project.

1:30 pm – Attend a pre-construction meeting for the second classroom project. I see familiar faces, such as the Purdue University project manager and building deputies. During this meeting, the owner describes their construction and safety requirements. The design team and contractor coordinate on how submittals will be issued.

2:30 pm – The pre-construction meeting ends and I head to a planning committee meeting for the new Innovation Design Center building. During these collaborative meetings, the clients and design team review the block layout of the proposed spaces. The design team accepts feedback from the clients and interviews the users to better understand their needs and the intended practices of the space.

5:00 pm – The planning committee meeting concludes and the architect and I have a quick 5 minute recap to ensure that we are on the same page. I check my email to determine if there are any high priority items that must be addressed prior to heading back to Indianapolis.

5:15 pm – I get into my car and leave Purdue University, ending my work day.

Farewell to the Purdue HPN

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Farewell to the Purdue HPN

To make room for the new Active Learning Center, Purdue’s Heating Plant North (HPN) is slated for demolition. While they still had the chance, three of Applied’s Principals – Frank St. John, Terry DeBoo, and Ralph Power – recently toured the HPN, learning about its history and the critical role it used to play on campus. Below is Ralph’s take on the tour of this iconic 90-year-old facility.

The afternoon before the Purdue-Michigan basketball game, lost in the final half-second of overtime, a small group of us toured Purdue’s Heating Plant North. This beautiful facility in the heart of Purdue University’s campus was built for the expanding campus circa 1923 and was decommissioned in 1986. Over those 60+ years, this plant – with its iconic illuminated smoke stack – provided heating and electricity to serve the campus via a beautiful tunnel system.

What we saw with a little imagination was an era gone by, where a half dozen coal-fired, multi-story steam boilers were fed by an overhead coal bin on rails. These powerful yet simple machines were manually operated day in and day out by the very skilled craftsman of the day. The controls were minimal and simple.

While the top of the smokestack was removed brick-by-brick in the late 1990s, the massive base is still in the plant. The remnants of the coal ash cart and rail system could be seen running through a large opening in the base of the smokestack.

Now all is silent and, after years of sitting idle, this once proud heating and power plant will be demolished in 2014 to make way for future of learning at Purdue, the Active Learning Center.

When the power goes out is not the time to learn your emergency system has failed!

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When the power goes out is not the time to learn your emergency system has failed!

Ralph Power, P.E., attended a professional development seminar on Emergency Generator Reliability.  The primary message? When the power goes out is not the time to learn your emergency system has failed.

All of the following impact generator reliability: generator design (products) and the project-specific design (system), initial testing (commissioning with full transfer of intended load is recommended at start-up) and periodic testing per code afterwards; inspection and regularly-scheduled preventative maintenance of the installed generator system; and the training / qualifications of the system’s operators.

Generator systems age over time and use, resulting in loosening of connections due to vibration, contaminates in the fuel, and corrosion. Regular inspection and scheduled preventative maintenance is a must, as is monthly transfer and testing under real transferred load. Most standby generator problems are discovered during this routine maintenance and load testing. It is, after all, a mechanical system with starting, fuel, cooling, exhaust, alternator, and control systems.

The engineering of a generator power system for your facility is paramount to address the initial reliability of your system, followed by routine testing and preventative maintenance for long-term reliability.

IUPUI Distinguished Alumnus Award, Frank St. John

IUPUI Distinguished Alumnus Award, Frank St. John

Frank St. John, the firm’s president, received the Distinguished Alumnus Award presented annually by the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology Alumni Association, IUPUI, at the Bepko Honors Convocation held on April 20, 2012. This award is given to recognize outstanding achievement in the field of engineering or technology, in the practice of his or her profession, or in service to the community. Mr. St. John currently serves on the General Administration Committee of the Dean’s Industrial Advisory Council (DIAC) for the School and is immediate Past-Chair of the Council’s Diversity, Recruitment and Retention Committee.

Industry Information – Commissioning Basics: Questions You Might be Asking

Industry Information

Commissioning Basics: Questions You Might be Asking

By Mark Lehman, Director of Commissioning Services

Perhaps you are an owner who has a new facility that you need designed and constructed in the near future, and you have decided to get your new facility LEED certified, or you have determined that you want a third party to verify that the systems in your new facility are functioning as designed prior to your occupancy of the facility. For LEED certified projects, you are required to bring a third party commissioning group on board to commission your facility. You have never utilized the services of a commissioning firm before. In fact, you don’t really know why you need commissioning or what type of services you are paying for. From our vast experience in commissioning we have worked with many owners who have had the same questions. We hope to answer many of your questions and hopefully give you a number of reasons to select Applied Engineering Services for your next commissioning project.

Why is commissioning important?
The purpose of commissioning buildings is to provide documented evidence that building systems function and perform in accordance with the Owner’s project requirements and the design intent as set forth in the Project Documents. Commissioning of an existing building requires the establishment of the Owner’s requirements, a design intent, and an evaluation of the system’s current operation and performance before implementing improvements.

The commissioning process for new buildings will reduce change orders, RFIs, call backs, and warranty issues; ensures proper system selection; improves system performance; and produces an operational building from day one. The commissioning process provides building system documentation for future operations and maintenance and verifies that building and system operators have received appropriate training.

Mark Lehman, RCDD, CxA, is an Associate at Applied and is also the Director of Commissioning Services. He has been involved with commissioning projects for clients such as Wishard Health (Eskenazi Health), IU Health, Ivy Tech Community College, Purdue University, and Indiana University.

Who is best suited to commission a facility?
An independent commissioning provider who has no conflict of interest on the project is best suited for commissioning a facility. A commissioning firm with certified commissioning agents and professional engineers on staff that understand the complex building systems and can assist the owner in meeting his/her operational needs is the best type of commissioning agent.

How cost effective is commissioning? 
Although commissioning has becoming increasingly common, many building owners still don’t fully understand what commissioning involves, or are skeptical of the cost effectiveness claims made by commissioning professionals. A study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, may go a long way toward changing the minds of decision makers who are sitting on the fence when it comes to commissioning. In fact, the study concluded that commissioning is one of the most cost-effective means of improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings.

What does commissioning really cost?
The study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that for new construction, median commissioning costs were $1.16 per square foot, representing 0.4% of total construction costs with a whole-building energy savings of 16% and a payback of 1.1 years. For existing buildings, the researchers found median commissioning costs of $0.30 per square foot with a whole-building energy savings of 13% and a payback of 4.2 years.

Lessons learned from past projects.
Here are just a few of the lessons we have learned from past projects that may improve how your future commissioning projects can be improved.
• Incorporate commissioning into the construction schedule.
• Make commissioning part of substantial completion.
• Ensure the contractor performs a dry run of the functional performance tests prior to the commissioning agent witnessing the test.
• Recognize that loss of power problems usually occur on transfer from standby power back to normal power.

How should your Commissioning firm be selected?
Commissioning services are professional services and ideally should be selected on a qualification basis like other professional services, such as design services. We live in a RFQ world, and a well written RFQ is an excellent way to find and select potential candidates to interview for your project. We believe selecting a firm to provide commissioning services based first on the qualifications of a firm and then negotiating a fee for services with your chosen firm will provide you with the highest quality commissioning services at a fair price. Selecting commissioning services based only on price can turn a value service into a commodity, and erodes many benefits that should be provided with commissioning services.