Bernhard’s Engineering Division Highlights Resilience and Adaptability

By Tony Robeson, Vice President – Engineering, Bernhard

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This year, a fateful one, our engineering division turns 25. In a quarter century, our design and energy engineers have helped public and nonprofit institutions such as hospitals and higher education campuses and facilities expect more from their energy systems, new construction projects and existing buildings.

We’ve scaled with our clients throughout the years, from providing traditional design services for nine-figure greenfield builds to managing monthly utilities and everything in between. We’ve helped Owners set aggressive energy savings goals, then cheered as they achieved year-over-year energy savings across entire campuses.

Since its beginning, Bernhard’s engineers have also served clients in an “on-call” capacity. A common procurement method for public institutions, these contracts are convenient for completing projects that fall below a specified dollar amount (for instance, $1 million). A team of on-call consultants stand ready for small-scale renovations on a hospital or university campus, equipment upgrades, or critical emergency-responses.

These contracts relieve administrations of some of the more tedious procurement processes for ongoing needs. Through on-call contracts we have developed long-term and strategic partnerships with our clients, helping to solve problems as their ‘boots on the ground’ and serving as an extension of their own staff, helping to plan for the future.

Owner Advocacy and New Solutions

One of Bernhard’s bedrock principles is what we call “Owner Advocacy” — advancing in design and construction the Owner’s mission, vision, and goals. An on-call relationship helps us to see that vision and adopt that mission more fully.

The problems we are helping solve today are complex and unprecedented. As many of our clients are healthcare institutions, we have mobilized our staff to create a ‘think tank’ for helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — this includes analyzing indoor air flow, ventilation and exchange rates, filtration and exhaust, even medical gas volume (oxygen) for lifesaving equipment such as ventilators. We fully immerse ourselves in the Owner’s day-to-day needs and goals so that we can provide meaningful counsel when adaptation is required.

The Parkland Project

At Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, our engineers did this for a roughly 55-bed Tactical Care Unit designed specifically for highly contagious COVID-19 sufferers.[1] We consulted with clinicians and scientists, frontline health care workers, as well as custodial and sanitation staff. Knowing that the air itself can be a vector for this virus, we worked to ensure patients in a negative-pressure isolation space had air optimized for exchange and temperature; that the opening of a door across the unit could not result in a backdraft or other interruption in airflow. We worked with staff to design spaces for the proper donning and doffing of PPE. The exhaust air pulled out of the treatment space passes through a high-tolerance HEPA filtration system to scrub contaminants so they are not able to migrate out of the patient care space.

Our goal is to be a trusted partner. That trust was established with Parkland through a large energy retro-commissioning program that saves roughly $800,000 each year. This project afforded Bernhard and the hospital familiarity, and that made our service early in their COVID-19 response fast and expert. In the end, Parkland will return to normal operations, with a census hovering north of 100% occupancy. That patient population still exists, and the moment the hospital is able to scale back on its COVID-19 response, it will have to decontaminate, readjust and return to spaces optimized for different treatment priorities. Our team will be at the ready.

Success Stories

Parkland is just one example. At Memorial Hermann in Houston we retrofitted specific rooms in its trauma centers and ER for negative-pressure isolation environments as well. In Tucson, our office made short work of complex new HVAC tubes and filtration.

At the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Bernhard provided engineering and infection control expertise, including conversion of med-surge and ICU spaces to negative pressure rooms. At another academic medical center, we provided the engineering services to transition an entire patient tower floor into 100% outside air, negative pressure rooms and ward to prepare for the sick.

These successes are a testament to our long-term relationships and our guiding principle of Owner Advocacy.

To learn more about Bernhard’s engineering services, visit Bernhard.com/engineering.

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Tony Robeson, PE, HFDP, CxA, NEBB BSC CP

Tony is a Vice President of Bernhard’s engineering division, where he leads design and commissioning teams in our Little Rock office. He has 30 years of experience in MEP design, and has been with Bernhard for more than 20 years. Tony specializes in delivering innovative engineering solutions for healthcare , higher education, and campus energy systems.

 

 

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[1] “In less than five days, the third floor of Parkland hospital was converted into a … Tactical Care Unit. The large negative pressure room maintains air flow preventing cross contamination The unit is set up kind of like a car wash — one way in and one way out — with an experienced surgical team helping staffers put on and take off their protective gear.” — KERA news

Bernhard’s Project Portfolio Positioned for New Public-Private Partnerships

The Foundations of P3 in Arkansas

By Ryan Corrigan, Director of Business Development, Bernhard

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Throughout our history, public projects like the Brooklyn Bridge or the Tennessee Valley Authority have rewarded our nation’s faith in public investment and been points of pride for our republic. Similarly, American commercial enterprises have always been called upon to meet truly national aims, such as Bath Ironworks during World War II, or IBM and Douglas Aircraft throughout the moon race. Some assets truly are public in service and scope, but that doesn’t mean private enterprise isn’t best oriented to design and build, operate, even own these public goods.

Seeing this potential, in 2017, the State of Arkansas wrote and approved Act 813, the Partnership for Public Facilities and Infrastructure Act, that provides public-private partnerships, from design-build projects to energy savings or asset agreements to sale-leaseback (and lease-leaseback) arrangements. More recently, this spring, the state Department of Transformation and Shared Services published the final PPFIA rules. Qualifying project types include state-funded colleges and universities, libraries, hospitals, even ports and water supply systems, and many others.

Many of these facilities are facing a “perfect storm” of rising needs and declining resources. Higher education, for instance, is continually budgeting for upgrades and renovations to aging structures and infrastructure even as institutions project flattening or declining state and local tax revenue, and enrollment.

What is private enterprise if not the search for a competitive market solution to a need that’s unmet? At Bernhard, we’ve been assessing the ways public institutions can address deferred maintenance and construction projects in order to move forward, and we’ve outlined a few advantages to forging public-private partnerships.

Risk transfer

By transferring energy upgrades, maintenance and other costs to a private entity, through public-private partnerships, state agencies are also transferring risks. A massive advantage in these agreements is that the private entity assumes the risk from damage and performance of these energy systems, thus removing both liability and operational forecasts from institutions’ portfolios.

Any large employer is also a large maintainer of systems, from energy to parking, that are not mission-critical and, therefore, placed as a lower priority. By transferring risk associated with these assets to a private partner, universities, hospitals and agencies can redirect resources to further their core mission and create savings along the way.

Private-sector financing

Government bonds are a major investment instrument, but when it comes to financing construction projects, they’re cumbersome. One of the major advantages of P3s for building new, large public facilities is the ability of the private sector to finance them quickly and nimbly.

P3s can help fix costs for public institutions facing austere budgets and hard decisions. Historically, bids for capital projects left institutions with lingering questions and budget unknowns around operations and maintenance costs. In P3 arrangements, costs are known and fixed over the life of the contract.

At Bernhard, we have a team deft at finding financing solutions for large capital projects, many with 20-to-50-year ROI horizons, as well as dedicated project managers who’ve saved clients millions of dollars — a vital component in today’s environment.

Meeting the backlog of deferred maintenance

P3s are uniquely suited to address deferred maintenance issues. A private sector partner is keen to perform maintenance that sustains assets for their full-service life, and any P3 contract will stipulate appropriate service levels and performance standards for the duration.

While public agencies budget on an annual cycle that often pushes maintenance off, private companies plan to implement efficiencies early and often over the life of systems. Moreover, they’ll invest in costly upgrades if it means offsetting costs later in life.

Performance-based design, operation

Simply put, P3s allow public sector decision-makers to bid projects based not on upfront costs but best-in-class systems, projecting performance out over the life of an asset. That hasn’t been a driving factor in public construction projects. Traditionally, though contractors may offer a short warranty, afterward, the building’s “performance” was the responsibility of the owner. With a P3, the building’s “performance” is now a contractual obligation of the private partner.

For higher education institutions, projects can have an educational component, or support a trend that aligns with the mission of the institution. As an example, they can offer reimagined energy systems on university campuses by way of conservation (“green”) technology. Higher education institutions can realize financial benefits from an investment that also serves as an engineering showpiece for both the university community and visiting scholars or benefactors.

Public prosperity

Some opposed to public-private partnerships ask why public administrators and elected officials would give away public assets so that private companies may profit.

Firms such as Bernhard endeavor to create P3s largely to bring such projects to market. Deferred maintenance is bad for the administrators, faculty and students of a college or university because they cannot enjoy state-of-the-art systems and technology upgrades, but they’re also bad for engineers and builders who wish to embark on such projects.

Arkansas finished its legal framework at an opportune time. As states reopen, P3s can be a way to jumpstart economies. Forging new partnerships that break ground on projects will be an essential part of our return to normal.

To learn more about Arkansas’ new P3 regulations from experienced experts, register for our upcoming webinar.

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Ryan Corrigan, PE, CEM, CxA

Ryan is a Director of Business Development for Bernhard with 12 years of experience in the industry. He is a registered Professional Engineer, Certified Energy Manager and Certified Commissioning Authority. Ryan has expertise in the analysis and retrofit of existing facilities with an emphasis on energy infrastructure. He has worked with clients to increase system reliability on healthcare, higher education, industrial, local and municipal campuses.

Workplace Safety and Readiness at Bernhard

By Jeremy Tucker, Director of Operational Services, Bernhard

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At Bernhard, we continually refine safety procedures to improve routine operations and to better prepare for action during a crisis. Earlier this year, when the stock market was at an all-time high and operating budgets across most markets were healthy and predictable, our industry-leading safety program was in full effect helping achieve record operational performance. Like any company, we’ve had to pivot, but we were able to leverage an organizational approach to safety that we’d adopted over the years.

Safety is our cornerstone. We understand that influencing safe behavior and safe decision-making at every level is crucial to creating the culture that we have. Our hope is to influence people to draw on S.A.F.E. work goals beyond the workplace and into the community, or “See it, Assess it, Fix it, Every day.” This phrase is an easy mnemonic to orient us toward a safe and healthy work environment, and safeguard all persons who enter, work or live near our job sites. Sounds basic, doesn’t it? This simple phrase has had a profound impact on our business and has helped us navigate the pandemic. Our Operational Response Team implemented a robust mitigation plan for essential workers to continue operations and provided guidance for others working from home. As we plan to mitigate coronavirus-related risks throughout the rest of this year and the next, Bernhard is consulting with clients and implementing additional internal controls as conditions change.

All employees within our construction division remain vigilant at work and continue to share improvement ideas for mitigation efforts. These meaningful conversations promote leadership and empower employees with real time solutions from the front line, allowing Bernhard to maintain strong processes and controls to safeguard them while minimizing the risk of a significant disruption to our customers.

Workplace Safety, Broadly

For us, safety begins with planning, carries through our execution of work, and includes an assessment of the result.  Many other activities and emphasis occur along the way but this cycle provides us with stability to rely on and flexibility to modify our approach when needed.  Both are currently in high demand.

  1. Planning – High level and task specific plans enlist supervisors and workers to collaborate.
  2. Execution Each worker is called upon to perform their respective role and report progress to the group.
  3. Assessment – Team leaders evaluate the group’s performance and provide feedback and direction.
  4. Action – Feedback is shared with all levels of the team and areas needing correction are addressed.

Workplace Safety, Coronavirus

It has not been easy for some organizations to adapt during this difficult time. Many have had to reduce the very resources that have helped them thrive in recent past. Bernhard has had to adapt but has done so in a way that prepares us for the next cycle, RECOVERY. By using the improvement process, promoting transparent communication with trusted resources, and relying on a safety first culture we are slated to better impact the communities we help build.

Today, we are more committed to serving our clients’ engineering, construction and energy needs with safety at the core of our work. Every project with Bernhard is backed by our assurance of the safest controls to protect our employees, our work, and the communities we serve. To learn more about our safety program click here, or call (225) 706-9280.

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Jeremy Tucker, SMS, CRIS, STSC

Jeremy is the Director of Operational Services for Bernhard’s Mechanical Division. With over 10 years of experience, Jeremy holds credentials as a Certified HealthCare Manager, Construction Risk and Insurance Specialist, and is a board-certified Safety Management Specialist.

 

Offload Energy Operations, Costs for Patient Care

During a national health crisis, hospitals and medical centers must focus on their core mission of patient care— Energy-as-a-Service can help

By Ed Tinsley, Bernhard CEO

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When we measure hospital capacity, we count beds. Operating budgets and square footage are sweeping measures of hospital size, but bed counts stand in for patient care, and patients are the purpose. As city and state leaders work with operators to maximize bed counts in anticipation of peak COVID-19 admittances in 30-60 days, hospital administrators are throwing out last year’s balance sheets.

For instance, hospitals and medical centers have reduced higher-margin elective procedures and outpatient surgeries. This loss, coupled with static or rising operating costs, and lower non-operating revenue from investments, will impede the pandemic response. Operating cash flow, net position, days cash-on-hand, even credit worthiness is at risk.

How do we optimize medicine when resources are thinnest?

At Bernhard, we have been implementing a way for hospitals and medical centers to offload a critical piece of operations that has little to do with direct patient care, and nothing at all to do with doctors and administrators — energy.

Energy-as-a Service (EaaS) is a partnership between energy systems experts and professionals in entirely different business verticals who are saddled with facility operations. Our systems engineers evaluate water, electrical, heating and air conditioning systems in order to optimize performance, conserve energy and generate cost savings. EaaS providers like Bernhard create custom improvements so that clients may shift capital back to their core. For hospitals, that’s patient care.

EaaS was created in response to the prolonged “perfect storm” that has confronted the healthcare industry for years. Consider its value, beginning on Day 1:

  • Asset Monetization U.S. hospitals need critical liquidity to meet the daily challenges of operation, and EaaS shifts energy systems from the maintenance-expense column to one that monetizes the asset. EaaS providers buy the right to use the hospital’s energy infrastructure, offering an immediate injection of cash at a cost of capital less than the hospital’s current incremental borrowing rate. For many, the arrangement equates to 50-100 days cash-on-hand.
  • Risk Transfer EaaS transfers the risks associated with plant maintenance, operation, and most of all, scheduled upgrade and capital improvement plans so health providers can be laser-focused on their core mission during this national health emergency.
  • Infrastructure Renewal EaaS immediately offloads critical systems repairs and renewal while cutting energy expenses. EaaS providers are there to serve facilities in the event of a surge in inpatient census.
  • Balance Sheet Flexibility EaaS is structured to be off-balance-sheet for hospital auditors, preserving key credit metrics and satisfying administrators’ aversion to long-term debt.

Further, Bernhard is positioned to provide qualified, trained technicians to run HVAC and plumbing systems when employees are unavailable to work. For Trauma Center-level hospitals around the nation, we help them functionally reallocate critical manpower and budgeting back into care.

These clients are facing a capacity shortage, and we’ve seen EaaS play a critical role:

  • Jumpstarting energy systems in previously unused structures, wings or floor space that create additional emergency response locations.
  • Managing energy and utility operations of any health care provider, from midsize clinics to campuses.

Bernhard has served healthcare, educational, government, commercial and industrial clients nationally for more than 100 years, and today, we are working with those clients and partners to plan and execute a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contact us today to learn more about Bernhard and how we can step in and build capacity while improving conditions at this critical moment, or to speak with a Bernhard expert about ways we elevate operations.

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Ed Tinsley, PE, CEM, LEED AP, HFDP, CHFM, CHC

As CEO of Bernhard, Ed leads a multi-disciplinary team through development and execution of large-scale, turnkey energy conservation projects. He is a dedicated leader in the industry for his innovative energy conservation solutions and has more than 38 years of experience in facilities engineering.

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER:  The information provided in this article was prepared solely for informational purposes and should not be construed as an offer or solicitation to buy or sell to participate in any transaction. The information provided is not intended to be a source of advice or credit analysis with respect to the material presented, and the information contained herein does not constitute investment advice.

Five Steps to Achieve Your Facility’s New Year Resolution

It’s never too late to work on your New Year’s resolutions! Today, we’re going look at how you can determine your facility’s resolution and make 2020 a year of success.

Step 1: Identify what your facility is trying to change. We all have the best intentions, but it’s important to articulate a specific goal that is measurable and can be achieved within a certain time period.  Attaching a metric to a goal is key for staying on track for success. There are many variables that can be used to measure facility performance. It’s important to narrow your focus and select key metrics that matter most this year.

For example, one of the most common metrics for building energy performance is Site EUI. When major changes are implemented, like controls modifications or equipment upgrades, you will likely see the results in the EUI. This puts you in the driver’s seat to affect positive change. Other examples of key metrics could be: cost per square foot, equipment up-time or availability, number of occupant complaints, square foot per FTE, or number of work orders addressed.

Step 2: Establish a baseline. Before you launch new initiatives, reflect on your facility’s performance and get an accurate understanding of your current state and challenges. Always gather a full year of information, whether it’s a calendar year or fiscal year, so that you can see how your facility operates during each season. Compare your data and identify what has changed during that year.

Ask yourself:

  • Has the campus’ square footage changed?
  • Are any recent changes impacting energy consumption?
  • Are there any expansions planned during this upcoming year?

The answers to these questions will impact your metrics and need to be considered as you’re setting goals.

Next, collect and compile data for all of the major items you want to track. Utility bills, CMMS data, and your O&M budget are all great places to start with data collection. It’s important to establish one key place for this information to live. This may be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet or as complex as a real-time analytics dashboard. Adapt this process to your needs to make sure your baselines are accurate and work for what you want to achieve.

Step 3: Make those changes! Much like in our personal lives, there isn’t one resolution that fits every facility.  Once you understand your recurring challenges and the metrics you want to impact, then you can develop a strategy to solve them. Your strategy will be unique to your facility, your staff, and your budget. Some examples include controls upgrades, equipment replacements, or specialized staff training. The building automation system is one place to check for “low-hanging fruit” changes that you can implement like room ventilation schedules or energy-saving sequences of operation.

If you need help identifying energy savings measures, Bernhard can help identify areas that need improvement and what savings you can expect from your upgrades.

Step 4: Measure your progress. Regular measurement and verification of your metrics is key to make sure the changes you implement are bringing you closer to your facility’s goal. There are different methods for measuring savings and tools of all kinds to help you.

  • ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is an easy way to get normalized data that factors in weather conditions or days in the month along with your energy consumption. After uploading your information, the site will calculate a score that indicates your performance compared to your peers.
  • Third party consultants to provide measurement and verification reporting that is tailored to your facility and project.
  • The International Performance Measurement & Verification Protocol (IPMVP) provides parameters for facilities to quantify their savings depending on the project complexity and expected savings.
  • Track savings on your own using the same types of data you’ve already collected in this process.

The frequency of your reporting is another consideration when measuring energy savings. Annual, monthly, and daily reporting all have their own benefits, so choose the method that best supports the business case for your initiatives.

  • Annual reporting provides a long-term look and year-over-year comparisons to the baseline.
  • Monthly reporting is a financial tool that can validate your changes by looking at actual consumption as shown on utility invoices. It gives you time to adapt strategies and make sure the facility is making progress.
  • Daily reporting is an operational tool that looks at what is happening now and answers the question: “Did the choices we made yesterday help performance today?”

Always be sure that key facility metrics, like gross square footage, FTEs, are correct because these numbers can skew the accuracy of your results. You’ll also want to normalize data over long periods of time to account for fluctuations like extra days in a month or unusual weather patterns.

Step 5: Celebrate your wins and lessons learned! Keep your team informed by sharing your results and lessons learned. You can use reports and progress of key metrics to give your team and leadership hands-on feedback on the facility’s performance. By openly discussing what works and what doesn’t, you can continue to try new strategies to optimize operations and move the needle of building performance.

Want more?
To learn more about measurement and verification options and other ways Bernhard can help with energy optimization at your facility, you can reach us at Bernhard.com/contact.