Carol Brzozowski 2015-06-09 11:47:36
For Matt Brugman, LEED AP, LEED BD&C, successful sustainability is built on a research and analysis foundation. Brugman is a consultant in the sustainability division of Affiliated Engineers Inc. (AEI), which provides mechanical, electrical, piping design, engineering, commissioning and technology services to various clients. “When people have particular technologies whose functioning they don’t understand or they’re not entirely convinced the sales pitch they’ve been given is accurate, we’re usually called upon to develop a mathematical model to help describe how individual pieces of equipment will work, how equipment in a big design works together or how human beings will respond to some aspects of our company’s design,” says Brugman. Architects typically hire AIE to provide a daylighting, thermal comfort, or energy analysis to improve a building’s architectural features. One of Brugman’s clients is his alma mater: the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, where his efforts focus on building energy efficiency and thermal and visual comfort. Internal pressure can result when clients deploy energy savings targets. “When a provost or someone else declares a 20% energy reduction for a building, you’re honor-bound to meet it because it’s the client’s will,” says Brugman. “It can become an interesting back-and-forth between people setting energy policies and others setting the budgets who don’t realize the cost of meeting some of the energy goals.” Many clients conduct a typical 30- to 40-year life cycle cost analysis of buying or not buying equipment and energy savings relative to each decision. It’s difficult to predict energy prices beyond 30 years, he adds. Some buildings pose special challenges, such as an old hall being retrofitted with modern systems. “Codes have changed so much,” notes Brugman. “We’re trying to meet current codes with a building that was never intended to meet them.” Ultimately, for most clients, there are significant savings derived from energy efficiency projects, he adds. What He Does Day to Day Brugman typically spends his days doing design analysis, whether it’s a building’s entire mechanical system, or the lighting and daylighting controls in a single room. “I am building mathematical or computer models to assess how things in a building will actually operate: how are the chillers going to run? How are the boilers going to operate? What’s the temperature going to be like in a space? What’s the function of outside conditions? Is it going to be too bright, or too dark in a space that’s daylit?” Brugman also does construction administration to ensure system and lighting installations are progressing in a positive fashion. What Led Him Into This Line of Work The son of two engineers, Brugman grew up with a strong math and engineering background. He earned a B.S. in architectural engineering from UT at Austin. As a student engineer on the university’s team for the US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon Project, Brugman took a special interest in energy efficiency, sustainability, daylighting and alternative lighting technologies. That led him to an M.S. degree in civil engineering through the University of Colorado Boulder’s building systems program. What He Likes Best About His Work Brugman enjoys the satisfaction he gets when a client—particularly an architect—approaches him with a question. “They have some interesting things they want to try in a building or they’re hoping you have some interesting idea that will help them out,” he says. “You actually get to see them design a building with this particular idea, technology or technique being implemented. It’s very satisfying when you put in an analysis effort to try to come up with at least some customized solution and then see it carried forward in a design.” His Biggest Challenge “We don’t always have a quick solution that’s inexpensive or easy to operate and install,” says Brugman. “A lot of it becomes managing client expectations. When they say they want a zero net energy building or a building where no one is going to have a thermal comfort complaint, we have to show them what it would take to get there.” He says that when clients see the cost, required maintenance, and project completion time, the gap emerges between the desire for something and meeting the reality of implementation. Carol Brzozowski writes on the topics of technology and industry.
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