Podcast

The FUTURE. Built Smarter.

IMEG engineers and designers discuss innovative and trend-setting building and infrastructure design with architects, owners, and others in the AEC industry. Topics touch on all market sectors, engineering disciplines, and related services. Listen here or subscribe to “The Future. Built Smarter.” on your podcast app.

iTunesGoogle PodcastsSpotifyAmazon MusicPodbean

 

 


 


Steve Germano
In this two-part episode, IMEG software development team lead Steve Germano joins Mike Lawless and Joe Payne for a conversation about IMEG’s internal, AI-powered chatbot, Meg. After a year-and-a-half of development, Meg is now live and serves as a search engine for the firm’s engineering teams and other departments, drawing from the company’s vast amount of stored data.
Built as a large language model, or LLM, questions can be asked of Meg by anyone in the company on a variety of engineering and non-engineering topics, from “How do I submit my expense report?” to “Where can I find guidance on sizing steam traps?” Meg will then point the user to the appropriate in-house tool or information from among the firm’s own curated, accurate, and verified databases. Meg fields upwards of 1,000 questions a day from the firm’s 80-plus engineering teams and other staff around the country, quickly bringing knowledge from across the firm to answer questions and provide technical information to provide the best solutions for local clients.
“We built a singular entry point to help users find information they’re looking for across the company in a single place,” says Germano, who also is a mechanical engineer. “Everyone can just type a sentence and ask what they want, just like you’d be asking a colleague sitting next to you.”
Far from replacing engineers, Meg acts as an assistant to help them more quickly find the data and answers to their questions—an especially useful “co-pilot” and source of accelerated learning for less experienced engineers (who also continue to be mentored by the firm’s veterans).
“It’s like having someone you can bug and ask 50 questions a day and know you’re not going to aggravate them and eat up their time,” says Germano, who expects to see similar AI-powered assistants being developed across the AEC industry. “As the technology continues to develop, it’s just going to get better and better, and more and more knowledge will be available.”
Germano offers a bit of advice for firms thinking about embarking on such a journey. “There are a lot of tools out there to start exploring with, but in parallel with that, you need to determine if your data is even ready to be consumed by AI. That’s a deep topic that needs to be explored as it can take a lot of time to curate and cleanse your data.”

 


 

Kat Klingenberg
Kat Klingenberg, executive director and co-founder of the non-profit organization Phius, talks about the history and current state of passive building in this episode of The Future Built Smarter. “Passive building principles are not rocket science,” she says. “We’re talking about continuous insulation, airtight construction, no thermal bridging in the envelope, good fenestration components, and minimized mechanical systems. It’s all about holistic integrated design, and once that is all implemented correctly, we get the result of super-low energy buildings that are pretty much zero-energy ready.”
Kat also directs the technical and research programs at Phius, which certifies passive buildings and high-performance building products. The organization also has trained more than 5,000 architects, engineers, energy consultants, and builders as Phius Certified Consultants, Builders, and Raters/Verifiers.
Predated by the construction of thousands of passive houses in North America during the 1960s through 1980s and originally modeled off the Passive House Institute of Germany, Phius codified the passive house strategies in the U.S. when the organization was founded in 2003. The principles have evolved over the past two decades and today apply not only to homes but also to new construction and retrofits of all building types, with climate-specific standards for different geographic regions.
Passive building principles are a vital tool in the global decarbonization effort underway in the built environment—so much so that the 2024 USGBC International Greenbuild Conference will include a Phius-exclusive track, pre-conference summit, and pavilion of exhibitors. 
“There has been collaboration and friendship between the Green Building Council and Phius for quite a while, and we decided that Phius should have a track within Greenbuild this year,” says Kat. “We call it ‘Phius at Greenbuild.’ We hope that we can create a lot of interest in what we do and bring the stakeholders of Greenbuild into the fold and help them with their next challenges.”
The urgent need to decarbonize at light speed, advances in heat pump and envelope technologies, the mastering of air tightness strategies by a growing number of builders, and the expectation that jurisdictions will begin to include Passive Building Certification as part of net-zero stretch codes (Massachusetts has already done so) are all bringing Phius into the spotlight as never before. “It’s almost like the perfect storm,” says Kat. “It’s super exciting.”
Visit Phius on the web to learn more about the organization and its collaboration with the 2024 USGBC International Greenbuild Conference.
Read about one of IMEG’s Phius-certified projects, the net-zero Prairie Trails School in Mount Prospect, IL.

 

Craig Chamberlain
This episode of The Future Built Smarter podcast provides a high-level look at seismic design and preparedness 30 years after the Northridge earthquake rocked Southern California in 1994. Joining the discussion is IMEG structural engineer and client executive Craig Chamberlain, president of the Structural Engineers Association of Southern California, which hosted the Northridge30 Symposium on the anniversary of the event in January. “The symposium brought policymakers, city government officials, building officials, and engineers together to help make sure we’re still moving ahead even 30 years after the earthquake, and that we don’t forget what happened on that devastating day,” he says.
The magnitude 6.7 earthquake shook the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles at 4:30 a.m. Jan. 17, 1994, resulting in at least 57 deaths and more than 8,700 injuries. It was California’s most destructive seismic event since the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the state’s costliest to date, by some estimates causing up to $50 billion in damage to buildings and infrastructure. It also ushered in new and advanced building codes and requirements, building retrofits, and new structural best practices for building types with specific vulnerabilities—all of which continue to evolve. “A lot has come to pass since that day, but there is more work to be done,” says Chamberlain.
The lessons learned from Northridge, the advances in design and technology, and the growing use of structural assessments, building resiliency strategies, and recovery measures have applications outside of seismic areas, since a variety of natural events can threaten buildings and infrastructure throughout the U.S. “It’s important that we’re prepared for that event when it comes, because it’s going to come, whether it’s a hurricane, tornado, flood, or earthquake,” says Chamberlain.

 


 

IMEG President and CEO Paul VanDuyne talks about the trajectory of his career and the firm’s growth during his 20-year tenure as CEO in this special episode of The Future Built Smarter. The recipient of ENR Midwest’s 2023 Legacy Award, Paul entered the industry as a design electrical engineer 47 years ago when he joined IMEG—then KJWW Engineering. In 2003 he became president and CEO, and since 2015 IMEG has completed 35 acquisitions and has gone from 800 staff members to over 2,400 staff at 80 locations coast to coast. All of that might not have happened, however, had Paul followed his original plans when he moved from the East Coast—where he’d already earned an engineering degree—to Davenport, Iowa.
“I actually came out to the Midwest to become a chiropractor,” he says. “I was going into a new career direction. About six months into it I needed to make some money and joined this small engineering company over in Rock Island, Illinois. I was their 16th person at the beginning of 1976. That’s my story with what eventually became IMEG.” Paul shares how his interest in healthcare—he did go on to earn his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Palmer College—led to jumpstarting and building IMEG’s healthcare portfolio, which today is ranked 4th in the nation among engineering firms by Building Design+Construction.
Paul also discusses IMEG’s ongoing strategic mergers and acquisitions, its goal to become a billion-dollar company, and how its wide diversity of markets and services, geographic distribution, employee ownership, and single profit center combine to provide the firm with resilience and growth even during times of adversity. “All that really helped us get through the pandemic, but also any difficult times that come up,” he says. “That’s a huge stability factor for us.”
After nearly 50 years in the business, Paul says he is very committed to a daily health regimen that helps him to stay energized and meet the demands of the job, physically and mentally. “I think a lot of it has to do with mindset,” he says. “If your mindset is a progressive mindset, and it’s an abundance mindset, I think that gives you a huge advantage.”
Learn more about IMEG’s approach and stories of success in the new mini-documentary, “IMEG Built Smarter: A Strategic Growth Story.”

 


 

This episode features Missy Stults, Sustainability and Innovations Director for the City of Ann Arbor, MI, one of 11 communities being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office to design a community geothermal heating and cooling system. Joining the conversation is IMEG Sustainability Director Adam McMillen, who is leading the analysis and design portion of the project.
“In Ann Arbor we have the goal of achieving a just transition to communitywide carbon neutrality by 2030,” said Stults. “One of the things that is really critical is centering equity in our work, and so from the very beginning we said we have to make sure that we’re working with neighborhoods that we’ve traditionally disinvested in.” The city’s Bryant Neighborhood—an underserved, energy-burdened community of 262 households, 75 percent of which are considered low-income, with over 50 percent of residents being minorities and renters—was chosen for the project. “For almost three years we’ve been working with Community Action Network (CAN) and the residents of Bryant to figure out what would it mean if they became the most sustainable neighborhood in America,” said Stults. “What would it mean if you flipped the script on a neighborhood that we sort of just forgot about and made it be the centerpiece of climate action? And then this project came about.”
The goal of the project is to design (and eventually build) a community-scale geothermal system that covers at least 75% of the heating and cooling load for all 262 households as well as for a local school, a county community mental health service center, and the City of Ann Arbor’s public works facility. The project will directly lower the neighborhood’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40%, significantly improve indoor air quality, eliminate the energy burden for low-income residents, and enhance year-round comfort.
The project team is led by the City of Ann Arbor and consists of 14 entities including CAN and other community organizations, mental health providers, the public school district, utility providers, geothermal design firms, and workforce development and training organizations.
“The answer to the climate crisis isn’t brand new neighborhoods everywhere,” said McMillen. “It is: Work with what we have in a smarter way, reuse resources we have, then lift everyone else up with us. And make it replicable so anyone can do it.”
Read more about the project.

 

 


 

This episode offers a preview of UW Health’s Eastpark Medical Center in Madison, WI. Expected to be fully open by Fall 2024, the seven-story outpatient facility will offer advanced imaging and lab services, destination services, multidisciplinary adult specialties, and women’s complex care. The center also will feature the state-of-the-art UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center, one of the few in the country to offer proton therapy and, in collaboration with Leo Cancer Care, the first healthcare facility in the U.S. to offer upright proton therapy.
Discussing the new center and proton therapy aspects of the project are Jerry McGuire and Steve Mumm, senior project managers for University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Planning Design and Construction, and Kevin Langan, an IMEG mechanical engineer working on the project. “Proton therapy is a relatively new cancer treatment,” says McGuire. “It’s an advanced form of radiation therapy using a precise dose of radiation that conforms to the tumor itself—reducing side effects and causing no damage to surrounding healthy tissues.” The new center will offer both a rotating gantry where a patient lies down on a couch with the machine rotating around them, and an upright fixed beam system in which the patient sits up. The upright system is being found to provide improved outcomes— offering greater comfort, reducing patient anxiety, and improved accuracy—and is particularly beneficial for pediatric patients.
The planning, design, and construction not only of the proton therapy spaces but also the infrastructure to support the technology was like no other healthcare project. “There were huge implications well beyond the proton therapy space—for example, the chiller plant gets larger, an additional electrical service was added, and larger generators,” said Langan. “It also required a lot of coordination with the proton therapy vendors to make sure we were providing what they needed.” To withstand the neutron dose rates of the treatment bay and contain the radiation, the proton therapy space also required 7-foot-thick concrete walls below grade. A temporary system to pump glycol through tubing within the poured concrete was required to keep the concrete from overheating and to cure appropriately.
Eastpark Medical Center is also seeking LEED v4.1 certification for healthcare and has several sustainable features, including a 1MW rooftop solar array which provides the approximate energy needed to power the proton center. “We basically will have a carbon-neutral proton center in Madison, Wisconsin,” says Mumm.

 

 


 

Scott Campagna, Senior Director of Housing at IMEG, is featured in this episode—one in a series of conversations with the firm’s market leaders. Scott talks about the subsectors of IMEG’s housing work—neighborhoods, multifamily, student housing, and senior living—and the challenges and opportunities facing the market overall. “It’s an interesting time,” he says. “There’s a huge housing demand in all sectors but in the current environment, with the lending being pulled back, projects in all sectors generally are moving a bit slower.” Scott also discusses office-to-residential conversions, a trending topic in the market. He cautions that such pursuits always be preceded by an infrastructure assessment. “Certainly not every building is the same nor is it best suited necessarily for a housing conversion. You need to look at the systems infrastructure to ensure it will support the housing project. You don’t want to be hit with any surprises after the fact or during construction.” On all projects in the market, Scott says the mentality at IMEG is to “Turn housing into homes. We understand we are drawing more than just lines on paper—we are providing a home where people can thrive and flourish within our communities.”

 

 


 

In a continuing series of discussions with IMEG’s market leaders, this episode of The Future Built Smarter features John Holbert, vice president of education. John discusses the challenges facing the market, primarily those for higher education institutions, which face ever-increasing enrollment competition, changes in student demographics, limited resources, aging infrastructure, and difficulties with facility staff retention. Many higher education institutions, as well as K-12 school districts, also face challenges in meeting sustainability and environmental initiatives as well as the need to improve safety and security in their buildings and on their campuses. “Security has become a big topic, and we have started consulting on safety and security plans for campuses and districts,” he says. Such initiatives start with a vulnerability assessment and gap analysis, with planning and design including principles from Crime Prevention through Environmental Design, or CPTED. “We’re also seeing more referendums and funding opportunities for safety and security measures,” he adds. Before embarking on any building project, John emphasizes the importance of master planning to best prepare for the needs of the future. Such planning helps institutions meet their long-term goals and allocate funds and other resources accordingly—before it’s too late. “Across the landscape of education, we see a lot of deferred maintenance,” he says. “We’re still going into 50-plus-year-old buildings that have original systems in them.”

 

 


 

Holistic security considerations for K-12 school design are examined in this 17-minute episode featuring Ryan Searles, IMEG’s security consulting group leader. Ryan spends an average of three weeks of each month traveling the country presenting at conferences or training organizations in crisis management, active shooter mitigation, and other security preparedness—with a growing number of school districts seeking his team’s services. “We keep seeing a rise in violence in the United States and more violent events occurring at places of education,” he says. “In K-12, particularly, it’s really about what we can do to mitigate it from happening.” In addition to getting involved earlier in the design phase of new facilities, Ryan and his team are also conducting an increasing number of security assessments of existing schools, providing answers to such questions as, “What do we have in place? What are we doing right? Where are our gaps and where are our vulnerabilities? How do we fix those?” The most effective security design and emergency preparedness takes a blended, holistic approach, Ryan says, and includes not only physical and technology design aspects but also “the human aspect”—training, drills and rehearsals for staff and students, as well as proactive threat assessments of individuals and being vigilant about watching for early warning signs. “We’ve been a very reactive culture in the United States with school security and safety. We can’t do that anymore—that’s become very apparent and has a lot to do with my team being so busy. Schools are reaching out saying, ‘Come show us what we need to do to keep these kids safe.’ “
Ryan Searles will present “Security Considerations for School Design” at 8:15 a.m. Oct. 13 at the Association for Learning Environments’ National Conference, LearningSCAPES 2023, in Chicago. Learn more.

 


 

This episode—another in a series of discussions with IMEG’s market leaders—features Jack Kusek, market leader for water and wastewater. Listen to the episode and you’ll learn:
  • What PFAs are and what can be done about them
  • Which U.S. city has the largest concentration of lead pipes
  • Why security is a big concern for water and wastewater facilities, particularly in smaller communities
  • How two communities collaborated to ensure their water resiliency
  • Why outsourcing facility operations is a necessity for many small municipalities/small>
  • How IMEG has helped restore Frenchman’s Reef resort on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands following back-to-back hurricanes that devastated the property in 2017
Jack also discusses his motivation for the work he specializes in, and the reward he receives when he’s able to help a community improve its water infrastructure and water quality and provide for one of the fundamental needs of life.
“The fact that we can help people on St. Thomas and other communities so that they have new facilities, cleaner water to drink, and wastewater plants that aren’t polluting the streams—just seeing how those improvements benefit people and how thankful they are, that’s motivation enough for me.”

 


 

This episode—part of a series of conversations with IMEG’s market leaders—features Kelly Altes, the firm’s industrial market leader. Kelly discusses the firm’s industrial teams’ areas of expertise— agriculture, aerospace, automotive, food and beverage, chemical, pharmaceutical, and general manufacturing—as well as challenges facing industrial clients. These include the pace of project delivery, the lengthy process of capital expenditure decisions, and the push to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. She also talks about the difficulty of meeting and funding ESG and corporate sustainability goals and the importance of master planning to help clients achieve those goals over manageable periods time. “I’m actively talking with clients about the importance of master planning,” she says. “As with any big problem, you break it down into small chunks. So, we’ve worked with a number of clients on yearly capital expenditures that we can look at over a five-, 10-, 15-, or 20-year period to try to help them with that decarbonization process.”

 


 

Note: In keeping with the topic of this episode—artificial intelligence—the following summary has been generated by ChatGPT using a transcription from the podcast.
In this podcast episode, host Joe Payne and co-host Mike Lawless discuss the topic of AI and its impact on the design profession. Their guest, Michael Kilkelly, is a registered architect and member of IMEG’s internal Technical Operations team. He shares insights on how AI is being used in the field of architecture and engineering.
They discuss the initial fears and concerns architects and engineers may have about AI taking over their jobs. However, as people start using AI tools like ChatGPT, they realize the practical applications and usefulness of these technologies. Michael highlights that while there may be some unfounded fears, there is also a recognition of the skill involved in effectively utilizing AI.
The conversation dives into various areas where AI can enhance the design process. Michael mentions generative design tools like TestFit and ARK that help architects create optimal building layouts based on specific parameters. They also discuss the potential of AI in aiding visualization during client meetings, where AI tools can generate images based on spoken text, allowing clients to better understand and react to design concepts.
The hosts explore the benefits of AI in terms of efficiency and productivity, as well as the potential for AI to assist with data analysis and historical data access. They emphasize the concept of “augmented intelligence” and the idea that AI tools can enhance human capabilities rather than replace them entirely. Michael introduces the concept of “prompt engineering” as the art of extracting useful information from AI systems, while maintaining contextual control to avoid generating false or fabricated data.
Looking toward the future, the discussion touches on the possibility of personalized AI assistants or virtual copilots that can work alongside professionals, providing support and leveraging collective experience. They also anticipate advancements in querying databases with AI, allowing users to ask complex questions and receive accurate answers, leading to more informed decision-making.
For related information, read Michael Kilkelly’s article, “AI and architecture and engineering: Programmed for success,” published by Smart Buildings Technology.

 


 

In a continuing series of conversations with IMEG’s market leaders, this episode of The Future Built Smarter features Bridge Market Leader Steve Myer. Steve discusses his background, the types of services that IMEG’s bridge engineering team provides, challenges facing the market, and often-heard questions from clients. “The common questions from our clients include how to extend the life of their bridges,” he says. “They also often ask for rough cost estimates for their bridges and what they can do to make their money go further. We provide quite a few estimates, either for rehabilitation of existing bridges or for replacing bridges.” Steve adds that over the past five years he and other engineers “have been going at a really fast pace and have designed many bridge projects—to the point that now one of the biggest challenges facing clients is there so many projects out there, the competitive bid process is somewhat going away because contractors can just go after the projects they want.” As for the future, Steve says, “I really don’t see a slowdown coming in the bridge market. Hopefully it stabilizes a little bit and construction prices stop doubling every five years.”

 

 

In a continuing series of conversations with IMEG market leaders and directors, Corey Stout discusses the transportation market with host Joe Payne. Corey touches on several topics, including the effects to date of the federal government’s massive infrastructure funding made available in late 2021.
“Aside from repair and maintenance work, most of the projects have been in the planning stages and we’re seeing these projects go out for bid, two years later,” he says. Labor shortages have added to the slow-down of the process. “The state agencies have to assign the contracts and they’re short-staffed; consultants have to do their work and they’re short-staffed; and then the contractors have to get their work done and they’re short-staffed. But it’s coming around and we’re starting to see more and more construction going on everywhere.”
Corey also talks about the importance of public engagement, the effectiveness of holding virtual community meetings, and the technology now being used to help motorists and pedestrians visualize and understand infrastructure projects. In one such project, IMEG created a 3D rendering and flyover video showing a combine easily moving through a proposed rural roundabout. This allayed farmers’ concerns by allowing them to “see that the intersection was going to function just fine with something as big as a combine going through it.” (Learn more and watch the video.)
As for the future, Corey says to expect more electric vehicle charging stations popping up along the highways, and, someday, the rise of drones as a means of personal conveyance and commerce. “I don’t know what that’s going to do to the infrastructure, but it’ll be kind of exciting to see how it’s going to go.”

 

This night drone photo was taken for a lighting and security site assessment. Click here to watch the video.
This episode examines an innovative and integrated application of reality capture technologies that has been developed by IMEG to improve exterior lighting and security site assessments. Explaining the components, applications, and benefits of the ALL (Accurately Locating Light) Meter are guests Eric Vallejo, Director of Reality Capture and Geospatial Solutions, Ryan Searles, Security Consulting Group Leader, and Shanna Olson, Architectural Lighting Team Leader. The ALL Meter combines an illuminance meter, 3D camera, GPS, GIS, and drone photography to gather more accurate and robust data in a vastly more efficient and safer manner compared to conventional site assessments. “The traditional methodology for lighting assessments is to go out on site, obviously after dark, and about every five feet or so get down on the ground with a light meter,” says Olson. “You’re also looking at other things, making observations, and taking photos as it gets later and later into the evening. At a particularly large job site recently it ended up becoming a little bit like Frogger in that we were repeatedly bending down, getting up, and moving around as cars and semi-trucks drove past us.” In contrast, the ALL Meter allows the gatherer to remain standing, stay out of harm’s way, and quickly collect more and better data to inform the design phase, while the night drone photography enables stakeholders to visualize areas of poor visibility, lack of uniformity in lighting, and gaps in security. “You can see immediately where something’s dark or well illuminated,” says Olson. “Owners can see and feel how it is to be in that space at night.”
IMEG’s Eric Vallejo, Ryan Searles, and Shanna Olson will discuss this new methodology at the AIA 2023 National Conference on Architecture in San Francisco. “Enhanced Visualization & Reality Capture from a Bird’s Eye View” will be presented at 4 p.m. Friday, June 9. Conference attendees also can visit with IMEG at booth #4240. Learn more.

 

In the second of a series of conversations with IMEG market leaders and directors, Brandon Fortier, Director of Science & Technology, joins podcast host Joe Payne and series co-host Steve Rhoades, Vice President of Market Development and Federal Solutions. This episode, like the others in the series, provides a high-level view of the trends, challenges, opportunities, and topics that are top-of-mind for IMEG’s clients and partners.
“Science and technology intersects many different vertical markets and a lot of our clients’ questions and needs are very specific to their program,” says Brandon. “But the continuity between them is environmental related—sustainability, resiliency, climate change, decarbonization—things that we hear about in a variety of markets are the same ones that science and technology clients are very focused on.” At the same time, adds Brandon, “we’re seeing a lot of different opportunities with specialization in the market,” including cell gene therapies, life sciences, and healthcare in general. “These have provided many opportunities for new research, and we’re seeing many owners expanding the market.”
Communication is vital for engineers to provide successful solutions to S&T clients’ needs. This includes not only communicating with facility staff but also the end users—the researchers and industrial hygienists and safety and chemical experts. “We need to address the needs of all end users in the facility design,” says Brandon. “We don’t necessarily need to understand the research they’re doing, but we need to understand what they need out of the building systems.”

 


 

Many in the healthcare industry have come to recognize the significant and symbolic role that healthcare organizations, their designers, and builders, can play in reducing the carbon emissions, or greenhouse gases, introduced by the built environment of their facilities. In this podcast episode, IMEG Senior Director of Healthcare Eric Vandenbroucke and Director of Sustainability Adam McMillen discuss why decarbonization is needed in healthcare, the challenges and opportunities that will be encountered along the way, and how organizations can start down the path. For additional information, listeners can read the free IMEG executive guide, “Decarbonization in Healthcare: A Practical Approach for the Built environment.”

 


 

Brendon Buckley
The amount of data available from multiple building systems continues to grow exponentially. What this data is and how to decide what to do with it is examined in this two-part episode of The Future Built Smarter. Our guest on these episodes is Brendon Buckley, IMEG Protect Executive for Building Intelligence and Integration. In Part 1, Brendon discusses building system data and the potential it presents to owners for not only improving their building’s operational performance but their business outcomes as well. “Even though it’s an amazing thing to be able to maintain a comfortable, safe, sustainable environment, there’s a lot more we should be expecting out of our buildings,” he says. “What processes or areas could be improved with a little additional help from the systems within the building? What outcome or what result could that drive? I think each individual owner needs to brainstorm about what kinds of benefits they are not getting that they probably should be getting.”
In Part 2, Brendon talks about the use of a “digital twin” to model changes in operations using building system data before any actual changes are made. “A digital twin in the simplest term is a virtual representation, using collected data, of the systems that are running in a building,” he says. Still largely just beginning to emerge on the scene, a digital twin can be used to determine not only how a building will react under different scenarios but also how the scenarios will affect occupants, staff, and processes. While useful for many different building types and markets, a digital twin can be particularly beneficial for mission critical buildings and those that must operate 24/7, such as manufacturing and healthcare facilities. “Being able to model critical environments that have so many systems in play is really tremendous,” Brendon says. “Understanding the data and being able to leverage a digital twin in actual building utilization is really a big deal, and I think we’re going to see the use of this expand.”

 


 

          Thom Kurmel
The concept of team commissioning, the benefits it can bring to any large project with multiple stakeholders, and its application in the federal sector are examined in this two-part episode of The Future Built Smarter. Our guests are Thom Kurmel, President of TDK Consulting—a VA Certified Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business specializing in health systems design, organizational performance, business and operational planning, and infrastructure strategies—and Armand Harpin, IMEG Director of Federal Healthcare.
Similar in some respects to building commissioning—in which a third-party consultant verifies that a building is operating to its fullest potential as designed—team commissioning involves ensuring that multiple project stakeholders work together in the most efficient manner “to really use the power of the team to get the job done,” says Kurmel. As a partnering consultant, he applies “tried and true methods” to commission a team, including accountability, proper alignment, governance, management expectations, risk management, and identification of roles and responsibilities. “You want to understand all of this at the beginning, and team commissioning allows that conversation to happen so people understand that they’re part of the solution,” he says.
         Armand Harpin
With the structure and expectations in place, it is imperative to maintain constant communication among the team and to have access to a representative from each stakeholder—including the owner—who can say “yes” or “no” as issues arise. “This shortens the amount of time for decision making, which is essential in a construction project,” Kurmel says. “If you can’t answer those questions quickly, especially during an active acquisition, you’re going to delay the project and it’s going to cost more money. That vexes a lot of teams because they haven’t set themselves up for success by providing the forum for discussion, discernment, decision, and then action.”
Kurmel holds a Doctorate in Design from Harvard University, a BS in Architecture from the University of Nebraska, is a registered architect, certified design-build professional, and a Fellow in the Health Facility Institute. He also is currently a member of the DBIA Federal Committee and on the National Board of Directors for DBIA. He founded TDK Consultants after serving 30 years on active duty with the U.S. Army, where he was a platoon leader for the Combat Heavy Construction engineer battalion; served as commander, director, and chief of project management with the U.S. Army Health Facility Planning Agency; and was Senior Military Advisor and Chief of Staff, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.
“Every single day we worked to provide facilities for active-duty soldiers and their families worldwide. So, I got a big dose of how to do this kind of work at a very large scale. I opened a consulting practice to try to continue to support facilities and missions, both in the federal space and the commercial world.”

 


 


The state of the hospitality industry—and the trends to watch—are discussed with IMEG Director of Hospitality Bob Winter in the first in a series of episodes featuring the firm’s market leaders.
“Last year, 2022, was a tremendous year in the market for design and construction,” Bob says, citing the recovery of occupancy rates as the industry emerged from the pandemic. “I have seen a little bit of a headwind this year with some of our projects due to the cost of construction and the cost of money.” However, he adds, there are still a lot of “pent-up opportunities that are coming online,” along with growing demand for more hotels in urban and resort environments.
Bob also sees a growing focus on sustainability and energy efficiency, as well as continued growth in properties with a focus on wellness. “Many of the major brands have wellness hotels that are really retreats and are located in places like Sedona or Palm Springs or in wilderness settings, but they’re also in top urban markets, too. These are places where people can go to experience various mind and body rejuvenation or even a much more focused healing and recovery experience, with medical staff and licensed therapists.”
Bob is no stranger to the concept of wellness retreats. In 1912 his great grandfather opened the Hotel Thermia Palace in Czechoslovakia, one of the world’s first wellness resorts.
“It was built on natural hot springs and there were mud baths; people from throughout central Europe would go there for treatment, primarily for rheumatism,” he says. Though no longer owned by the Winter family, the Thermia Palace exists to this day as a luxury spa and wellness hotel catering to clients worldwide. Those who cross the bridge onto the property pass a statue of a man breaking his crutch—a likeness of Bob’s great grandfather and a symbol of the retreat’s long-standing healing properties.
“It’s still a very popular place,” says Bob, who has visited the site.
The Winter family’s hospitality legacy transferred to the U.S. at the outbreak of World War 2, when Bob’s grandmother emigrated with her sons to the U.S. She soon became the country’s first female general manager of a major urban hotel, the Hotel Pearson in Chicago. Bob continues the family legacy today as IMEG’s director of hospitality.
“It’s the ‘giant circle’,” he says. “It’s been an interesting journey.”

 


 


What is a microgrid? What are its benefits? Does it offer a good return on investment? Answers to these questions and more are discussed in this episode featuring Mike Zorich, IMEG’s Vice President of Healthcare, and Eric Vandenbroucke, Senior Director of Healthcare. “A microgrid is a collection of power sources in addition to your normal utility source,” explains Eric. “It could include things like a generator, solar power, wind turbines, battery backup. It’s a collection that is able to be decoupled from the grid if you have a power surge or problems with the grid (occurring more frequently due to weather-related events), allowing you to continue operating your facility.” Microgrids are especially beneficial for healthcare facilities and buildings in other markets that require 24/7 uninterrupted operation. They go beyond code-required emergency power, can operate for an unlimited amount of time, and provide carbon-free energy. “Another consideration with microgrids is decarbonization in healthcare,” says Mike Zorich. “We’ve seen a big push from the Biden administration with the goals of 50 percent carbon reduction in healthcare by 2030 and then zero emissions by 2030. A microgrid is not the only path to decarbonization, but it needs to be part of that discussion.” Despite a microgrid’s potential, Eric adds that many are not familiar with the strategy. “There have been some recent surveys stating that over half of healthcare facility managers aren’t even familiar with what a microgrid is and about another third of them admit they’re only somewhat familiar. So, I think education is going to be the first step in figuring out if this is something that might fit with your organization.” Listen to the podcast to learn more, and download IMEG’s free executive guide, “Microgrids for Healthcare Facilities: ‘Island Mode’ Ensures Long-term Operability.”

 


 

In this episode we visit with IMEG’s Cliff Schwinger, a senior structural engineer in Philadelphia and recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Institute of Steel Construction. Cliff has more than 40 years of experience, is a nationally recognized quality assurance expert, and presents at seminars nationwide, including the NASCC Steel Conference, where he has been a speaker for 10 years.
Cliff’s interest in engineering sprouted when he was a little kid. “I used to build these model airplanes out of balsa wood, and they were like mini structures,” he recalls. Though he originally had designs on becoming an aeronautical engineer, as he entered college, jobs in that field were on the downswing. “So, I somehow wandered into civil engineering. I became a structural engineer, and I haven’t looked back.”
He has seen many changes over the course of his career, primarily due to advances in technology. “I entered college with a slide rule and I came out with a calculator,” he says. “I still remember the first computer we got, and then, gradually, it got to where it is today. It’s incredible the change that has happened since 1976 when I entered the profession, and it’s all good. But there are challenges, and one of the challenges is to train engineers—in particular, younger engineers—not to put blind faith in the software. You need the computer to crunch all those numbers; however, you still need to be able to tell whether the computer is giving you the right answer.”
Cliff also talks about his interests outside of engineering. “About a dozen years ago, somehow I bumbled my way into community theater and played a bit part as an angry Roman citizen in a mob of other angry Roman citizens in a Shakespeare performance. And then another year I was a soldier in King Henry’s army in ‘Henry IV.’ ” Also an avid bicyclist, Cliff has, in the past, led unique tours for his bike club around Philadelphia. “But I wouldn’t stop at the famous landmarks—I would stop at the totally unknown things,” he says. “There’s always an interesting story behind every building. I had another ride called ‘Cliff’s Decaying Infrastructure Ride.’ “
For young engineers just getting started, Cliff offers some advice. “You have to have passion, and you have to be OK with the understanding that you’re always going to be learning.”

 


 

Robin Greenleaf
This episode of The Future Built Smarter features a 15-minute conversation with Robin Greenleaf, an IMEG managing principal and the immediate past chair of the American Council of Engineering Companies—the first woman to hold that position. Robin shares her key takeaways from her time on the ACEC board and her career in general, including her insights on the challenges and opportunities that face U.S. engineering firms. “There’s such a large range of engineering companies, ranging from size to where they are to what they do,” she says. “We’re dealing with workforce issues and supply chain issues and inflation, and it affects all of the ACEC member firms.” In addition to navigating these business challenges, Robin adds that today’s engineers are also faced with a critical technical task no other generation of engineers has faced: combatting climate change through reducing the built environment’s carbon footprint. “We’re in this really unique moment in history, where basically we are the ones who can make a difference in what the next generation gets,” she says. “That’s the single biggest issue that I see engineering firms dealing with—what’s our strategy for how we can make a difference.”

 


 

IMEG Director of Sustainability, Adam McMillen, joins this 14-minute episode to provide a summary of the clean energy and climate provisions included in the Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA. “At a high level, the act has really opened the door for taking advantage of these incentives while also trying to stimulate economic activity,” he says. One of the biggest aspects of the act is that, in addition to offering these provisions to the private sector, the IRA offers a “direct pay” incentive to non-profits—entities that could not take advantage of previous renewable energy technology tax credits due to their lack of tax liability. “Essentially it is a grant, and this is a huge step forward, for sure,” says Adam, who also has written about the IRA on the IMEG blog. To avoid wading through the act’s hundreds of pages, he also has created a simple table that lists the credits, the technologies/building types they apply to, and the incentive levels. While not included in his table, several other provisions can benefit homeowners. “For example, there’s a 50 percent tax credit toward a heat pump unit for your house,” he says. Everyone interested in taking advantage of the provisions should expect more clarity and guidance once the act is more fully developed in early 2023. “Everyone is saying we should know a whole lot more by January, so you should start doing your planning now, but don’t pull the trigger until you know more.”

 


 

Security continues to become an ever more important aspect of building design, and in this episode, we focus on the security strategy known as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, or CPTED. Our guest is Ryan Searles, a senior security consultant at IMEG and certified CPTED professional. Ryan has also written about the strategy for the IMEG blog and says it is much more than just “large boulders and trees”—it also leverages architectural elements, social programs, colors, lighting, natural surveillance, natural access control, and even traffic curbing. “We’re seeing CPTED being applied a lot more now,” he adds. “We live in crazy times—in the past four to five years we’ve had a lot of civil unrest and more active shooters. So, more clients are implementing this strategy. Used along with electronic and physical security measures, it provides a solid, holistic approach to safety and security and really helps secure buildings and keep people safe.”

 


 

In the first of two related episodes, structural engineer Laura Hagan talks about her participation in IMEG’s internal IDEA! program, designed to foster innovation and sustainability across the firm and investigate future trends in the AEC industry. The program also frees up participants to focus on their areas of interest and take what they have learned or developed back to their team. “A big part of what I’ve been working on is accessing, calculating, and tracking embodied carbon on projects and developing a tool to visualize and communicate the information to a client early on to help make project decisions,” Laura says. “That’s a big goal for me and something I think is pretty powerful.”

 


 

Using a HoloLens to provide an augmented reality (AR) experience is discussed in the second of two episodes on IMEG’s internal IDEA! program. This segment features guest Abby Coleman, an IMEG intern who participated in the program, which is designed to foster innovation and expose participants to future trends in the AEC industry. Abby describes the HoloLens and AR as a “translator” between designer and client, and discusses several AR experiences she and others in the program created, including an educational STEM-themed AR tour of a library and a portrayal of how a HoloLens allows clients to immerse themselves within a design.

 


 

This episode of The Future Built Smarter examines equity in healthcare. Providing the caregiver perspective on the topic are guests Dr. Anne Doran, a pediatric hospitalist at Advocate Children’s Hospital, Chicago, and Dr. Megan Morgan, a registered nurse and pediatric nurse educator at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Both share their views and experiences on equity, inclusion, diversity, and bias within the healthcare environment. “We’ve seen a big push to have a more astute awareness of where the gaps in care are and how we address diverse populations so that we are inclusive of all—culturally, spiritually, and even among populations of varying levels of health literacy,” says Dr. Doran. “We have a dedicated team of people bringing an awareness and education to the organization to be able to deliver care in an effective way.” The ability to overcome language barriers and communicate is paramount, adds Dr. Morgan. “I think the biggest success recently has been interpreter services on an iPad-type device that can be used in patient rooms,” she says. “This provides ‘face-to-face’ interaction with the translator so that the family can see somebody of their culture speaking to them in their language and translating for them. This has created great collaboration among the healthcare team, the patients, and families.”
 

 

In this episode of The Future Built Smarter, Jeff Ryan, Managing Principal for Design at Christner Architects, joins us for a discussion on the Ball Helix Central Research & Development Center, winner of a 2022 Design Excellence Merit Award for Innovation from Lab Manager magazine. Christner was the architect, lab planner, and interior designer for the project, and IMEG provided structural, MEP, fire protection, and civil design, in addition to commissioning services.
The center transforms the research culture and the scientific capabilities of Ball Horticultural Company, the world’s largest ornamental seed producer. In collaboration with Ball’s steering committee, the design team identified three design principles for the project. “One was, of course, to enable great science,” Jeff says, adding that the company—with an average employee tenure of 27 years—was experiencing a wave of Baby Boomer retirements. “So, they really wanted to elevate their ability to attract researchers and enable new and existing staff in their ability to do great work.” The second goal was to evolve the company work culture through strengthening the existing collaboration, trust, mentoring, communication, respect, and safety, and adding focus on employee happiness, productivity, and wellness. “Finally, they wanted to communicate all the great research that was coming out of the center,” Jeff adds. This would be accomplished by improved connectivity between research and business through shared spaces, transparency, and science on display; creating technology and spaces for global communication and collaboration; and enhancing client visitors’ experiences with connections to the science, the gardens, and the greater Ball Horticultural Company brand.
A central part of the project involved incorporating the center’s existing demonstration garden into the overall design of the new building. “This garden is beautiful, and we decided to leverage it in the scientific space with the idea that the researchers would be engaged with the garden as a physical representation of the work they’re doing,” Jeff says. “The building is formed so that the garden pushes into the middle of the research space and you can see it from wherever you are. You can see it from the office space and from within the labs and even from the back of house with windows that penetrate all the way through the research space. It’s a stimulating environment for discovery.”
In addition to this podcast, you can learn more about the Ball Helix project and see photos of the facility by reading the Christner Architects project story and the IMEG case study.

 


 

In the first of two episodes on reducing embodied carbon in structural systems, IMEG structural engineer Laura Hagan joins Mike Lawless and Joe Payne in a discussion about SE 2050, which calls on all structural engineers to understand, reduce, and ultimately eliminate embodied carbon in their projects by the year 2050. The SE 2050 Challenge was developed by the Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF) and the SE 2050 Commitment Program developed by the Sustainability Committee of the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). IMEG joined the Commitment in April. “Structural engineers have always played an important role in the design of a project; now we are able to look at what we are doing through a different lens and see the role we can play in being able to reduce the environmental effects of the buildings we design,” says Hagan. “The more we understand about how to make reductions in embodied carbon, the better the buildings will be for the client, the owner, users of the buildings, the surrounding communities, and the planet as a whole. I’m also looking forward to seeing what happens in the material industries, because we’re going to need a lot of innovation in the materials before we get to the year 2050.”

 


 

In the second of two episodes on reducing embodied carbon in structural systems, IMEG structural engineer Laura Hagan discusses life cycle analysis (LCA), which, in the context of the built environment, examines the lifetime environmental impacts of the different materials used in a building’s construction. The analysis provides data on the embodied carbon arising from the manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and eventual disposal or reuse of structural and architectural materials. This information enables clients to understand and compare the potential embodied carbon of various design options. “We’re looking at each and every structural and architectural component—that’s the industry focus right now,” says Hagan. “What’s coming in the near future will be mechanical, electrical, and plumbing components as well.”

 

This episode of “The Future. Built Smarter.” examines mass timber — a sustainable, fire resistant, and aesthetic building material that is rapidly gaining use across the globe. Our guest for this episode is Matt Cloninger, a structural engineer for IMEG in Montana who has a lifelong passion for buildings made of wood and who has witnessed mass timber’s recent rise in popularity. “There has been a great fundamental shift in using mass timber in the last couple of years that has made it easier to use structurally,” he says. “More engineers and more owners are designing with cross laminated timber — or CLT — and other mass timber products. In the past the use of mass timber was very limited to small office building type projects, but the building codes have shifted a bit and now give us a little more leeway in what sort of buildings we can design using CLT. Now there are more commercial and industrial applications since the codes allow us to go taller.” Matt also discusses the Stadthaus, a multiple-story residential building in England that exemplifies the benefits of mass timber. “As more owners, developers, and engineers see this product and what it can do, they are going to look at how it might be applied to projects for which they may not have considered it.” For additional information not in the podcast, download IMEG’ executive, “Mass Timber 101.”

 

Numerous healthcare organizations have adopted the guiding principles of the Quadruple Aim, a framework for healthcare excellence that focuses on improving population health, reducing the cost of care, enhancing the patient experience, and improving provider satisfaction. Many of these organizations, however, are missing out on opportunities to support these desired outcomes through an intentionally designed built environment. In the first of a series of episodes based on the executive guide, “Enhancing the Quadruple Aim through Data-Driven Decisions in the Built Environment,” IMEG Director of Healthcare Mike Zorich provides a high-level explanation of the Quadruple Aim and offers examples of various design strategies and elements that can enhance it—and ultimately help the healthcare industry deliver better outcomes for patients, caregivers, communities, and the world.

 

Numerous healthcare organizations have adopted the guiding principles of the Quadruple Aim—a framework for healthcare excellence, the goals of which can be greatly supported through an intentionally designed built environment. In the second of a series of episodes based on the executive guide, “Enhancing the Quadruple Aim through Data-Driven Decisions in the Built Environment,” IMEG Director of Sustainability Adam McMillen discusses how the built environment can help healthcare organizations achieve the first goal, improving population health.

 

In the third of a series of episodes based on the executive guide, “Enhancing the Quadruple Aim through Data-Driven Decisions in the Built Environment,” Joel Yow, co-founder of linear A, discusses how the built environment can help healthcare organizations achieve the Quadruple Aim’s second goal, reducing the cost of care. “You don’t want to make an investment in a new building that’s meant to reduce the cost of care, and then misplace it or mistime it and then just generally increase the cost of care by not really thinking through the data enough,” he says. “When looking at patient origin, for example, we’ve provided reports and data to clients that show them where their patient populations are coming from in relation to where they are currently located. It always surprises me how often there are two or three people out of 10 in a room who say, ‘I had no idea this high of a percentage is coming from out of state,’ or that ‘this many people are in a service area in which we don’t have any facilities or assets.’ There is this lightbulb that goes off where they realize they really need to understand their patients better in order to better serve them.”

 

Podcast co-host Joe Payne recently spent a fitful night in the hospital. How his experience—and that of all patients—could be improved is examined in the fourth of a series of episodes based on the IMEG executive guide, “Enhancing the Quadruple Aim through Data-Driven Decisions in the Built Environment.” Guest Corey Gaarde, a biomedical engineer and healthcare information technology specialist at IMEG, discusses how the built environment can help healthcare organizations improve the Quadruple Aim’s third goal, enhancing the patient experience. “The patient journey starts at home and ends at home,” he says. “If there are ways that we can bring home-level types of experiences into the healthcare environment, why not? Things like an Alexa-based device in the patient room to play music, to change the television, to control the lights, all hands-free. Things like this are very easy to do in a hotel setting, so why not do them in a patient care environment? ‘Hospital’ is part of the word ‘hospitality’, right? We need to push architects and engineers to think this way, push IT to think this way, push the design space, and really consider what the overall future vision of a smart patient room or experience looks like.”

 

Improving provider satisfaction is examined in the final episode in a series of podcasts based on the IMEG executive guide, “Enhancing the Quadruple Aim through Data-Driven Decisions in the Built Environment.” This episode features two healthcare providers—Dr. Anne Doran, a pediatric hospitalist at Advocate Children’s Hospital, Chicago, and Dr. Megan Morgan, a registered nurse and pediatric nurse educator at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Both share their experiences as healthcare providers who have worked in a variety of settings. “The caregiver experience has evolved over time as we’ve become more patient- and family-centered and try to deliver care in a way where we partner with not only the entire healthcare team but have the family be part of it as well,” says Dr. Doran. “It’s a lot more collaborative with families and the entire caregiver team —including nurses, therapists, social workers, case managers. The evolution has been great for families and a lot more collaborative for the team.” The two caregivers also offer input on how to address staff burnout through such things as employee assistance programs and caregiver-only respite spaces. “A chapel, rooftop garden, or areas that families use for respite aren’t always ideal locations for caregivers to seek respite,” says Dr. Morgan, whose facility has “tranquility rooms” for staff to utilize. “Having a space that is dedicated to each floor or unit for employees to go and just seek five minutes of respite—maybe that’s all the time they have in their day besides a lunch break—is so important.”

 

This episode takes a brief look at how the commercialization of the aerospace industry has opened the doors for more engineering firms to become engaged in such projects. Guest Ed Dean, an IMEG structural engineer who has designed several launch facility projects, discusses how IMEG entered the market, and the benefits commercially oriented firms bring to aerospace clients. “Commercial buildings and structures are not done in an institutional way, but rather on a very rapid schedule; things are very much fast-tracked and you’re delivering certain ‘just-in-time’ design elements. We apply this approach to the design of launch facilities, saving clients both time and money.” Ed also talks about being on site for launches and discusses a mock rocket IMEG designed to allow a client to test their launch facility equipment and processes prior to an actual rocket launch.

 


 

In the first of a series on sustainability strategies of the future, IMEG Director of Sustainability Adam McMillen discusses embodied carbon. “We have pretty much figured out how to reduce operational carbon,” he says. “Now the AEC industry is ready for the next step — reducing embodied carbon in steel, concrete, and wood.” Getting these materials to a construction site requires extraction or harvesting, processing, and transportation — each of which requires energy, mostly from burning fossil fuels, which in turn releases CO2. These emissions combined make up the carbon footprint, or the embodied carbon, of a material. “People in the industry and elsewhere are really starting to get it,” says McMillen, who counts Bill Gates and Wisconsin Girl Scouts among those who are helping to spread the word. Learn more in this 15-minute podcast.

 


 

In the second episode of our series on sustainability strategies of the future, IMEG’s Adam McMillen discusses embodied carbon in chillers, boilers, and other MEP equipment. “Naturally, engineers put a lot of equipment into buildings,” he says. “That equipment contains a lot of steel and comes from all over the world, so it obviously has a carbon footprint.” Quantifying that footprint is critical. “It’s starting to become clear that the amount of carbon a company has on its books is going to be a liability in the future, from a climate change perspective, a dollar perspective, and a regulations perspective. We need to get all this quantified so that companies can clearly see these big numbers as a risk to their business and demand lower levels from manufacturers.” Reversing the “throw-away” mentality also is crucial and includes designing buildings for a much longer life. “Let’s not think about constructing a 50-year building — let’s think about a 100-year building,” McMillen says. “And let’s think about 30-year MEP equipment.”

 


 

In the third episode of our series on sustainability strategies of the future, IMEG’s Adam McMillen discusses cold climate electrification. Essentially, this is a means to providing heat in cold climates without burning carbon-emitting fossil fuels. In areas with cold winters, McMillen explains, we currently use natural gas-burning furnaces or boilers for heat. Electricity, however, is used to power our cooling systems in the warmer months. While electricity is produced predominately by coal-burning plants, there is a trend by utilities toward greater use of renewable energy as a source. “We see our electric grid getting cleaner, year after year,” says McMillen. “So, imagine a future in which our grid is fully clean, and instead of using fossil-fueled boilers we’re using some sort of electrically-based heating equipment. As a result, we would then have perfectly clean heating and cooling for our homes and our businesses.”

 


 

The fourth episode in our series on sustainability strategies of the future examines thermal energy storage. To illustrate, consider hospitals and industrial facilities that use heat pumps to create the large amount of heating hot water needed for their buildings. This type of heat pump can’t operate when temperatures dip below 15 degrees, however, and a gas-burning boiler is typically used as back-up. Thermal energy storage provides a carbon-free alternative. In this strategy, the heat pump generates additional heating water during the warmer part of the day and stores it in a thermal energy storage tank. That water can then be used to heat the facility during frigid overnight hours or anytime the temperature dips below 15 degrees and the heat pumps shut down. Conversely, chilled water storage in the summer months enables facilities to shut down their chillers in the hot afternoon hours and cool the building with water saved overnight to shave off peak demand charges. IMEG Director of Sustainability Adam McMillen discusses the challenges, solutions, and many opportunities of this new strategy.

 


 

Battery energy storage is examined in part five of our series on sustainability strategies of the future. “Most of us in the industry have had a lot of questions about batteries,” says IMEG Director of Sustainability Adam McMillen. “When does it make sense? When will they be cost competitive? How do they fit into the big picture? These are all good questions because the last thing you want to do is put some expensive, embodied-carbon heavy, lithium-ion batteries on your campus and then have them not really do much for you.” Co-host Mike Lawless, IMEG Direction of Innovation, joins Adam in delving into these questions. They also discuss the many future opportunities of this strategy, such as pairing batteries with renewables such as wind and solar to provide facilities with both reliable and sustainable backup power when the grid goes down as well as a method to eliminate expensive peak demand charges from utilities.

 


 

In the final episode in our series on sustainability strategies of the future, IMEG Director of Sustainability Adam McMillen discusses five steps any owner can take to begin the process of decarbonizing their building. “There’s a lot of discussion today about decarbonizing — the push to make sure we all electrify our buildings because the grid will get cleaner in the future. This is a big change, and a lot of owners are wondering how to wade into it without a lot of risk,” says McMillen. “So, we’re summarizing five things owners can do today that don’t cost a lot of money and that will help ensure their buildings will be ready for electrification—whether it’s a new building, or even an existing building that’s undergoing a major renovation.”

 


 

With legalized medical and recreational marijuana continuing to expand across the U.S., many new grow facilities will be licensed and constructed in the coming years. This episode examines important infrastructure considerations that are critical for “keeping the plants happy” and achieving successful harvests — not only for cannabis but also for other crops grown within controlled environment agriculture (CEA) facilities. “Our experience designing these facilities allows us to provide valuable information and lessons learned for owners who will be venturing into this market for the first time,” says IMEG’s Luke Streit, a project manager for several cannabis grow facilities. Luke discusses a variety of topics during this episode, including water and energy use, HVAC systems, power requirements, and other unique challenges encountered by CEA owners. Based on a recent IMEG webinar, this podcast provides valuable information for owners and architects alike.

 


 

The 2021 National ACEC Engineering Excellence Grand Conceptor Award – which honors the year’s most outstanding engineering achievement in the U.S. – was presented to IMEG Corp. for its design of the Denver Water Operations Complex Redevelopment. This episode examines the project’s extensive water and energy efficiency goals and challenges from the perspective of Ken Urbanek, who led the IMEG team on the $205M redevelopment featuring a 186,000-sf LEED Platinum, net-zero energy and “One Water” administration building. “This project is a testament to what we in the AEC industry can do,” says Urbanek. “It demonstrates that given the right drive from ownership, we can achieve carbon-free emissions, net zero energy, and even significant reductions in water use. Engineers, contractors, and architects – we can all deliver on this.”

 


 

All signs point to an exponentially increasing number of electric vehicles on U.S. roads in the coming years. What this monumental automotive revolution will look like and the changes it will bring — from roadside restaurant charging stations to EV-provided emergency back-up power for homes — are discussed in this podcast featuring Keith Vandenbussche, Automotive R&D Market Leader for IMEG. “Some automotive manufacturers are projecting 100 percent EV production within 10 years,” says Vandenbussche, adding that some forecasts call for 1 million new EVs on the road this year alone. “In addition to solving the R&D and manufacturing challenges this will bring, on the consumer side we have to make sure the infrastructure to support EVs is in place so that the consumer is supported and confident in buying these vehicles.”

 

Helping employees feel safe and secure as they return to the workplace is discussed in part one of a two-part IMEG podcast based on the recent executive guide, “Back to the Office: Key Steps for Safeguarding Health, Well-being and Continuity.” Part 1 features guest Charles LeBlanc, an IMEG security expert and a co-author of the guide. Charles, who is also an electrical engineer, looks at security not only from the technical side but also from the behavioral side and how each perspective affects the other. “People are feeling a lot of discomfort right now in regard to returning to work,” he says. “Office managers, meanwhile, are trying to figure out how to bring people safely back, and how to do it in a comforting way that reduces anxiety.”

 

The role of crisis management in helping employees feel safe and secure is examined in part two of an IMEG podcast based on the executive guide, “Back to the Office: Key Steps for Safeguarding Health, Well-being and Continuity.” This episode features Ryan Searles, a security, threat assessment, and emergency preparedness expert — and who, in a former life, earned two Purple Hearts while in special operations and chased pirates in the Indian Ocean. Ryan draws on his vast security experience in the private sector to explain how organizations can help employees be prepared for and recover from crisis situations — from COVID-19 to catastrophic weather to active shooters. He also explains the importance of taming our “lizard brains” when responding to an unfolding emergency.

 

Acuity adaptability – a healthcare model in which patients remain in one room regardless of level of care – is being considered by many healthcare organizations looking for safer, more efficient care delivery in the era of COVID-19 and beyond. But is this model feasible – and if so, under what conditions? “One of the things that you look for when you are exploring this option is how to balance the patient experience, patient safety, and the staff experience,” says Erin Clark, R.N., a clinical operations specialist and guest on the 35-minute podcast. Also featured on this episode are IMEG National Healthcare Director Mike Zorich and HIT Specialist Corey Gaarde, co-authors of the free executive guide, “Acuity Adaptability: Innovative Planning and Design for Responsive Healthcare Delivery.

In an arc of development that stretches back nearly 200 years, virtual reality is now finally making great inroads in design and construction. In this episode of The Future. Built Smarter., IMEG Director of Virtual Design Sarah Garthaus and mechanical engineer Mike Lawless discuss how VR has emerged from the shadows of video games to become a powerful and ever-evolving tool for the AEC industry. They examine the variety of current applications — from immersing stakeholders into a design to fully understand a space to immersing engineers to identify clashes — and predict what the future may hold for designers and owners alike.

We’ve long heard the words “Smart Building,” but these days “Intelligent Building” has become the buzz phrase for the opportunities presented by the IoT and the ever-growing amount of building system data it provides. In this pilot episode of the new podcast, “The Future. Built Smarter,” IMEG engineers Jeff Carpenter and Mike Lawless explain the important distinctions between the two phrases. They also discuss how Intelligent Building design expands the focus beyond building systems to consider such things as the occupant experience – all while providing more concrete, actionable, and measurable paths for building owners to take in their quest to benefit from the IoT.