February 19, 2021

Lessons Learned and Future Outlooks from our Engineering Discipline Leaders

Engineers Week is always a good time to check in with our Engineering Discipline Leaders and gather their thoughts about future trends and also lessons learned from 2020. From lighting for disinfection, to smart infrastructure, to reducing embodied carbon, please take some time to read what trends everyone should be aware of.

Salvatore Bonetto

How has the pandemic reshaped your thinking about your discipline?

Although we all worked from home for the past year, the technology discipline stayed connected through scheduled huddle meetings which brought us closer together. We used this new outlet to share ideas and questions as we gained comfort from our WFH offices to improve our product. The separation allowed us to let younger engineers take on more responsibility due to the limited supervision and will make us better off for it. As a team, we focused more on quality and standards as we continued to improve our deliverables and increase our efficiency. Technology has never been more important as legions of users went online to WFH. What had been second-hand to our already SFMO-friendly group put us ahead of the game when working with our project teams. Although I am the first to admit I type really loud from home when I forget to mute!

What are you most excited about in your discipline in 2021?

We look forward to 2021 with optimism. We have a number of large projects starting up including some strong prime technology work. We will continue to look for clients that are interested in partnering for prime technology design to showcase our design expertise and fortify our workload as we continue to reach out to support all CannonDesign offices. The completion of the Buffalo office and our ongoing push to expand into the smart building market allows us to tell a new story of success.

Additionally, it’s expected that the new administration will provide an infrastructure bill that will not just focus on traditional roads and bridges, but will include smart infrastructure, such as broadband and 5G, to help curb the digital divide and education gap that was so prevalent during the pandemic. This will provide new opportunities for access and reduce costs to enable the development of smart cities as IoT device quantities continue to explode.

James Lessard

How has the pandemic reshaped your thinking about your discipline?

I’ve had several discussions over the last 12 months about this very topic. It’s interesting, specifically in our healthcare market and others. Clients are looking for ways to learn from this experience, adopt best practices, and build in future resiliency on current projects. Flexibility seems to be a key component. The idea of building spaces that can be quickly converted for another use as necessary is something that has come up repeatedly. It’s a delicate balance to get right though, as we strive to maintain our focus on sustainability, fiscal responsibility, occupant experience, and strict adherence to adopted codes. It will be interesting to see how the various building codes and standards adapt. The coming months and years will be important, as the building industry works to distill out best practices to advance forward.

What are you most excited about in your discipline in 2021?

I am excited to see where we go from here in terms of lessons learned and best practices. As we work to get back to a sense of “normal,” certain aspects of our experience will continue to shape our discipline, our industry, and the way in which we provide services. I am not sure that the rear-view mirror is clear enough yet to call 2020 hind-sight. I suspect that we, as an industry, will be learning from this shared experience for some time to come and will likely find ourselves changed in many ways. Exciting times to be part of the process.

Brian Alesius

How has the pandemic reshaped your thinking about your discipline?

The pandemic has not slowed us down one bit. A big portion of our work has always been SFMO work, we are comfortable working remotely and collaborating virtually. Being fully remote has made us rethink how we build a project team as location seems to be less of an issue. However, I do look forward to the day I escape my basement office and return to in-person collaboration with my colleagues.

What are you most excited about in your discipline in 2021?

Our projects! We have a lot of great projects starting in 2021. Everything from a renovation of an existing academic building to give students the space to spread out, a few large healthcare projects in the Midwest and a couple of research facilities in the Northeast. 2021 will be an exciting year as the structural engineering group does our part to help battle climate change by reducing embodied carbon in our buildings.

Brett Farbstein

How has the pandemic reshaped your thinking about your discipline?

Commissioning is traditionally thought of as a boots-on-the-ground service for testing equipment functionality and system performance. The pandemic has strengthened my belief that CannonDesign needs to enhance this traditional, in-person approach with an ability to serve our clients’ operations support needs remotely. This will require training and possibly the development or adoption of software tools. The goal of monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx) is to provide regular reviews of available Building Automation System (BAS) data to ensure persistent optimal efficiency. Fault Detection and Diagnostics software (FDD) as an example, analyzes the data from critical equipment such as boilers, chillers, motors, elevators, pumps, exhaust fans, etc. to identify anomalies in the performance and then translates those deviations to notifications for operators including associated energy and financial costs.

What are you most excited about in your discipline in 2021?

I am excited to have our Washington DC and Southern California offices completing their first commissioning projects this year!

Keith Hammelman

How has the pandemic reshaped your thinking about your discipline?

The importance of HVAC design has been pushed to the forefront of most discussions we’ve been having internally and with our clients. We’ve been working on ways to improve the ventilation and filtration levels in new and existing systems along with the development of tools to show how these items reduce the risk of infection in spaces. As a member of ASHRAE’s Epidemic Task Force on the safe reopening of schools, I’ve been spending significant time discussing best practices, increased MERV filtration rates, and many discussions on the Wells-Riley equation. With Paul Mills, we have developed powerful tools which use this equation. Along with these items, we are also not losing sight of how recommendations are impacting overall energy use and non-HVAC items, such as building envelopes and humidity levels in buildings.

What are you most excited about in your discipline in 2021?

There are many things that are exciting for 2021, but I’m most looking forward to getting back to the offices. While we have all adapted to working remotely in our individual offices, I do see that we have lost many of the opportunities to have quick impromptu conversations and learning experiences. Speaking of learning I’m also excited about continuing to expand the Mechanical Curriculum Jive Site to incorporate additional learning opportunities for all levels of engineers within the group.

Don Rosen

How has the pandemic reshaped your thinking about your discipline?

When the pandemic first hit, we were very involved in developing quick responses to the needs of the healthcare facilities to provide substantial quantities of oxygen to the patients requiring assistance in breathing. There was a need to develop alternative solutions to delivering medical oxygen and medical air for patients that were utilizing ventilators, such as upgrading source equipment, piping distribution, etc. We were part of various groups that were quickly assembled and tried to assist the healthcare community.

What are you most excited about in your discipline in 2021?

A direct impact on the designing of systems will be the considerations to accommodate a similar event in the future. Medical gas systems, particularly medical oxygen and medical air to healthcare facilities as a combined effort with the facility and expected conversion of space to treat pandemics of this type. Additionally, we will see the need to provide additional sanitary measures in the design of plumbing systems including more hands-free operation of fixtures and additional locations for handwashing.