Bernhard Advocates Employee Development with Creation of Young Professionals Program Offering Mentorship and Training

The past few years have turned business upside down, reshaping nearly everything we thought we knew about productivity, the office, collaboration, the role of management and how companies approach getting the job done.

One thing that hasn’t changed in business, however, is the value of professional development and the contacts and mentoring relationships that can truly shape a career. In the most recent Deloitte Global Survey of Millennials and Gen Z, almost 30 percent of respondents listed training and development opportunities as the top reason they chose their current job, ranking those perks even above higher pay.

Bernhard now offers their employees looking to access training and networking opportunities an avenue to bolster their careers with the Young Professionals Program. The program is free to join, and open to any Bernhard employee under the age of 30 or less than four years post-graduation from college.

So much more than a social event, Bernhard’s Young Professionals program is a four-year pathway, designed to help the next generation of Bernhard professionals truly make their mark on our company culture and long history. Through mentorship, coaching, networking opportunities, professional development and biannual group training events, the Bernhard Young Professionals program seeks to help every team member fully realize their innate strengths and showcase their unique talents.

The program was developed to provide everything needed to make up for connection opportunities lost to the COVID-19 quarantine and hit fast forward on career goals:

  • Access to patient, knowledgeable mentors who have built careers at Bernhard and know what it takes to thrive.
  • One-on-one guidance, coaching, personalized experiences and focused attention.
  • Twice-yearly teambuilding and training events hosted at Bernhard’s offices in Little Rock. These one-day events will have topical sessions on issues like managing virtual collaboration, developing emotional intelligence, trust building and more. Some events will include external vendors.
  • Pop-up networking and professional enrichment events when members of the Bernhard engineering team travel to your area.
  • Free access to Bernhard’s extensive library of online training materials to boost your social, professional and technical skills, including courses on AutoCAD, Conflict Resolution, Jobsite Safety and more.

As a company with more than a century of history behind it, Bernhard is always looking for the next generation who will lead us to the bright future ahead.

For more about the Bernhard Young Professionals program or to join, contact Katie Thomas at

Five years of excellence: Celebrating Bernhard’s pioneering 2017 Energy Asset Concession agreement with Ochsner Health

Bernhard has received our share of awards and accolades in our century of work, but it’s our ongoing partnerships with healthcare institutions that make us most proud. By helping hospital systems find innovative, on-budget solutions to their most pressing energy issues, Bernhard is strengthening America’s infrastructure and doing our part to prepare the nation for the healthcare challenges of tomorrow.

One of our most fruitful partnerships in recent years has been between Bernhard and Louisiana-based Ochsner Health. Celebrating 80 years of service to the community in 2022, Ochsner Health operates 40 hospitals and more than 300 urgent care and health centers across the Gulf South. Ochsner Health facilities treated more than 1 million patients in 2021, highlighting Ochsner’s role in the health and wellbeing of Louisiana.

This year marks the five-year anniversary of the landmark, first-of-its-kind Energy Asset Concession arrangement between Bernhard and Ochsner Health System. Ochsner and Bernhard are only one-third of the way through the original 15-year arrangement struck in 2017, but the partnership has already been a success, hardening critical infrastructure and saving Ochsner millions in energy costs per year.

Bernhard has since entered into similar 15-year Energy Asset Concession agreements with two other Ochsner Health facilities. In the process, we have upgraded critical infrastructure at these campuses while delivering substantial energy efficiency.

Combined, these projects have optimized energy usage for more than 3.4 million square feet of care and clinical space, with a combined annual energy savings of more than $2.7 million per year. Optimizing these facilities allows Bernhard and Ochsner to come together to prepare for whatever challenges may come.

2017: Ochsner Medical Center, New Orleans

In 2017, the flagship facility of Ochsner Health System, Ochsner Medical Center’s Jefferson Highway campus in New Orleans, entered into an innovative 15-year energy management agreement with Bernhard. The overall goal of the agreement is to help Ochsner Medical Center – New Orleans lower energy costs though substantial efficiency, equipment upgrades, mitigating operational risks and addressing long-term deferred maintenance.

The first of its kind, this Energy Asset Concession agreement transferred to Bernhard the right to operate, use and maintain the energy infrastructure of Ochsner Medical Center – New Orleans. The agreement was built on a solid foundation of trust between the two companies, nurtured by decades of successful service and construction projects Bernhard had completed at Ochsner facilities across Louisiana.

Bernhard constructed a new central energy plant to support the hospital’s 11-story West Tower expansion. To reduce demand on the existing central plant and improve operational efficiency, Bernhard instituted campus-wide energy infrastructure upgrades and retro-commissioning. Building automation systems were also upgraded to the latest technology, helping the facility better monitor and optimize energy use.

Once completed, Ochsner Medical Center – New Orleans’ new central energy plant was connected to the existing south campus main central plant. This created a district loop that serves more than 1.8 million square feet of facility space, providing more than 11,000 tons of chilled water capacity for the campus. Bernhard also upgraded Ochsner Medical Center’s north campus energy plant with more efficient pumping and piping.

Only five years in, this pioneering agreement between Bernhard and Ochsner Health has achieved its goal of a sustained reduction of energy use on the Ochsner Medical Center – New Orleans, exceeding initial projections of $2.4 million in annual energy savings.

2018: Ochsner Medical Complex – The Grove, Baton Rouge

Building on the successful partnership between Bernhard and Ochsner Medical Center – New Orleans, Bernhard and Ochsner entered into another 15-year Energy Asset Concession agreement in 2018 related to the under-construction Ochsner Medical Complex – The Grove in Baton Rouge. The five-story, 255,000 square foot medical office building would include a 10-bed hospital and surgical center and house 85 medical providers.

Bernhard provided an energy savings guarantee for the full term of the project, implementing O&M operator training, remote support services and measurement and verification.

With a projected opening date for the facility in early 2019, timelines were tight. To help Ochsner deliver this critically-needed facility on schedule and on budget, Bernhard flexed our logistical and organizational muscle. Coordination between design, construction and heavy trades was crucial for success. Knowing that, Bernhard streamlined the process, constantly re-evaluating the project and adjusting tactics and resource allocation. The biggest obstacles to the construction schedule were weather and site logistics, but together, Bernhard and Ochsner met every challenge.

In January 2019, a little over ten months after Ochsner and Bernhard made history by signing our second 15-year Energy Asset Concession, Ochsner Medical Complex – The Grove opened to serve the people of Baton Rouge. With Bernhard aboard to help find efficiency in every system, the complex is well-prepared for an ever-changing energy future, and is already realizing annual energy savings of $234,000.

2020: Ochsner Baptist Medical Center, New Orleans

In September 2020, Bernhard and Ochsner entered our third historic Energy Concession Agreement. Staffed by more than 600 physicians and specialists, Ochsner Baptist Medical Center is a vital part of New Orleans’ healthcare ecosystem. The hospital campus features more than 677,000 square feet of treatment space, including a 6,000-square-foot ER with two trauma rooms and the Ochsner Baptist Women’s Pavilion.

The ongoing project between Bernhard and Ochsner Baptist implemented electrical infrastructure upgrades at the campus, creating redundancy of building systems while improving their reliability and resilience, especially during adverse events like hurricanes. In addition to making mechanical enhancements to Ochsner Baptist’s central energy plant chilled water and tower water systems, Bernhard installed a security system in the central plant.

Bernhard also delivered campus-wide improvements to energy infrastructure, including the hospital’s water heating system, air handling units, steam system and electrical systems. Further efficiencies were realized through retro-commissioning efforts that installed more energy efficient lighting systems as well as upgraded building automation systems.

Together, these efforts have resulted in estimated annual energy savings of $775,000 per year for Ochsner Baptist, while helping this crucial part of New Orleans’ healthcare landscape stay resilient for decades to come.

Partnership for the Future

In the five years since Ochsner Health and Bernhard struck our pioneering Energy-as-a-Service agreement, our partnerships have remained strong. That includes Bernhard being on-site at all three Ochsner sites during the chaos of Hurricane Ida and its aftermath in 2021. Today, our work continues, realizing even further infrastructure improvements and delivering millions per year in energy savings. We are proud to continue teaming with Ochsner Health to meet existing and future challenges head-on while keeping the Gulf Coast healthy for years to come.

Ready to see what Bernhard can do to help your large facility group meet tomorrow’s most pressing energy and infrastructure challenges? Learn how Energy-as-a-Service works or contact our team today.

ROC Solid: Remote Operations Center Delivers Energy Savings

Facilities and energy management can be a reactive line of work. Maintenance teams are often chasing after hot/cold calls, control overrides, or utility bill increases and asked to manage more area with fewer staff.

Typically, facilities operations teams are spread across multiple regions and decisions have to percolate through numerous teams, slowing down the process and complicating solutions.

To proactively manage large, interconnected facility groups, monitoring energy usage and maintaining system efficiency have to be enterprise-wide priorities every day.

Uniting systems management through a Remote Operations Center (ROC) utilizing automated fault detection and monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx) can provide the framework for a solution. Drawing on the latest data analytics software to empower maintenance staff, ROCs take a holistic approach to energy efficiency for large, multi-facility systems. This allows a small team to track real-time efficiency data and drive maintenance efforts at several locations – even if separated by hundreds of miles.

Over time, the benefits of establishing an ROC in terms of both energy savings and overall efficiency can be dramatic.


Beginning in 2010, Phoenix-based Banner Health System worked with Bernhard* on retro-commissioning projects at several of their facilities, with a goal of lowering energy costs and minimizing threats to mission-critical services. The non-profit health system has a large footprint, with 32 hospitals across six states.

Banner Health and Bernhard team’s initial efforts to make older buildings more energy efficient achieved significant savings at numerous facilities. However, performance drift eventually set in and annual energy use and cost slowly increased. Identifying a strategy that worked system-wide was a complex problem involving multiple building automation technologies, computerized maintenance management systems, system design standards, and maintenance protocols at different Banner Health campuses.

Bernhard’s team of experts stepped in to help Banner Health develop an innovative pilot program at the Thunderbird Medical Center in Phoenix. The program was built around monitoring-based commissioning with data delivered to a centralized operations hub staffed by a small team of skilled technicians and energy analysts. This hub would collect, store, and analyze data from buildings on the Thunderbird Medical Center campus while standardizing maintenance processes and identifying opportunities to optimize energy efficiency.

The results of this pilot program were outstanding, delivering energy cost savings of $449,000 per year, including saving 4.7 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 13,600 dekatherms of natural gas.

Seeing the promise of a more data-driven energy strategy, Banner Health began an operations initiative in 2015 aimed at leaving behind facility-specific decision-making in favor of standardized protocols and a centralized ROC providing monitoring-based commissioning. By 2017, Bernhard had helped make the Banner Health ROC a reality.

The ROC quickly made headway at lowering Banner Health’s energy costs, identifying maintenance opportunities, and correcting system inefficiencies. In some cases, Banner Health ROC analysts were even able to predict adverse events.

For example, Banner Health central plants sometimes experience chiller surging, a condition where refrigerant backflows the refrigeration cycle. Chiller surging can reduce equipment life if left unchecked. By consulting with refrigeration engineers to understand the warning signs of chiller surge and how it appears in the data, the team is now able to remotely identify conditions that lead to chiller surge, allowing technicians to proactively adjust plant operation.


Banner Health’s ROC initiative has been a demonstrated success. Since 2016, a centralized ROC monitoring more than 15 million square feet of space with a staff of only 12 has worked with the Bernhard engineering team to orchestrate energy projects that reduced annual energy spend by nearly $12 million per year. In addition, real-time monitoring for faults and anomalies has helped save $3.8 million annually that would have been lost to performance drift, while reducing equipment diagnosis and repair times, hot and cold calls and deferred maintenance and repairs.

Bernhard’s system of constant tracking of factors like temperature, humidity and pressure helped Banner Health meet or exceed patient healing environment goals like average patient room temperature and consistent negative air pressure in operating suites and isolation rooms. Thanks in part to these efforts, the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) awarded Banner Health their 2021 Excellence in Health Care Facility Management Award, which showcases innovative facilities management programs that improve patient care.

Ready to learn more about what remote monitoring-based commissioning could do to help meet energy goals for your large, multi-facility organization? Click here to learn more about Bernhard’s past successes and team of experts.

*Banner Health Systems was contracted with ETC Group, an energy-efficiency engineering firm acquired by Bernhard in Feb. 2022.


3 Valuable Disaster Response Lessons Learned From Hurricane Ida

As we enter another Hurricane season, it is impossible not to look back and remember the turmoil of Hurricane Ida. We have made it our responsibility to use the past as a guide and build upon our disaster response experiences to better equip our teams to deal with what the future may hold. Storms and natural disasters routinely come with little warning, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be prepared well ahead of time. Our teams have experience providing disaster response for Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Michael, the Baton Rouge floods, and many more.

When Hurricane Ida entered the Gulf of Mexico on Aug. 29, 2021 and took aim at the state of Louisiana, it seemed like a horrifying case of déjà vu.

Ida was poised to strike on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which inundated New Orleans, took the lives of more than 1,800 people and caused $160 billion in damage and a refugee crisis in the region. As the storm neared, Ida quickly strengthened into a devastating Category 4 hurricane, packing sustained winds of 150 mph.

With hospitals in south Louisiana already at capacity due to COVID-19, officials in Louisiana and beyond feared the worst. Bernhard customers include most of the healthcare facilities in the region, so we knew it would take all the experience, technical skill and ingenuity our teams could muster to keep those facilities up and running to save lives.

As predicted, Ida roared ashore at Port Fourchon on August 29 before grinding inland. By the time the hurricane dissipated, Ida had caused at least $75 billion in damage. Though more than 1 million people across Louisiana were left without power, round-the-clock efforts by Bernhard crews kept clients running throughout the disaster.

Here are a few of the things we learned from our experience with Hurricane Ida:


Throughout the course of the hurricane, many potential catastrophic disasters were mitigated in advance, thanks to Bernhard operators and technicians who were stationed there ahead of the storm, embedded with the clients we serve. In addition, Bernhard teams pre-staged dozens of backup generators before the storm to keep the power and air-cooling capacity flowing to mission-critical facilities, while on-site crews tended the generators and repaired units as issues arose.

While it’s difficult for team members to risk putting themselves in harm’s way, our ability to immediately counteract the effects of the hurricane as it made landfall and came ashore kept several healthcare facilities online, providing care without electrical interruption.


In the chaos of a Category 4 hurricane and its aftermath, with multiple threats to mission-critical infrastructure coming from all directions, a disaster is literally seconds away at any moment. It was important for Bernhard crews to stay flexible, alert and in communication, constantly evaluating and re-prioritizing threats to mission-critical infrastructure.

In one instance, after patients were displaced from another facility by the storm, Bernhard teams eased overcrowding by preparing 15 existing patient rooms, relocating multiple headwall rough-ins and replacing some light fixtures and all outlets. In another instance, after a client campus lost access to the local water supply, Bernhard crews installed an industrial-grade filtration system before switching to a secondary source.

These are just a few of the dozens of ways the flexibility and on-the-fly decision making of Bernhard teams helped stave off trouble for our clients during and after Hurricane Ida. Every solution utilized is a lesson to take into future crises and disaster response scenarios.


In a rapidly-unfolding crisis, an organization that gets bogged down with hierarchy and job descriptions is bound to fail. During and after Ida, there was only one job for Bernhard crews: whatever was necessary to keep client facilities whole and operating. Passing the buck is not an option.

Keeping the power on at client facilities after Ida meant keeping the generators running, which required thousands of gallons of diesel fuel per day. Suppliers who had previously serviced those facilities couldn’t find a route to deliver more fuel due to downed power lines and inundated roads. Bernhard used our logistics and transportation experience to deliver more than 200,000 gallons of diesel in the first five days after the storm.

It wasn’t necessarily our job. But we did it, because that’s what it took to fulfill our mission for our clients. Bernhard’s national footprint allows us the unique capability to better assist with logistical and resource challenges for any type of disaster.

Every experience with a natural disaster is an opportunity to learn. The lessons Bernhard teams take from our experiences in Ida and other disasters makes us stronger and more resilient when the next storm inevitably comes calling.

Ready to learn more about Bernhard’s disaster response services, including our efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic and recent natural disasters? Visit

The Role of Asset Management in Providing Long-Term Solutions

What is Asset Management?

Bernhard’s Asset Management services provide for comprehensive operation and management of energy assets for all Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS) projects. Our focus is on sustainable, long-term solutions that enable customers to achieve energy efficiency and reduce risk associated with central energy plant operation, maintenance, and capital renewal.

We have a dedicated, in-house team of experts who work collaboratively to deliver the right solutions for each customer and each site. An invaluable benefit of Bernhard’s approach is the flexibility and scalability of our team. Regardless of EaaS project size, we scale our team to streamline the project, encourage cross-functional communication, and meet the customer’s expectations and needs.

Our Asset Management team provides for:

  • Operations and Maintenance: Operate your facility and provide resources and solutions needed to maintain energy-efficient operations over the contract term.
  • Emergency and Disaster Response: Ensure preparedness for hurricanes, natural disasters, COVID-related response leveraging a national network of resources and logistics.
  • Capital Planning: Create and execute a long-term plan for capital renewal to keep facility operational and energy efficient.
  • Off-Takers: Identify and market chilled water service to sites nearby to which surplus capacity can be sold.

Asset Management brings together all Bernhard’s service offerings through the lifecycle of an EaaS project. Our work begins with the governance created to manage execution and continues through construction and operations of the upgraded facility to the long-term maintenance and renewal projects needed to maintain energy efficiency through the contract term.

Fulfilling the Energy Efficiency Guarantee

By combining the expertise of engineering, mechanical, and electrical divisions, we guarantee standards are met, and execution is seamless from initial operations turnover through contract completion. Our Asset Management team is the “boots on the ground” staff ensuring the designed solution is properly executed and performs as intended.

Bernhard’s customized maintenance programs leverage preventative and predictive maintenance strategies ensuring energy assets operate at peak efficiency. Through regular monitoring and detailed planning, our team proactively addresses potential issues before they negatively impact energy efficiency or operations.

Bernhard Connect® is key to our operations program. Connect is Bernhard’s proprietary, cloud-based platform for automatic fault detection, measurement and verification, and continuous data collection and archival. With Connect, operations staff have direct access to real-time energy and performance analytics with the push of a button.

The platform provides new levels of monitoring and control, resulting in greater energy and operational efficiencies. Backed by Bernhard’s energy engineers, Connect enables operations staff to quickly identify and resolve issues and ensure operations fulfill–or exceed–the project’s energy savings guarantee.

Integrated Staffing Resources

We recognize staffing for operations and maintenance teams is a challenge. Finding, training, and retaining capable staff for facility operations takes significant time and requires expertise outside of a customer’s core business. Bernhard’s approach to Asset Management reduces this risk by staffing resources for facility operation and providing technical knowledge through a robust training and safety program.

Our on-site teams integrate into the operations at each customer’s site—from the logos on our uniforms to our approach to budgeting. We work collaboratively with leadership at each facility to ensure our team is seen as an extension of the customer’s staff. We partner with our customers on capital planning, operational budgeting, and other issues to ensure the best and most fruitful decisions are made to prepare for future growth and maintain efficient operations.

Beyond a Facilities Team

Bernhard’s on-site operations staff are more than a facilities team. Our employees are backed by the skills and expertise of a national, engineering and construction firm with more than 2,000 employees. We bring resources, knowledge, expertise, and a national network with the ability to fully support a facility’s needs.

Leveraging our national footprint, our on-site staff bring long-term solutions to fulfill a customer’s needs. We can partner on and provide solutions for projects that fall outside of a typical O&M provider’s scope. Our teams have the in-house capability to execute turnkey solutions and provide subject matter expertise on a wide range of issues related to facility operations, maintenance, design, construction, and more.

We are not just an O&M provider: we are a construction manager, engineer, energy analyst, controls specialist, and much more. Choosing Bernhard for Asset Management is partnering with a long-term solutions provider.

Science-Based Targets: Overview and Its Implications to Corporations and Energy Industry

by Jim Crockett, PE


There has recently been an important, but largely underreported, tidal shift in the world of carbon emissions and greenhouse gas reduction. Many of the world’s largest companies have voluntarily set internal energy reduction targets and committed to achieve them. This will send ripples throughout the entire business world. In the near future, a company’s carbon footprint might give it a competitive edge – or might put it out of business.

Science Based Targets

Science Based Targets (SBT) is an organization that helps companies set energy reduction targets and records their commitments. Targets are considered science-based if they are in line with what the latest climate science deems necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement–limiting global warming to well-below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C. Participants can commit to following either trajectory: 1.5°C (aggressive) or 2.0°C (less aggressive).

Large Multi-National Corporate Participation

As of June 1, 2022, more than 3,000 companies have signed up with the SBT website, and the number is growing quickly. Of the companies who have joined, 1,090 have made net-zero commitments, and 1429 have opted for the 1.5°C trajectory, coming in just under 50%.

Apple, Dell Technologies, General Motors, and Walmart, for example, are four of the 732 companies that have committed to 1.5°C trajectories. Their commitments are as follows:

  • General Motors commits to reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 72% by 2035 from a 2018 base year. General Motors Company commits to reduce scope 3 GHG emissions from use of sold products of light duty vehicles 51% per vehicle kilometer by 2035 from a 2018 base year. The target boundary includes biogenic emissions and removals from bioenergy feedstocks.
  • Apple commits to reduce absolute combined scope 1, 2 and 3 GHG emissions 62% by FY2030 from a FY2019 base year. Apple also commits to continue annually sourcing 100% renewable electricity through FY2030.
  • Dell Technologies commits to reduce scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 50% by 2030 from a 2019 base year. Dell Technologies commits to reduce direct material suppliers GHG emissions 60% per revenue over the same time frame. The company also commits to reduce the energy intensity of their product portfolio 80% by 2020, using a 2011 base year.
  • Walmart commits to reduce absolute scopes 1 and 2 GHG emissions 35% by 2025 and 65% by 2030 from a 2015 base year. Walmart will also work to reduce CO2e emissions from upstream and downstream scope 3 sources by one billion tons between by 2030 from a 2015 base year.

Given the size of these four companies alone, achieving reduction targets would be a significant achievement. However, the scope of this reduction is even bigger than it seems.

Scope 1, 2, and 3 Targets

To fully understand the impact of these goals, we need to understand what Scopes 1, 2, and 3 represent.[ii]

  • Scope 1 refers to emissions generated at the participant’s site(s). Fuel-burning equipment, such as furnaces, water heaters, and ovens, would all fall under Scope 1.
  • Scope 2 refers to the emissions generated off-site to create energy that you consume (such as electricity, chilled water, or steam).
  • Scope 3 refers to “all indirect emissions that occur in the value chain of the reporting company, including both upstream and downstream emissions.”
The Market Impact of Scope 3 Targets

Scope 3 reduction targets completely change the game.

General Motors can’t simply reduce the GHG emissions of their factories alone. They must also reduce the downstream emissions of their products, i.e., their vehicles, by 51% by 2035.

It means that Apple must reduce the GHG emissions of its suppliers by 62% by 2030.

Dell has committed to reduce the emissions of its direct material suppliers by 60% by 2030.

Walmart must reduce the emissions of its suppliers by the equivalent of one billion tons of CO2 by 2030. (One billion tons is roughly the annual carbon footprint of 200 million American homes.)

And those are just 4 companies out of 3,091.

Potential Implications (and Opportunities)

The impact of Scope 3 cannot be overstated. Scope 3 not only requires companies to reduce their own emissions, but to reduce the emissions of their customers and suppliers. Suppliers might find themselves contractually obligated to hit emission reduction targets if they wish to continue doing business with SBT program participants.

This will create emissions reduction pressure for existing suppliers but might also present opportunities for potential suppliers with a better handle on their emissions. Large companies with SBT targets could reduce their Scope 3 emissions by replacing an existing supplier with a supplier with lower GHG emissions.

Energy Industry Is Changing

At Bernhard, we are already seeing a change in the attitudes of our current and potential clients. Historically, most of our customers were primarily interested in saving money; now they’re responding to internal and external pressures due to SBTs.

Some companies have achieved their goals by purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). However, the nature of RECs includes inherent market uncertainty and risk. Many corporations have set their sights inward, focusing on energy-saving upgrades to their own facilities, making them more sustainable and energy efficient.

If you are thinking about adopting Science-Based Targets or just want to reduce your energy spend, Bernhard can help. Contact us at

Jim Crockett, PE, has 25 years of experience in the HVAC industry and 15 years specializing in energy efficiency. At Bernhard, Jim has been the senior engineer on HVAC Energy Efficiency projects around the world and has provided technical guidance in support of the  engineering staff and Monitoring-Based Commissioning program. Jim holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the Brigham Young University and an MBA with Finance Concentration from Southern Methodist University. He is a registered Professional Engineer in AZ, CA, FL, ID, KS, MT, NM, TX, UT, and WA and is the recipient of the 2021 AEE Region V Engineer of the Year Award. Jim has presented at AEE World, AEE Arizona, APPA, and EMA webinars. His article on Science-Based Target has been published in Utah Construction & Design Magazine’s 2022 March/April issue.

Simulating HVAC Defense against COVID-19 Infection

by Craig Phillips, Commissioning Director at Bernhard


In fall of 2020, The University of Alabama at Birmingham Healthcare (UAB) was faced with an increasing influx of COVID-19 patients and the question of how to best maintain medical staff safety as a top priority was at the forefront of UAB’s concerns. Changes in operation of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems’ configuration to increase the systems effectiveness against the spread of COVID-19 was given careful consideration. Specifically, three questions were asked of the team.  Does an air change rate of six provide the quickest and most orderly removal of particles from the patient room?  Does maintaining a room differential pressure relationship of -0.01 inches water column relative to the adjacent corridor achieve near 100% particle containment?  Does the addition of a HEPA air scrubber have a positive effect on the time to remove particles from the room and does the location of the HEPA air scrubber play a vital role in containment of the particles? In order to better answer these questions, UAB organized a small team of healthcare engineers, an environmental health and safety manager, and the support of the hospitals C-Level stakeholders. At the inception of the efforts, UAB had just opened a new bone marrow transplant unit which provided the team with the unique opportunity of having an empty bone marrow transplant unit to utilize as a test site before the unit was to be transformed into a dedicated COVID unit.  And so began the task of creating the framework for a field testing lab to serve as the epicenter of the experiments.

The approach to achieving valid answers was to utilize one of the bone marrow transplant patient rooms with a high-supply, low-return diffuser configuration (referred to as patient room “A”) as one of the two test sites. Specifically, the configuration consisted of two perforated supply diffusers with an integrated HEPA filter, one floor-mounted return grille, and a typical ceiling exhaust in the adjacent dedicated restroom. The second test configuration (referred to as patient room “B”) consisted of a modified diffuser layout with high-supply high-return layout. Specifically, the configuration consisted of two smaller perforated supply diffusers without an integrated HEPA filter, one ceiling mounted return grille, and a typical ceiling exhaust in the adjacent dedicated restroom. The furniture layout was kept consistent and simple with a patient bed, an adjustable over-the-bed table and a chair in the corner of the room.

The method used to create measurable results started with procuring two BS 5295 rated fog generating machines that utilize pharmaceutical grade fog fluid producing the same Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) certified 0.2-micron particle sized fog. The size of the particles being generated was important because the particles should be in the same range of typical aerosolized COVID-19 particles (0.06-1.4 micron).  A high output machine, capable of 6,356 CFM, was chosen to be used in a “saturated” room test where the amount of time to completely fill the room with fog was precisely calculated. The smaller machine, capable of 100 CFM, was chose to be used in testing meant to simulate the amount of aerosolized COVID-19 particles generated from a typical infected adult male patient. To measure the effectiveness of the HVAC system to remove the fog from the room, a light intensity meter and ionization smoke detector were utilized.  The time was recorded for the smoke to visually clear, for the smoke detector to clear and for the light level to return to the same level as measured at the start of each test. In addition, other important parameters were monitored and recorded for each test such as the room pressure, the use or lack of an air scrubber, the air scrubber CFM and equivalent air change rate (fixed at 6 ACH) and the supply and return airflow (measured by the Building Automation System).

The team faced many challenges and barriers from the onset to the end of the endeavor. The first obstacle was developing a means to measure the effectiveness of the tests. The team reviewed plausible methods and ultimately settled on utilizing the ionization smoke detector and light meter combo to gauge the effectiveness of the HVAC system. The second major obstacle was selecting a fog machine(s) suitable for the testing. The team identified the machines must be pharmaceutical grade and generate particles between 0.06- and 1.4 micron.  After much research and debate, the team decided on two machines, one which had to be shipped from the United Kingdom, which presented the looming concerns of international shipping delays, which were rampant at the time and still linger today. Another obstacle was the testing site had a non-typical HVAC distribution layout with HEPA filters in the supply diffusers and a low return grille. The team decided to modify the HVAC distribution layout to better match the typical patient room with two supply diffusers and one high return grille. Furthermore, the inlet conditions to one of the terminal units was modified to obtain accurate airflow control. Perhaps the biggest obstacle was time itself. The same team that was dedicated to the experimentation was also being tasked with converting numerous patient floors into “COVID wings” and the location of the testing site was a prime location to convert into a COVID wing. As soon as the testing was completed, the HVAC system was slated to be retro-commissioned and turned over for immediate use.

The results of the study showed that six air changes provided subjectively better results (27.5 Minutes) when compared to CDC Guidelines (46 minutes at 99% efficiency) for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities (2003). Typical COVID patient particle generation testing shows that the infectious risk posed by a patient infected with COVID-19 is relatively low because of the low viral load typical in infected patients unless that viral load is increased by severe acute coughing. For this scenario, with a neutral room pressure, a patient who is infected and is coughing 10 times per minute poses the least risk to medical staff with an air change rate of 6 air changes per hour with a HEPA scrubber in the room close to the patient bed between the supply and return grilles in the room. The chance of medical staff inhaling the viral particles is decreased the further the distance from the patient. Increasing the air change rate decreases the time to remove the virus particles from the room, but with increased air-change rate turbulence is created which causes the airborne particles to be distributed around the room. This phenomenon at eight and ten air changes increases the probability of the virus infecting medical staff compared to the tests conducted at air change rates of six. No visual difference was witnessed, related to undesired spread of aerosolized smoke, between four and six air changes per hour. However, at four air changes per hour, the time it took for the aerosolized smoke to clear was much greater than at six air changes per hour.

The smoke saturation room testing answered three important questions:

  • The testing showed six air changes per hour provided comparable particle removal times compared to higher air changes rates of eight and ten air changes which are not feasible in most patient rooms due to existing HVAC infrastructure limitations.
  • Scrubbing the air in the room with a HEPA scrubber significantly improves the particulate removal times.
  • Orienting the scrubber so that the intake is at the door can better protect staff in the corridor areas by capturing the particles before they can exfiltrate the room.

Ideally, the scrubber would be pointed at a low return so the majority of particles are quickly removed from the room.  In addition, the testing proved that operating a room at negative 0.01 inches protects the staff in the corridor by not allowing the particles to escape the room. However, it is impractical to configure the majority of patient care spaces in such a manner due to the limitations of the existing HVAC infrastructure.  In such cases, where a patient exhibits severe coughing, it is advisable to configure a room to be at six supply air changes, ten return air changes and to install a HEPA scrubber at the door with the discharge directed at a return grille or restroom door with exhaust of ten air changes per hour.

Based on the data collected from the testing, UAB made strategic decisions to set all patient room air changes to six air changes and to include HEPA scrubbers in each COVID-19 patient room. At the height of the COVID pandemic, UAB Healthcare had 300 COVID patients admitted to the hospital. Despite the high COVID-19 patient census rates, UAB medical staff contraction rates were relatively low. Based on these promising results it is recommended healthcare institutions implement self-deployed air change compliancy verifications and when pandemic risks are great, implement additional filtration and air changes in the form of HEPA air scrubbers. If feasible, operate the patient room at a negative pressure equal to negative 0.01 in. w.c.

Craig Phillips has 16 years of industry experience and is the Director of Commissioning at Bernhard. He has extensive experience commissioning healthcare facilities and campus expansions around the country. He helped to build Bernhard’s commissioning services group, providing project management and commissioning services for projects including a 1-million-square-foot healthcare campus expansion, new data centers, commercial facility renovations, and more. Craig is a registered Professional Engineer, Certified Commissioning Authority, Certified Energy Manager, Healthcare Facility Design Professional, a NEBB Building Systems Commissioning Certified Professional, and LEED AP BD+C. Craig was the co-author of the US Military Health Care Commissioning Guidelines and co-author of Ascension Health’s Commissioning Guidelines. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Arkansas Tech University.

5 R’s of Zero Waste Living: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot

By: Alyssa Jaksich, Vice President of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)


In celebration of Earth Day, we have created an easy to follow guideline on the 5 R’s of Zero Waste Living: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot. Using this educational information can help make a difference by incorporating small changes into your daily lives in the office and at home. Together we can promote a more sustainable future!

Refusing is the first principle of Zero Waste living. The first step to minimizing one’s waste output is to prevent the waste from entering your hands in the first place.

Try to refuse items such as: single-use disposables (plastic bags, straws, cups, and utensils), conference freebies, junk mail, and other short-lived items with a one-way ticket to the garbage can.

Saying “no” to waste can be just as challenging as saying “no” to people, or to situations that do not serve us. However, by taking action or explaining why you’re refusing could be a catalyst for motivating behavioral changes in the people with whom you interact.


The second principle of Zero Waste living is to reduce. Reducing gives us an opportunity to explore our consumer habits and assess whether or not these are serving our best interests, or those of the Earth – and changing these habits if we choose.​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​A great example of reducing is looking through your belongings and donating or selling items that are no longer of use, thereby alleviating clutter and creating space. Rather than holding on to unused or redundant items, redistribute them and help save our scarce resources!

The concept of reducing also applies to your purchasing habits.  ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Reducing means shopping with a purpose and focusing on necessary purchases as opposed to random splurges on things you don’t really need. Too often these items quickly make their way into the dumpster, the back of the closet, or come wrapped in tons of unsustainable packaging. Fast fashion, cheap electronic gadgets, and processed foods are good examples.

Let’s not forget our favorite type of reduction – utility savings!

At Bernhard we’re no strangers to reducing utility consumption for our customers, but are we applying best practices into our day-to-day habits to ensure we’re minimizing our own consumption? While we might be limited in types of energy efficiency projects we can implement in our leased office spaces, we can still make an impact by making slight changes in our daily behaviors. Here are a few simple actions to consider:

  • Turning off and unplugging electronics when not in use
  • Does your office printer have a power saver mode?
  • Are TV monitors powered off at the end of each day and over the weekend?
  • Using LED light bulbs wherever possible
  • Turning off lights when not in use
  • Avoiding simultaneous heating and cooling with personal space heaters
  • Ensuring air vents aren’t blocked – according to ENERGY STAR, it can take as much as 25% more energy to cool a space when air vents are obstructed!

Reusing is central to Zero Waste living. Instead of buying items new, look for secondhand options first. This principle inspires use to repurpose and repair our belongings.​​​​​​​

Many things are now designed to be short-lived, and we’re forced to replace them faster. It doesn’t have to be that way. Items can be repaired, mended, or patched up and a little more life squeezed out of them. We can also reduce the chances of it breaking in the first place by doing your homework and opting for quality and repairability.

Reusing also refers to using reusable items rather than disposables. Consumables such as paper towels, ziplock bags, and cotton balls are very convenient, but you use them once and then throw them away. You’re forced to replace them time and time again, spending money you could use for other things while also wasting valuable resources.​​​​​​​ For almost every single-use item there is a reusable alternative.

Recycling is GREAT…but it shouldn’t be our first line of defense. Many of us have been programmed to believe that recycling is the go-to solution for waste reduction. This is a misconception. It requires energy and water and can pollute waterways and the air. Recycling infrastructure cannot keep pace with the huge quantities of single-use disposables consumed and disposed of by humans at record speed. It is also important to consider that the recycling process itself is highly energy intensive. However, recycling is still a major component of creating a more sustainable planet.

What seems like a simple and straightforward effort can actually be a little tricky. While recycling is incredibly widespread, every city has its own rules surrounding its recycling protocol. You can check with your local recycling office or provider to see what is accepted in your area. Regardless of the answer, Best Practices from can help ensure your efforts aren’t going to waste! Do your best to find options for recycling in your local area and learn what types of materials are accepted.

The final principle in the 5 R’s of Zero Waste living is to rot, or in other words, compost. Scientifically speaking, composting biodegradable items in your backyard releases fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than sending them to a landfill. Composting also significantly cuts back on your waste production and, if you’re a gardener, is the best way to make homegrown fertilizer for your gardens.

You can choose from many different compost systems based on your needs, space requirements, or anything else. From the simple pile in the backyard to the high-tech tumbler, there’s definitely a compost system that is going to work for you. Some people are lucky enough to live in an area where the municipality collects compost or where farmers will collect your compost. For your own household compost pile, tumblers and bins are available to purchase to create the ideal environment for organic matter to decompose.

After collecting all that rotting organic matter, the fun part is using your freshly decomposed compost. If you have a garden or even potted plants, you can begin to use your compost to feed the garden and enhance your soil quality. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can still use the compost. Spread it over your lawn or grassy areas to enhance grass growth and lushness.

Now you know the 5 R’s, you can make better choices this Earth Day and every day. Remember that they go in order. Refusing and reducing means you’re bringing less into your daily life. Reusing means you’re keeping new things from being made and old things from being wasted. Practice the first three R’s and you’ll automatically have less to recycle and rot.


Alyssa Jaksich is currently the Vice President of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) at Bernhard where she develops, consolidates, operationalizes, and publicizes Bernhard’s ESG strategies and initiatives through coordination with multiple internal teams and business stakeholders, furthering Bernhard’s ongoing mission of promoting sustainability. She previously served as Bernhard’s Vice President of EaaS implementation where she led a team focused on increasing efficiencies within the solutions division at Bernhard, particularly related to Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS) projects. She was a key driver in the development of Bernhard’s industry leading measurement and verification services, and was heavily involved in the development of numerous EaaS projects. Jaksich earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., double majoring in chemical physics and economics.

Retro-commissioning Taboo: The Ugly Truth of Savings Degradation and What to Do About it

By: Ashley Downes, vice president


Industry Snapshot

Rising energy costs often become an issue for hospitals as their facilities and equipment age. In such cases, retro-commissioning is a valuable solution. Retro-commissioning a building’s existing energy infrastructure can improve occupant comfort and environmental quality while also optimizing energy conservation and saving money. Whether the goal is to reduce energy costs or to allocate resources for staffing and facility improvements, evaluating and adjusting energy systems can enable a healthcare facility to focus on its mission: patient care.

As buildings and equipment age over time, a facility’s energy use may change as well. Without efficient operations and maintenance, these factors can cause the savings from a retro-commissioning project to dwindle. This is when facilities encounter degradation, and previous savings can fall by up to 10 percent after the first year. After five years, the savings found through retro-commissioning can vanish completely. So how do we make sure facilities continue to save on energy costs in the long term?

Long-Term Solutions

One option is to pay for a whole new retro-commissioning every few years, so that after the savings are lost, a new revamp takes place. However, I recommend facilities participate in constant commissioning, which costs less over the long-term than repeated full retro-commissionings and fights savings degradation. This process uses remote monitoring to help facility managers actively understand how their systems are changing daily, for better or worse, to prevent the loss of energy savings.

Remote monitoring helps operators verify sustained savings for the facility through the use of measurement and verification, automated fault detection, and continuous data collection and archival. The advanced measurement and verification system I utilize produces a scorecard on the facility’s performance that illustrates its current energy usage versus the usage before retro-commissioning to give a better understanding of the changes and their effects. Automated fault detection sends a real-time notification when a problem is identified in the energy system, allowing facility managers to immediately address it. Additionally, I would recommend the use of continuous data collection and archiving. This will give you the ability to track a facility’s energy trends over long periods of time, revealing insights that might not otherwise be obvious. All of these tools allow facility managers to make data-driven decisions to keep their energy systems optimized.

The Secret Sauce

In addition to these tools, there’s one other thing that’s equally as important in the fight against savings degradation: buy-in from the facility’s staff. In short, to maintain the savings, the staff has to understand how the new infrastructure works and why it matters.

During a retro-commissioning project, it’s important to comb through the building’s automation system to understand how things are operating in terms of air flow, outside air, and pressurization. With this baseline, it’s time to reprogram the system to create and maintain optimal levels, taking into account building codes, pressurization requirements, etc. This is where organizations find savings– by reducing factors like fan speeds and simultaneous heating and cooling, one of the biggest drivers of energy costs in a hospital. The end goal is to reach a point where everyone at the facility is comfortable and the energy use is at a minimum.

This is only the beginning. If the actual operations and maintenance staff at the hospital begin to operate this new system but don’t understand how the specific changes made in the retro-commissioning process work, they may be tempted to be reactionary in the day-to-day. Oftentimes, staff members override the changes in order to facilitate a specific request, rather than simply allowing the system to do its job. In some cases, we’ve even seen staff members remove or delete programming altogether. If these things happen, savings the hospital would have seen from retro-commissioning can go out the window.

For this reason, it’s very important to have staff members trained in not only how to utilize the new system but also why it matters. These trainings should be given by those who performed the retro-commissioning in order to maintain maximum savings. A general knowledge of how the facility’s energy systems work is not enough to ensure staff members understand why the system is operating the way it is after a retro-commissioning. Again, if they don’t understand why, they’ll often go right back to what they’re used to, and facility energy costs will go back to what they were as well.


To get staff members on board, there needs to be a top-down culture change. Upper management has to be on board with the retro-commissioning changes and be willing to challenge staff members who want to make overrides. This is not to say that overrides can never happen. Changes may be necessary at times to deal with hot or cold calls or other pressing issues. However, any overrides should be targeted and temporary, and it’s vital that staff members recognize this.

Meanwhile, feedback from those staff members, patients, and physicians, is also important. While outside retro-commissioning teams generally understand how hospitals operate, they also recognize each facility is different and some adjustments may be needed. That’s why constant commissioning works best. When there is a strong relationship between the facility and the people monitoring its systems, long-term success is attainable. Together, partners can ensure the hospital is operating efficiently (with its energy and its monetary resources) in a way that is truly optimized for its core mission: helping the community.


For the last decade, Ashley Downes has spent her career helping establish Bernhard’s retro-commissioning service line and now spends countless hours traveling across the United States as a steward for healthcare facilities working to save them energy costs. She is currently a director in Bernhard’s engineering division. Her team focuses on hospitals and medical centers, which during the COVID-19 pandemic have been asked to do more and stretch their facility capabilities further. With Ashley’s guidance, they can make strategic systems improvements, shift use and utility, reconsider scheduled maintenance and see savings in utility spend.

Decades of Commitment Create Thriving Schools in Lafayette Parish

Building a legacy of community excellence


A Firm Foundation

The blueprints of every education facility are crafted with the same vision – a chance to dream big and imagine the wealth of opportunity a space could offer those who walk its halls. In our 100-year history, there have been times when a project exceeds anything we could have dreamed. These special moments set the foundation for an entire community and create a new standard of life and learning.

Lafayette Parish has become a hub of innovation and imagination for education, born from special moments where a space takes on an entirely new meaning and creates something unique to spark further change and evolution.

Bernhard Involvement

For more than 50 years, Bernhard has been entrusted with mechanical and electrical construction for schools across Lafayette Parish, most recently including the Woodvale Elementary School addition, the LJ Alleman Elementary School addition, and HVAC upgrades for multiple high school gymnasiums.

In 2017, Lafayette Parish School System was experiencing rapid growth and needed a new high school to better serve the community. The new facility, Southside High School, was the first to be constructed in Lafayette Parish in nearly 50 years. Bernhard provided mechanical and electrical construction for the new high school in Youngsville, La.

“What was unique about Southside High School was how quickly it needed to be constructed,” said Doug Dorsey, Bernhard vice president. “We had to get creative since 18 months is not long to build a brand-new campus.”

To deliver the project on this aggressive schedule, Bernhard worked as a design-assist partner to construction manager Lemoine.  Design-assist is an alternative construction method that embeds contracting expertise into the design process.  This allowed construction to start as the design was being finalized.

“Our team was brought on board early in the process,” said Dorsey, “When we broke ground on the project, construction documents were only 30% complete. We developed close working relationships with the design team and were able to coordinate with them as we built the project in the field.”

Construction of Southside High School was completed on time, opening for its first class of students in August 2017. The 256,000-square-foot school contains classrooms, administrative offices, a library, laboratories, dining facility, collaboration spaces, and two gymnasiums. Southside High School serves more than 1,200 students in the parish.

The addition of HVAC service and maintenance offerings has enabled Bernhard to support Lafayette Parish School System and other clients in the Lafayette area in a new way.  “We’ve had a full coverage maintenance contract with Lafayette Parish School System for the past nine years,” said Kevin Miller, business unit manager at Bernhard. “That means we continue to maintain and repair the equipment and HVAC systems at many facilities in the district, including Southside High School.” Miller and his team service more than 3.7 million square feet for the school district.

Our Commitment

“It’s something special to be a part of,” said Dorsey. “Many of our employees have children who have grown up attending Lafayette Parish schools. To be able to say we played a part in building those facilities and keeping them operating efficiently, means a lot to all of us.”

Bernhard ultimately strives to be a trusted partner for our customers. We have been trusted with expanding and maintaining the Lafayette Parish legacy over the past five decades with innovative spaces and practices that enable the parish to promote the education and growth of our communities. We are committed not only to building these facilities of learning, but to building the future of our communities.