Engineering on an international scale: Sustainability

Working on projects clear across the globe may introduce more obstacles to overcome than mere distance and language barriers—each locale comes with its own codes, climate conditions, and unique characteristics. Sustainability, high-performance buildings, and energy efficiency are always considered.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer July 30, 2015


Mark Haboian, Senior Program Manager and Chemical Process Engineer, Optimation Technology Inc., Rochester, N.Y.

Brian E. Hagglund, PE, Assistant Manager—Middle East, Aon Fire Protection Engineering Corp., Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Bill Kosik, PE, CEM, LEED AP, BEMP, Distinguished Technologist, Data Center Facilities Consulting, Hewlett-Packard Co., Chicago

Erin McConahey, PE, LEED AP, FASHRAE, Principal, Arup, Los Angeles

CSE: Many aspects of structure sustainability (power, HVAC, maintenance, etc.) require building personnel to follow certain practices to be effective. What, if anything, can you as an engineer do to help increase chances of success in this area?

McConahey: Simplicity in the controls sequences is essential when working overseas and when trying to ensure an energy-efficient outcome. Things that are too complicated will not be cared for in their intended state—they will be overridden by any person believing that they are more trustworthy than a BAS they don’t understand, and efficiencies may be lost.

CSE: Please share a success story in which you were able to deliver a highly sustainable project to an international client. Annual statistics on energy savings and other supporting evidence would be helpful.

McConahey: We have a project about to start construction that is pursuing U.S. Green Building Council LEED certification. We had explored a number of pathways to Gold or Platinum, but in the end a number of the material transparency credits and the U.S.-based codes on test procedures for equipment meant that some points in the system could not be achieved—despite physically meeting the good intent with locally made devices.

CSE: Describe any experience you have using sustainable heating/cooling tech, such as ground-source heat pumps.

McConahey: On international projects led out of the Los Angeles office, we have reviewed ground-source heat pumps and thermal labyrinths in certain locations, however there was insufficient land available to provide a significant amount of cooling/heat rejection to match to the demands of the building.

CSE: Please describe your experience with high-performance building projects abroad.

McConahey: Our firm has a number of high-performance building projects abroad, typically done from a local office with trusted partners. It is more difficult to do these projects if you are not grounded in the local community.