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.