Forming the Future

Read our blog for information on sustainable resource systems, resilient electrical systems, energy masterplans and more.

Living laboratory in central Illinois driving region’s transportation future

Evolving technology and social trends are changing how people and products move. In the automotive industry, both original equipment manufacturers and startups are driving the adoption of connected, autonomous, shared and electric (CASE) mobility trends at rapidly increasing rates. In the future, vehicles of many forms will be more accessible to more people, transportation will be cheaper and more efficient and commuting will be more convenient, with integrated options for multiple modes of transportation for a single trip.

To prepare for this future, Hanson has partnered with Peoria, Illinois-based Distillery Labs, one of 15 Illinois Innovation Network hubs, to create and manage the Central Illinois Living Laboratory. The living laboratory serves as a testing hub for CASE mobility solutions. The objective of the living laboratory is to create a smart technology network within the public right of way that will allow technology companies the opportunity to beta-test products and solutions that will eventually be brought to market.

The impact from CASE solutions will be generated from using a combination of technologies. But right now, mobility products are at different stages of development and need a testing environment. The goal is to build tools into the public infrastructure that create a mobility workshop for inventors to create new companies and currently unimagined jobs.

To align with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity initiative, the living laboratory will involve such focus areas as the movement of people, agriculture and goods and applications for agriculture, construction and logistics. As the plan develops, increasing the footprint beyond the Peoria region will be explored based on market needs. The cities within central Illinois are well-connected, and the living laboratory will explore the transition from urban to suburban to rural. Some CASE technologies have the potential to have the biggest impact in rural settings.

In exchange for access to the living laboratory, the companies will provide the ecosystem host and sponsors with access to data and support of the ecosystem. Ultimately, the living laboratory should provide data that is necessary for research on transportation technologies, improve the transportation options to residents and create technology jobs in central Illinois.

Connectivity, in terms of mobility, will revolutionize how we move and pay for services. With project experience like the Central Illinois Living Laboratory, Hanson’s goal is to help our customers embrace the changes to the built environment that are needed to inform travelers in real time and seamlessly integrate the multimodal user experience into one journey.

To learn more about the Central Illinois Living Laboratory, contact Kurt Bialobreski at or Philip Lockwood at

Posted on May 13, 2021

Conlan talks about building work environments on Paychex Business Series podcast

Wade Conlan, P.E., CxA, BCxP, LEED AP® BD+C, discussed building work environments and energy efficiency for the Paychex Business Series podcast.

“The goal here is to say, ‘There’s probably going to be another epidemic, potentially, another pandemic. As we move forward, let’s make sure our buildings are flexible enough to adjust to it, so not everyone is scrambling quite how they are now.’ And then that can be done pretty simply through design, without really impacting costs a whole, whole lot,” Wade, Hanson’s commissioning and energy discipline manager, told host Gene Marks.

Wade discussed building commissioning and more in the podcast’s 24-minute May 3 episode titled, “The Importance of Creating a COVID-Safe, Energy Efficient Workspace.” A video of the conversation is also available on YouTube.

Posted on May 13, 2021

Rise in electric vehicle use, electricity demand will generate challenges

The pandemic hit the economy and utilities hard, reducing electricity demand. However, this demand is forecast to return to projected growth levels later this year. That growth will continue in the coming decades — one reason will be our increasing shift to electric vehicles (EVs). In early December, in a talk hosted by a Berlin-based publisher Axel Springer, Elon Musk projected that the world will need more sustainable energy as EVs, like his Tesla models, become the norm over the next 20 years.

Industry and building systems account for over 90% of global electricity demand today, while transport makes up less than 2%.1 In advanced economies, the increase in digitization and communication helps fuel growth — just look at the rapid growth in e-commerce, teleconferencing and social media over the past several years. In addition, the push to reduce carbon emissions has led to ordinances and modified codes to reduce the use of gas heating in buildings. The move to all-electric homes and commercial buildings is based on the increase in renewable electric generation.2

Global electricity consumption is expected to increase by nearly 50% by 2050.3 While renewable sources are poised to accommodate an increasing percentage of this growth, these systems present their own challenges. The sun and wind are free, but the means of generating and storing power from them are not.

The materials associated with these renewable systems and the energy storage require the mining of metals and chemicals that present their own environmental issues. Also, a recent study by Western Sydney University’s Benjamin Smith and Lund University’s Zhengyao Lu noted potential concerns in developing large-scale solar photovoltaic farms that are needed to decrease the world’s demand for fossil fuels. Heat reemitted from large farms could have a regional, and potentially global, effect on the climate. While acknowledging the benefits of transitioning from fossil energy, Smith and Lu caution that related responses from the earth’s atmosphere, oceans and land surfaces must be assessed.4

But back to Mr. Musk and transportation. While comprising approximately 2% of electricity demand, EVs are expected to account for about 9% of electricity demand by 2050.5 The average electric vehicle requires approximately 30 kilowatt hours to travel 100 miles, comparable to the amount of electricity consumed daily by the average U.S. home. States, environmentalists and, in some cases, pending legislation push consumers to convert to EVs to reduce carbon emissions. However, is the electrical grid ready to handle them?

In lieu of combustion-engine vehicles, EVs simply transfer where the energy is created. Electric cars still depend on an available grid. Much has been written about the condition of America’s electrical grid, and the need to invest in this critical infrastructure is well known.

Some utility companies have started initiatives to enhance grid resilience in their service areas, including “hardening” and “smartening” the grid. In addition, clients providing critical mission services are opting to install microgrids: a small-scale, local energy system that can operate independently. However, significant funding will be required to upgrade the North American power grid for the anticipated growth in electricity demand over the next 30 years.

Meanwhile, states and municipalities are learning that whether EVs become an asset or a liability to the grid mostly depends on when drivers charge their cars. Currently, electricity demand typically peaks in the early evening when people return home, which corresponds with when most drivers charge their vehicles: after returning from work. States and utility companies are using time-of-day rates and “smart charging” — a system that allows vehicles to be plugged in but not charge until they receive a signal from the grid that demand has sufficiently reduced — as an approach to influence behavior.

In addition, many utilities are exploring the potential for electric vehicles to serve as battery storage for the grid. Vehicle-to-grid technology would allow vehicles charging during the day to take on surplus power from renewable energy sources. During peak demand, these electric vehicles could return some of that stored energy to the grid, allowing them to recharge later in the evening. This technology could be extremely beneficial to clients with heavy-duty fleets, such as school buses, that would have substantial battery storage and may be idle for extended periods, such as weekends. Other solutions are being explored, including flexible voltage and power-flow devices to counter potential voltage and thermal overloading problems.

While energy-efficiency initiatives related to commercial buildings and residences will help mitigate the growth in electricity consumption, the demand from EV charging is projected to be the largest contribution of any new source to electricity’s growth. While EV charging represents a small share of overall demand today, it is expected to grow 400% in the U.S. by 2030.6

Accommodating the growth in electric-motor transportation and overall electricity demand —while keeping electricity affordable, generation clean and reliable, distribution systems resilient to disasters and environmental issues mitigated — presents multidiscipline challenges for tomorrow’s engineers. Hanson’s team of energy and transportation engineers are visiting with numerous industry experts and clients, including local governments, departments of transportation and industry and utility companies, to determine the best way to meet these challenges now and in the future. To learn more about our efforts, contact Robert Knoedler at

1 “World Energy Outlook 2019,” International Energy Agency

2 “The Case Against Gas in Our Homes,” Laura Feinstein and Erin de Place, Sightline Institute

3 “International Energy Outlook 2019,” U.S. Energy Information Administration

4 “Solar Panels in the Sahara Could Boost Renewable Energy but Damage the Global Climate – Here’s Why,” Benjamin Smith and Zhengyao Lu, The Conversation

5 “Global Electricity Demand to Increase 57% by 2050,” BloombergNEF

6 “Electricity Demand’s COVID Comeback,” Travis Miller and Andrew Bischof, Morningstar

Posted on April 15, 2021

Focused on the Future: Robert Knoedler, P.E., EMP, CxA

In consulting engineering, Bob Knoedler, a vice president and principal of commissioning and energy-related services at Hanson, is a little unique: he is a licensed professional engineer focused on mechanical and electrical engineering and experienced in a variety of building systems. His expertise is in the analysis, design and commissioning of mechanical and electrical building systems. Bob has worked for a variety of public and private clients in the study, design, testing and troubleshooting of facility systems.

Actively engaged in professional organizations, Bob has served in board positions for the Southeast Region Chapter of the Building Commissioning Association and the Energy Management Association. In addition, Bob has spoken, written and taught extensively about various engineering topics, including commissioning and energy management. He has been involved in a variety of conferences and trade shows, including GovEnergy, CxEnergy and the National Conference on Building Commissioning and those hosted by ASHRAE, the Society of American Military Engineers, the National Institute of Building Sciences and the Design-Build Institute of America.


How did your background as a mechanical and electrical engineer come about?

As I was graduating with my bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I was introduced to Will Stoecker, a professor in the mechanical engineering department who was looking for an electrical engineering graduate to work as a graduate assistant on a research project funded by the National Bureau of Standards. Having worked as an electrical designer for a consulting firm during my school breaks, I saw the relationship between mechanical and electrical building systems. The graduate assistantship helped pay my expenses, allowing me to obtain a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, concentrating on thermal systems. (My thesis was entitled, “Transmitting Analog Signals Over a Building Electrical System Using Pulse Width Modulation.”)


How did you become involved in commissioning and energy management?

I was introduced to commissioning through Carl Lawson and Chuck Dorgan, two of the early pioneers of commissioning in the United States. There is a synergy between commissioning and energy management that includes testing and balancing and controls. After a number of years in design, witnessing the problems owners encountered when contractors failed to properly coordinate and tune their systems, I saw an opportunity for a new challenge in verifying correct and optimum system operations for clients.


As the president of the Energy Management Association’s board of directors, where does the EMA see the energy industry going in the next five years?

Energy is society’s most important infrastructure, the one on which all others depend — transportation, communication and manufacturing and buildings’ environmental and lighting systems. It is an exciting and evolving time in the energy field, with growing demand from developing countries, a focus on renewable sources, innovations in storage batteries and electric vehicles and an increased focus on resiliency and sustainability. The EMA has members working in all these areas, and we are projecting strong growth over the next several years.


What are some of the notable projects you have worked on throughout your career?

I consider myself very fortunate to have worked on a variety of projects. A few notable ones that come to mind:

  • The diesel engineman training facility at Naval Station Great Lakes, where we replicated the entire propulsion system of a ship within a building
  • Multiple projects at various U.S. bases in Panama for the U.S. Corps of Engineers
  • Projects for NASA at Kennedy Space Center, including work at the Vehicle Assembly Building, Launch Complex 39, Industrial Area and the Space Station Processing Facility
  • The new broadcast facilities atop Freedom Tower (World Trade Center 1)
  • Commissioning for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, including upgrades at the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan


What words of wisdom do you have for young engineers?

Consulting engineering is an exciting and challenging profession, especially because engineers are naturally curious and enjoy challenges in seeking solutions to problems. Along with medical professionals, engineers are highly regarded by the public for their contributions, ethics and integrity.

In my 40 years of engineering, I have seen tremendous advancements in facility design and construction. (I began my career with a slide rule and a T-square!). Young engineers today have the opportunity to tackle some unique challenges, balancing growth and expansion with sustainability and resiliency. Embrace the challenges, work hard and commit to mentoring the next generation of engineers.

Posted on April 15, 2021

Presentation on using MBCx during pandemic still available

Wade Conlan, left, and Mathew Coalson

A recording of the technical session by Wade Conlan, P.E., CxA, BCxP, LEED AP® BD+C, and Mathew Coalson, E.I., LEED® Green Associate™, during last month’s 2021 ASHRAE Virtual Design and Construction Conference is available.

Wade, Hanson’s commissioning and energy discipline manager, and Mathew, a commissioning and energy specialist, presented “Implementing Monitoring-Based Cx During and to Assist With the COVID-19 Pandemic” on March 8, focusing on how the consistent monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx) of systems can optimize buildings for mitigating the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, energy efficiency and occupant comfort.

Registered attendees can access the virtual conference sessions until March 10, 2022. You may register post-conference to watch session recordings and access conference materials. 

Posted on April 15, 2021

Alvarez featured in magazine article about Texas Master Naturalists

Michelle Alvarez, EIT, ENV SP, a water/wastewater designer, spoke to a Corpus Christi, Texas, publication about her involvement with the Texas Master Naturalist Program.

“I do what I do as a Master Naturalist to inspire others to connect with our natural spaces and see the important role each of us plays within our local ecosystem,” she says in an article, “Becoming Texas Master Naturalists,” in The Bend magazine.

The program, established in 1997 and sponsored by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, has 48 chapters throughout the state. Michelle is the membership director of the South Texas Chapter. Certified Master Naturalists volunteer their time and expertise on local natural resources to educate and serve organizations and their communities.

Read the article here.

Posted on April 15, 2021

Article focuses on filtration updates in ASHRAE guide

“There are a lot of scientific aspects to determine the right balance of outdoor air and filtration,” Wade Conlan says in an International Filtration News article about new information in the Building Readiness Guide that was announced earlier this year.

Wade is a member of ASHRAE’s Epidemic Task Force and is its Building Readiness Team lead. He covered the guide’s major updates and what’s next for the task force in the article, “ASHRAE’s Epidemic Task Force Takes On the Complicated Case of HVAC Filtration in a COVID-19 World.” Read the article, which is in the magazine’s second issue of the year, here.

Posted on April 15, 2021

Monitoring-based commissioning empowers building operators

Last year, Hanson initiated an internal monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx) project intending to collect real-time data that is pushed to the cloud, where we can perform advanced data analytics on the building automation system (BAS). What does the MBCx process entail, how are these terms defined in MBCx and how does this process benefit building owners and operators?


The first step in the MBCx process is gaining real-time access to the data. The process needs to be automatic, consistent and flexible enough to change the data we pull into our analytics software. As we look at a building’s operation over time, our understanding evolves. Sometimes, this leads us to prioritize different data points than we originally expected. With the project at our 60,000-square-foot Springfield, Illinois, headquarters, we are pulling 975 data points every 15 minutes out of a potential 1,400 data points. This required several thousand lines of code to convince the building controllers, installed in 2007, to push data from the building’s BAS to the cloud.

Cloud storage

The code written to the controller tells the BAS to push the data to an IP address, a numeric label that identifies a device on an Internet Protocol network, where we use a separate program created by a subconsultant to monitor that IP address. When the software sees new data, it collects, organizes, then pushes a clean dataset to Hanson’s servers and our data analytics software, SkySpark. This data, from our corporate office systems, can reside in our cloud for as long as our engineers need it.

Data analytics

With the data imported into our data analytics software, our commissioning and energy group can monitor the system performance at our headquarters to a fine degree of detail. Temperature setpoints can be compared to discharge air sensor readings, verifying proper control and highlighting any failed temperature sensors. The rooftop unit’s fan operation can be monitored over time to identify short-cycling or unscheduled operations. The hot water supply temperatures are plotted alongside the hot water return temperatures and outdoor weather conditions, helping to gauge whether the building is maintaining setpoints during sunny days and freezing nights. All these data points are then easily compared to building occupancy schedules.


MBCx allows building owners, operators and energy engineers to constantly monitor their systems’ performance, achieving efficient operation. Systems equipped with automated fault detection and diagnostics allow for anomalies to be immediately recognized, which means the facilities’ staff can quickly resolve the issues. With our MBCx initiative, we are developing an additional service for our clients, expanding our commissioning and energy service offerings.

For further information on MBCx and Hanson’s commissioning and energy services, contact Mat Coalson at



Posted on March 11, 2021

Knoedler’s presentation on Cx in codes, standards will be available during CxEnergy

A presentation by Robert Knoedler, P.E., EMP, CxA, a vice president and principal of commissioning and energy-related services at Hanson, and Jim Magee, CxA, EMP, principal of Facility Commissioning Group, will be available to watch during April to CxEnergy 2021 registrants.

Their technical presentation, “Codes, Standards, Ordinances and Guidelines — Which Rule?,” is part of the all-virtual event that offers 16 live and prerecorded sessions originally scheduled to be in person for the conference and expo in Fort Worth, Texas, which was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Commissioning (Cx) increasingly is addressed in codes, standards, guidelines and sustainability programs, and Robert and Jim discuss what they require and how they differ.

For more information and to register, click here.

Posted on March 11, 2021 interviews Perrott, Conlan for article on airports’ HVAC during pandemic

Left: Brad Perrott. Right: Wade Conlan

Brad Perrott, P.E., LEED AP®, GGP, EMP, and Wade Conlan, P.E., CxA, BCxP, LEED AP® BD+C, provided insights on adjusting airports’ heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems during the pandemic for an article.

Brad, Hanson’s facilities practice lead, talked about the quality of outdoor air at airports affected by pollution from the tarmac. “You’re taking the less-than-ideal outdoor air quality that you get with a taxiway and runway from jet fumes and then you’re combining that with the busyness of an indoor terminal with lots of transient people, which of course, lots of people requires lots of outside air,” he says in the article, “Clearing the Air on HVAC.”

Wade, Hanson’s commissioning and energy discipline manager, said it’s about keeping the right balance. “… (W)hile airports are traditionally designed to keep the passengers and the people comfortable, out of the elements and not having the jet fuel smells, when you add COVID into the mix, you’re now trying to operate that for safety like you would a hospital patient room or a laboratory building,” he says in the piece. He also discussed increasing airflow rates and filtration and to tracking any changes made to the HVAC system.

Read the full article here.

Posted on March 11, 2021