Forming the Future

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

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

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

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

Dewey picked to lead ACEC-FL water management district subcommittee

Left: Justin Dewey. Right: Brian Wozniak.

Justin Dewey, P.E., CFM, a senior transportation drainage engineer, has recently been elected to serve as chair of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida’s (ACEC-FL) St. Johns River Water Management District subcommittee.

ACEC-FL’s Water Resources Committee has subcommittees centered on water management districts and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Justin will aim to further the committee’s mission, which, according to the ACEC-FL website, is “working with water resource agencies to establish and maintain a model program of public/private partnership for the enhancement of procurement, delivery and quality of water resources engineering services.”

Hanson’s involvement with professional organizations that focus on water resources also includes Brian Wozniak, P.E., CFM, our water resources discipline manager who has served on the board of directors of the American Water Resources Association’s Florida Section for the past two years. Brian organized monthly technical webinars during the pandemic — the group’s first online events. He also serves on the Sponsorship Committee, which concentrates on funding for the organization, including student awards, scholarships and grants that totaled $20,500 last year.


Posted on March 11, 2021

Four areas of focus to consider in coastal resiliency

What is coastal resiliency? As engineers and scientists who work in a dynamic coastal environment, this is an important question we must ask ourselves. Coastal resiliency has many definitions, because it applies to not only engineering, but to the environmental, social and economic aspects. In short, resiliency can be summed up as the ability to recover, or bounce back, after a disturbance or an outside disaster. This concept, however, can be expanded into four areas of focus: prepare, resist, recover and adapt. In engineering, we often think of coastal resiliency as designing structures to withstand hurricanes. But we must broaden our scope to include these other elements of resiliency.


What are we trying to protect, and what are we trying to protect it from? In Texas, hurricanes are the biggest threat to our coastal communities and industries. However, resiliency can and should be approached differently when you compare the eroding beaches and fortified shoreline of Galveston to the accreting natural shoreline of Corpus Christi. In Florida, a combination of high tides and rising sea levels threaten communities by pushing tidal water into drainage systems, causing inland flooding. Those on the middle and upper East Coast face threats from nor’easters and winter storms. Whether we are working to serve residential communities, commercial developments or industrial sites, the importance of preparation does not change. Preparing for coastal resiliency means analyzing all these factors in their current states and anticipating for climate change and sea level rise to fully understand the unique needs of each coastal project.


What does resistance look like for your project? Is it a shoreline fortified with seawalls and rip-rap to withstand a storm, or could we provide a coastal community with hurricane protection through periodic beach and dune nourishment? Beach and dune nourishment addresses the environmental, social and economic aspects of resiliency by providing increased storm protection while enhancing recreation and coastal habitats. If a bulkhead experiences frequent overwashing during king tides and high-wind events, can a breakwater be used to reduce wave action enough to prevent inland retreat? The best resistance comes from ample preparation.

Read more: Innovation, keen understanding essential to coastal resiliency


If we look at recovery through the lens of coastal resiliency, we might instantly think of rebuilding in the aftermath of a hurricane. While this is essentially what this phase represents, Hanson understands the importance of prioritizing efforts during recovery. For example, a compromised bulkhead will most likely need to be repaired sooner than damage sustained to a community park. Understanding your priorities during this phase will lead to a quicker rebound and may present opportunities for Hanson to better serve you.


How did our project resist the disturbance or disaster? What worked, and what needs to change? Analyzing the success of our projects after they have resisted a disturbance will help better prepare for the next. This adapt stage rolls back into the prepare phase, taking what we have learned during one event to plan for the future.

Coastal resiliency is an ongoing, ever-evolving practice. As our coastlines continue to change in the face of sea-level rise and increased storm intensity, it is our job at Hanson to continually improve to better serve you, our clients.

For more information, contact Tony Comerio at

Posted on February 12, 2021

Preparing for a wild ride

The start of a new year is an excellent time to look at our goals from last year and review what we wanted to achieve, assess our actions and how the surrounding conditions changed, then evaluate our outcomes, plan for the new year and set goals. 2020 was the start of a new decade, and with any planning exercise, it is best to determine your starting point.

To establish an initial energy baseline, Hanson recommends looking at energy efficiency with respect to the statement on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website that “Improving energy efficiency is one of the most constructive and cost-effective ways to address the challenges of high energy prices, energy security and independence, air pollution and global climate change.” As we consider how we will generate sufficient electricity for our ever-growing population and energy needs, we need to establish our energy baseline and employ energy efficiency to reduce how much energy we actually need. According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, “Buildings consume approximately three-quarters of the electricity used in the United States, and account for 40% of primary energy we use and corresponding greenhouse gas emissions.” The tools for obtaining energy efficiency (e.g., retro-commissioning) help us achieve our efficiency goals and reduce the baseline of energy required for our buildings and campuses.

During the summer, we looked at the next phase of our energy strategy: creating a comprehensive energy roadmap that could help us forecast, prioritize and budget with respect to the energy-related demands of our buildings, processes and transportation requirements. As Bob Knoedler and Imane El Ghazouani stated in our July blog article, an energy roadmap “helps establish goals, policies and procedures for their employees, partners and constituents, improving energy efficiency and encouraging behaviors that save energy and costs.”

Throughout 2020, we were buffeted by unusual conditions that had tremendous effects on our lives, but also on our use of energy and the energy markets. Brent crude oil prices were very strong last January, averaging $64 per barrel, but they closed as low as $9 per barrel in April and went up to over $47 per barrel in late December. Plus, in September, the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Short-Term Energy Outlook forecasted “2.4% less electricity consumption in the United States in 2020 compared with 2019,” which consisted of a greater decrease in electricity use in the commercial and industrial sectors, than the off-setting increase in the residential sector due to people working from home.

In December, the federal omnibus budget bill was passed by Congress and signed by the president. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 included a bipartisan, bicameral agreement (the Energy Act of 2020) that combined the Senate’s American Energy Innovation Act and the House of Representatives’ Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act. This was the first major energy legislation to be enacted by the federal government in over a decade and includes energy-related provisions dealing with renewable energy, building efficiencies, a research and development provision for renewable energy, grid modernization and more.

As we look back at 2020, it was an eventful year that provided a wild ride for energy efficiency and energy planning. However, 2020 was a year of establishing our energy baseline, determining how to reduce the baseline so we will not need to produce as much energy in the future and implementing our plans. As we look ahead to 2021, we see that we have plenty of tools to use as we set goals and continue to plan our energy future. Hopefully, this year will provide a much smoother ride for everyone!

Bill Bradford, P.E., is a senior vice president and Hanson’s energy, sustainability and resiliency principal. He can be reached at

Posted on January 14, 2021

Conlan in journal article: Be careful changing HVAC to remove virus from indoor air

In the Institute of Real Estate Management’s January/February issue of the Journal of Property Management, Wade Conlan, P.E., CxA, BCxP, LEED AP® BD+C, cautions that building owners must do their research before altering heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems (HVAC) to reduce the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in indoor air.

Wade, Hanson’s commissioning and energy discipline manager, talked to author Jeff Lapin for his article about new technology for HVAC systems involving filtration, air handlers, bipolar ionization and ultraviolet light to help reduce virus transmission in buildings. Wade recommends evaluating the building’s applications, considering the HVAC systems’ design limitations and consulting commissioning professionals before making changes that may cause system issues. Read the article, “Come on Back, the Air is Fine!” here.

Hear Wade discuss how to analyze your HVAC systems and what engineering controls can be applied in the ASHRAE Learning Institute’s Jan. 27 course, “Reopening Commercial Buildings: Evaluating Your HVAC System’s Readiness to Mitigate the Spread of SARS-CoV-2.” Wade will be joined by Luke Leung, P.E., who is a member of ASHRAE’s Epidemic Task Force with Wade. 

Posted on January 14, 2021