Day in the Life of a Project Engineer
Have you ever wondered what our engineers actually do all day?
This year, we’re sharing some details through our “Day in the Life” series. Each quarter, we will feature someone in a different position within the firm who will provide insight into their typical day. Next up is Project Engineer Mike Jamieson, who joined Applied full-time in 2009 after 5 years as a Co-Op student. Mike is a mechanical engineer who works on a variety of projects for our clients.
Arrive at work and review e-mail.
A project manager approaches my desk and asks if I have time to work on an office building renovation project. I do, so we plan to meet and discuss the project after lunch. This should give me enough time to quickly look over the project proposal and any documentation we already have in the project folder on Applied’s internal network.
For an unrelated project, I need to determine the lead time and cost of a 30” butterfly valve to be installed below grade. This valve may be purchased directly by the client (rather than by a contractor) so we will need to determine the best option from several manufacturers. Three manufacturers are listed on the standard specifications provided by the client, so I’ll track down information on those three. First, I need to determine which company supplies each valve in our area. I know who to call for the first valve manufacturer, but I will need to do some research to find the second and third. I find the second and third supplier on the internet.
Once I have determined who I need to call, I contact each manufacturer’s representative and describe what type of valve and what options I am looking for. The lead times for each valve ranges from 4 to 6 weeks. The costs vary slightly, but are about $8,000 per valve. I put this information onto a concise spreadsheet and give this to the project manager. He is planning to meet with the client later this week. They will review the numbers and determine the next step from there. They may purchase the valve directly or hire a contractor and have them purchase. The concern with hiring a contractor to order the valve is that the lead time may cause the project schedule to slip. At this time I cannot proceed any further on this project, but will continue work at a later date after important project direction decisions are made.
Review the office building renovation project information before the meeting. The project proposal says we are in Phase II of a three-phase project to gut and replace the second floor of an office building which will be occupied by a new tenant. Since we are in Phase II, I assume that the tenant has already moved into the Phase I area of the building. The project directory contains drawings from Phase I and new architectural drawings showing the work for Phase II.
Meet with the project manager to discuss the office renovation project. It is confirmed that Phase I of the project is complete and the tenant has moved into the Phase I area.
The project manager explains that the building has a variable air volume (VAV) system with reheat. There are two penthouses on top of the building which house two air handlers each (for a total of four air handlers). Each penthouse has a chase below it, which allows the high pressure supply and return ductwork mains to pass from floor to floor.
The former space contained a large amount of individual offices with dedicated terminal units serving each office. The renovated space will have large open areas with cubicles. The existing and smaller terminal units may not be compatible with the new space’s requirements. However, the terminal units which serve the perimeter of the building should be able to remain as is in most cases. We will reuse as much of the existing ductwork as possible for the new tenant, but the new space will require some rework.
Most of the work from Phase I went well. The occupants have not generated many complaints. This implies that the design was properly sized (or at least that it is not too small).
There were complaints about the temperature of a training room when it was in operation at full capacity. The temperature was too high and the terminal unit could not keep up with the load in the space. The project manager indicates that the density of people in the room was greater than anticipated when the complaint was generated. They have also installed one computer per person. It was not known that the room would have this computer load during the Phase I design. The ductwork to the training room will need to be reworked in order to compensate for the increased load.
More details and job requirements are discussed, including the project schedule. The deadline for the Phase II documents will be coming soon. We will have less than one month to put together a signed drawing set for the client, who is eager to move in. It will be a fast-paced project. Fortunately, the HVAC system is a common design found in many buildings. I’m familiar with this type of system, so I agree that this deadline will be possible.
To finish the day I begin work on the office renovation project. I take a closer look at the Phase I documents to determine how the loads were calculated and what velocities and pressure drops were used in the ductwork. The air handlers are all identical and each serves one quadrant of the building. Some of the high pressure ductwork on the second floor and almost all of the low pressure ductwork (the ductwork after each terminal unit) will need to be rearranged to fit the new space requirements. Based on a quick rule of thumb check, the air handlers appear to be large enough to handle the new load requirements.
Keeping the first pass, rule-of-thumb load calculation in mind, I begin a more accurate space-by-space load calculation. I won’t be able to finish this today, but I can knock out a large chunk of it.
Leave for the monthly ASHRAE meeting. This month the meeting will be held at a local brewery. Woohoo!
Arrive at the brewery. A professor from Purdue University will give a presentation on refrigeration concepts. He will discuss new and future compressor technology that he and his students have been developing. Before the presentation we eat and do a brewery tour.