Aric Reed Named to Consulting-Specifying Engineer’s 2023 40 Under 40 List


Aric Reed, senior project executive at Bernhard’s Fayetteville office, was recently named to the Consulting-Specifying Engineer 2023 40 Under 40 List.

The Consulting-Specifying Engineer 40 Under 40 List is published annually and is made up of the top 40 industry professionals ages 40 and younger around the United States who stand out through a mixture of personal and professional aspects of their lives.

“I am honored and humbled to be named to Consulting-Specifying Engineer 40 under 40 list,” said Reed. “To be recognized at a national level is not possible without the incredible support and inclusion of so many Bernhard teammates and mentors that have laid such ambitious paths to attempt to follow.”

Reed has worked at Bernhard since 2012 and is a licensed PE in seven states. He has led designs of more than a dozen different HVAC system types. His HVAC systems were designed across a variety of projects including sports arenas, performing arts centers, dormitories/sorority houses, hospitals, utility tunnels, kitchens, army bases, pharmacies, commercial office spaces, and national airports. In 2018, Aric was elected as the first President of the Northwest Arkansas Chapter of ASHRAE because of his leadership qualities and overall impact on the previous Section’s success.

Aric is a strong advocate for a truly healthy work-life balance. Mental health and a reduction in anxiety have become a priority for him during the last two years. He encourages his team members to spend time with their families, schedule breaks away from their desks during the day, and coordinate personal appointments with him to mitigate the stress of work and deadlines. He also implemented monthly out-of-office get-togethers with his team during office hours, so he can build relationships with team members outside of the office.

Reed received a B.S. in Architectural Engineering from Kansas State University and is currently enrolled in the Master of Science for Engineering Management program at the University of Arkansas.

Breaking the Stigma of Mental Health in AEC


“It’s my problem, and I shouldn’t let it impact my job.”

“I don’t want my coworkers to believe they can’t count on me.”

“I can’t let the team down.”

Sound familiar? Workers who compartmentalize and leave “personal stuff” behind when they clock in every morning are as common in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry as tool belts and hard hats. It’s easy to see why that culture developed. Pushing through physical discomfort, bad weather, late nights, and seemingly impossible schedules is oftentimes what it takes to get the job done. Why not emotional pain as well?

In AEC, those who can thrive under pressure and tight deadlines are highly prized. But when it comes to mental health, eventually something’s got to give. When workers take the stoic, project-first mentality that rules many job sites as an excuse to bottle up their emotions, neglect their own mental health, or discourage others from being honest and open about their personal challenges and struggles, it can come at a serious cost. Not just to projects, but to lives as well.

The truth is, AEC has a mental health problem, and staying silent about it is hurting our industry and the people who make it great. At Bernhard, we believe it’s long past time to tear down the stigma around talking about mental health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, male workers in construction-related trades have the highest annual rate of suicide of any profession in the United States, with 49.4 suicides per 100,000 workers per year. That’s double the national average for all working men. Architecture and Engineering professions rank fifth, with 32.2 suicides per 100,000 workers per year.

Why is AEC so susceptible? Stress on the job, scheduling pressures, relationship issues due to time away from home, the toll some AEC careers can take on the body, and the AEC industry’s long-standing culture of suppressing emotions and devaluing mental health likely have a lot to do with it. Researchers are making strides to understand the true causes why.

One study of construction workers published in 2020 found that 83 percent reported experiencing what would be considered a moderate to severe mental health issue at some point in their lives. The same study found that up to 90 percent of those surveyed reported some form of early childhood trauma, while over 70 percent showed signs of undiagnosed PTSD.

Another recent study by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers found stress in the engineering field at what the organization called “crisis levels.” More than 67 percent said they had gone to work while feeling emotionally or mentally unwell, while 77.8 percent said their job is “often stressful.” More than half said their work has a negative effect on their mental health or sense of wellbeing.

The jury’s still out as to why AEC careers can take such a toll on the mental health of some workers. But at Bernhard, we’re not waiting around for definitive answers when the cost of waiting could be so great. From the boardroom to boots on the ground, Bernhard knows that devoting the time and resources it takes to care for workers’ mental health is absolutely part of getting the job done. We value teamwork and supporting each other’s mental health is just one aspect of being a team.

As an industry, we have to do more to find solutions to issues like depression, burnout, and suicide. That starts with breaking the taboo around talking about those topics, while encouraging those who are struggling to seek help. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Center for Workplace Mental Health, the number one reason those in the construction industry who need help do not seek it is because of shame and stigma (78%) and fear of judgment by peers (77%). That’s why Bernhard is committed to offering some of the best mental-health support programs in our industry as part of a broader effort to strengthen workplace well-being through initiatives largely inspired by the Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being.

The first pillar of the Framework, Protection from Harm, centers around fostering both physical and psychological safety, which rests on two human needs: safety and security. Safety relates to protection from physical and non-physical harm, including injury, illness, discrimination, bullying, and harassment. Security ensures all workers feel secure financially and in their job future. Key components of Bernhard’s strategy to address Protection from Harm include the following:

  • Prioritize workplace physical and psychological safety. Safety is a core value at Bernhard, with safety being incentivized, celebrated, and engrained into all work environments. We have an industry-leading safety training program geared to maintain a safe and healthy work environment, safeguard all persons who enter, work, or live near our job sites, and meet or exceed regulatory standards.

Studies show that employees struggling with mental health issues are twice as likely to be distracted on the job. Depression and anxiety paired with long workdays can contribute to a lack of sleep. This dangerous combination of exhaustion and mental absenteeism can lead to more mistakes, which increases the likelihood of accidents and injuries. In acknowledgement of this, Bernhard recognizes that no safety program is complete without elements that support employee’s mental health.

  • Normalize and support mental health. Bernhard’s EmployeeConnect is a completely free, totally confidential service for Bernhard employees and their families. Whether employees are dealing with depression, substance abuse, money troubles, job-related stress, or even thoughts of suicide, EmployeeConnect can help. By providing free counseling, 24/7 support, online resources, and even access to specialists like lawyers and financial counselors who can help make sense of legal or financial issues, EmployeeConnect can be a lifeline in a sea of troubles.
  • Operationalize DE&I norms, policies, and programs. In inclusive workplace cultures, all employees welcome and value each other’s unique perspectives. When diversity is celebrated as a source of strength, workers experience less stress and anxiety as bias and prejudice are not tolerated. Inclusive leadership is vital for fostering DE&I among teams and is required to support a work environment where all team members feel valued and represented, an outcome Bernhard is fully committed to and actively working towards achieving.

Nearly everybody in AEC has had to set aside their emotions or personal struggles from time to time to deliver for the customer. But when you try to keep a tight lid on something that’s been bothering you for days, weeks, or months, it’s eventually going to boil over and impact other areas of your life, despite your best efforts. Emotional turmoil like financial worry, anxiety, grief, or family problems can affect your sleep, your relationships at home, your friendships, and your ability to focus on safety for yourself and your team.

Seeking help for those challenges doesn’t mean you’re weak. It just means you understand that keeping yourself healthy and strong is part of making sure you’re ready to deliver for your team when the going gets tough – and that has to include taking care of your mental health as well.

In High Demand: Bernhard Revolutionizing Energy Management


Leighton Wolffe is a technology trailblazer. He helped create many of the ideas that define demand management and has been a thought leader in the energy industry for more than 30 years, serving as a consultant to Harvard University, Marriott Corporation, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Constellation Energy and others. After decades helping develop and deploy software applications and innovative energy technologies, Wolffe recently made the decision to depart from Northbridge Energy Partners, LLC, a consulting firm he co-founded, and join Bernhard as Vice President of Demand Management.

Through Bernhard’s work in building controls, integrating remote operations centers and forming decades-long Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS) agreements with large-campus hospitals and universities, Wolffe has found the perfect partner. Wolffe marries his deep industry experience and energy market knowledge with Bernhard’s rich engineering and facilities management legacy to elevate customer buildings with distributed energy systems and the technologies necessary to interoperate with energy markets

A visionary leader in demand response

Wolffe parlayed his ability to understand energy use on large campuses into high-profile jobs, as Energy consultant at Harvard Medical School, and as Project Manager for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, with more than 3 million square feet of healthcare space. Eventually, Wolffe made his way to Marriott Corporation, where he consulted and then joined as Director of Engineering & Facilities.

It was during his time at Marriott that he became interested in the emerging field of automated building control systems. “I was fascinated with the technology,” Wolffe said. “But why it was so expensive, why it didn’t consistently work, and how could it be better used to meet the challenges we faced managing our operations in the context of energy and environmental conditions?”

By the early 2000s, Wolffe was pushing the envelope of smart buildings, including utilizing next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence, predictive automation and neural networks to control buildings.

“This was the same technology used by stock market traders for micro trading and for weather forecasting,” he said. “We were using neural networks to predict conditions based on vast amounts of historical data sets. I consulted for companies like that, and then because energy was such a large part of my focus, I wanted to deliver the solutions that I knew worked.”

After forming a systems integration company and directly implementing these systems in commercial and mission critical buildings, Wolffe came to what he called the most interesting part of his career, working with Constellation and Peter Kelly-Detwiler, who would later go on to cofound Northbridge Energy Partners with him. Constellation, which provided energy for two-thirds of the corporations in the Fortune 100, wanted to be able to create call options for the buildings they served and integrate supply contracts with demand management services.

During his tenure with Constellation, Wolffe helped co-develop and patent Virtuwatt, a portfolio energy management platform that connected customer buildings with energy markets. Virtuwatt enabled them to unlock the true promise of demand response by shaping, shifting and shedding load based on market conditions, pricing signals and demand response events.

At Constellation, Wolffe and his team set up the NewEnergy Alliance that introduced the building automation industry to the emerging demand response programs being formed in each energy market. Since these building systems were already resident in many commercial and industrial facilities, it made sense to leverage them wherever possible. In order to bring the concept full circle, buildings needed to be connected to so they could respond to signals from the grid.

“The Virtuwatt platform did that,” he said. “It provided all the elements necessary to enable customer participation in the North American deregulated energy markets. We took it further for our customers who we were serving with electricity. The goal was to create capabilities in each site that could dynamically shape demand through advanced control strategies to align buildings with market conditions – and simultaneously provide options for positive cash flow by nominating unused load back into the grid – creating virtual power plants. In addition to large campuses, since many of our customers were national accounts with large portfolios, we had to develop the platform to operate at the enterprise level across every market.”

Wolffe’s extensive background will empower Bernhard to manage energy use and improve supply contracts for new and existing clients, leverage and aggregate DER resources, and negotiate better supply contracts on behalf of clients. Wolffe’s knowledge of building technologies and competitive energy markets make him a valuable addition to Bernhard’s executive leadership.

The future of demand response and energy markets

Regulatory, legislative and energy policy activities in the United States are in constant movement and evolving at state, Federal and regional levels. These changes impact the suppliers and the consumers and drive investment in renewable energy technologies. In order for consumers to successfully plan and implement long-term energy strategies, they need to know about these changes and plan for the inflection point when rulings take place. Moreover, customers need to work with partners and vendors who know how to deliver products & services that keep customers ahead of the energy curve in current and future state markets.

Announced in September 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Order 2222 requires independent system operators (ISO) and regional transmission organizations (RTO) in the U.S. to develop plans that give Distributed Energy Resources (DER’s) access to wholesale energy markets. This reimagining of the U.S. electricity grid is predicted to flood markets with firm and intermittent energy resources, impacting how power supply contracts are negotiated and how customers pay for energy.

The order promotes competition in electric markets and levels the playing field for organized capacity, energy and ancillary services. In addition, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will provide incentives and tax credits for many of the DER’s offered by Bernhard. By ushering in micro-grids that exist behind the meter, customers are primed to place their facilities on the cutting-edge of a futuristic electric grid. Wolffe and Bernhard will take the company’s expertise in engineering and building systems and capitalize on FERC Order 2222 for new and existing clients.

Bernhard provides flexible Energy-as-a-Service agreements to customers, some ranging from 10 to 20 and even 30 year intervals. These agreements place teams on the ground in for facilities to preserve the trust and investment placed in Bernhard by upgrading existing systems with new equipment and energy management systems.

For the markets that Bernhard serves, chiefly healthcare and higher education, it’s not common for facility operations to understand the complexities and intricacies of energy markets, and develop the capabilities to participate effectively. As a result, many institutions have been unable to leverage themselves to the benchmark of energy markets and justify the capital expense to upgrade their systems. Bernhard teams are prepared to do the heavy lifting for the customer and bring their facilities up to speed. Now, with a clear focus on energy markets, Bernhard is sitting in a prime position to further reduce energy usage, costs and constraints on facilities, by assisting them in interoperating with the energy markets through distributed energy resources and improved operating systems.

As a consultant, Wolffe was often frustrated when market opportunities weren’t acted upon. “I’m a doer.” He said. “My focus is creating successful outcomes.” His new position at Bernhard allows him to be a facilitator for the customer at a larger scale than ever before. By enabling customers to take advantage of Distributed Energy Resources, Bernhard is creating pricing stability in regulated and deregulated markets, allowing the customer to mitigate risk, avoid volatile pricing and work toward decarbonization and a more sustainable future.

Prepare your business for the energy grid of tomorrow and join us in our mission for sustainability. In turn, you’ll reduce energy use, cost, risk and retain focus on your mission. There’s never been a better time to get started and with demand response. Contact the experts at Bernhard today.