Greetings once again! For those who don’t remember my first post, I’m Jason Orr. I’m working as a mechanical design intern on the Energy team in Seattle this summer. Since arriving in May, I’ve experienced a steep learning curve. Luckily, my all-star team is full of patient and flexible people willing to help a rookie like me.
In short, McKinstry’s Energy team is responsible for projects that involve existing buildings. Since humans aren’t perfect, the buildings we design aren’t either. We try to ensure that, say, a hospital that’s been standing for 100 years is there for 100 more. In the age of sustainability, another goal of ours is to make everything more efficient. How can we save the customer money while also saving the planet?
Due to all of the above, the turnaround on energy projects is very short. The names of 10-12 projects have crossed my desk, and that’s just during the short summer that I’ve been at McKinstry. Every day, I’ll hear engineers discuss countless projects within a span of eight hours. Honestly, the way they remember the details of multiple jobs at a time seems like a miracle to me.
One major focus of my work this summer is making sure enough ventilation air is distributed to each room or zone within a building. Enter the infamous vent calc. These powerful, wonderful Excel spreadsheets are used for all systems dealing with air.
When performing a vent calc, the first step is to look at the drawings of the building that help to understand the layout. From here, the vent calc-performer separates the building into many different zones, depending on their utility. Restaurants are separated from retail, swimming pools from general exercise rooms, and so on.
Zone identification is necessary because of ASHRAE 62.1—a ventilation standard that corporations typically follow for all buildings. The standard identifies a minimum amount of ventilation air into many different room types to provide acceptable indoor air quality. Thank goodness for standards; otherwise the lack of ventilation in, say, the restrooms might make you really hate where you work.
These calculations help design the mechanical equipment layout for installment, replacement or repair. Though important, they are only the tip of the iceberg of the work that engineers perform on each project to ensure the best performance for the customer’s building.
As you might imagine, working on these projects is not all fun and games. There were several frustrations, particularly on my first few projects. The biggest challenge I faced was being uncertain of exactly what to do. Codes and standards complicate things and put more at stake because of the obligation to follow them. My solution was a chain-link: communication, intuition and trial-and-error. If something didn’t get resolved, I would follow my way down the chain. Luckily, there are checks and balances throughout McKinstry’s processes to ensure mistakes aren’t reflected in our finished product.
In my view, McKinstry has been stellar at staying ahead in an industry that’s slow to change. More companies and universities are chasing the “carbon neutral” tag each year by balancing carbon emissions through carbon removal. McKinstry is dedicated to making these wishes and dreams a tangible reality through intelligent building design.
Personally, I believe the three most unique aspects of McKinstry are:
- The company’s dedication to its people
- The company’s desire to innovate within the construction industry
- Having a meeting area named “The Wine Bar.” Seriously, how many companies can offer up conversations about engineering and airflows in such a fun spot?
In short, McKinstry is a jack-of-all-trades within the construction industry. Everyone here—from plumbers to electrical engineers and everyone in-between—is valued and possesses exceptional knowledge.
With more than 2,000 employees across the country, there’s an abundance of collaboration at McKinstry every day. I’ve had the awesome opportunity to speak with brilliant people across many different teams, including our talented tradespeople in the field. What they say is true: Everyone has something worth sharing.