Discover the Benefits Prefabrication and Manufacturing Can Have on Your Project

By: Charles A. Visser, PE at Bernhard

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It’s no secret that over the last 20 years we have seen a significant increase in the usage and dependency on technology. The access to information and ease in which we can communicate has revolutionized most businesses. It has also created an environment where people expect immediate results. The construction industry is no different, we see an increasing demand for projects to be delivered quicker and with less risk.

One solution: build a better product out of sequence and away from the constraints of the project site. It sounds too easy, right? Fortunately, the same technological advances that created the new expectations has provided us a path to a solution. Through extensive collaboration, information sharing, and willingness to make timely decisions, prefabrication and modular construction strategies become viable solutions to the common drivers of safety, quality, speed, and risk.

It is important to note that we define prefabrication as the off-site construction of building system components in a manufacturing environment.  Prefabricated building system components can be combined to create larger modular building assemblies.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” Benjamin Franklin

A successful off-site construction plan needs a vision. Work with project stakeholders and answer a few basic questions.

  • What safety aspects of the project can be improved by off-site construction?
  • How can building systems be routed to optimize long term maintenance?
  • Are there any trades that will have a difficult time getting quality field labor?
  • What repetitive activities can be completed away from the project site?

Opportunities for prefabrication can range from pre-assembling plumbing rough-in for bathroom groups, building pump and equipment skids, horizontal utility distribution, and complete central utility plants. Multi-trade assemblies can be manufactured by grouping multiple building sub-system components together into a single “module”.

The fabrication vision and list of potential opportunities will assist in guiding the project’s key stakeholders, including the design team, in the process. This up-front effort of planning and coordination for off-site manufacturing means engineers and designers can more easily incorporate prefabricating concepts and components into the design.  Alternative project delivery methods, like design-assist and design-build, unite the design and construction team members earlier in the process and help achieve complete buy-in.

“In every situation, ideation is necessary, but decision is mandatory.” Chris Knutson

With limited availability of skilled labor, prefabrication allows construction teams to be more productive and deliver better results. Manufacturing multi-trade assemblies for use in a hospital corridor, for example, means a handful of on-site field staff can install thousands of feet of mechanical, plumbing and electrical distribution in a single work day.

The results can be extraordinary, however, no matter what your prefabrication vision is, and how much planning you do, it will be difficult to be successful without timely decision making. The timeliness of making a decision can easily outweigh the importance of how good the decision is for the project. Understand all of the activities that need to take place in order to deliver the manufactured product to the project site in time for installation. Instead of creating a schedule with only activities shown, try creating a milestone schedule that lists all of the key decisions and dates they need to be made by.  It is a simple solution but can help keep the team on track and realize success.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller

Executing a successful off-site construction plan needs a strong team. Partners who have the soft skills to effectively share the vision, work collaboratively and plan extensively will play a vital role. Another important attribute, that isn’t obvious and can be difficult to measure, is a trade partner’s ability to problem solve.  Diverse experience and perspective naturally challenges conventional practices to produce innovation. The versatility and strength of the project team is crucial to executing a successful off-site construction plan.

The most important hard skills include fabrication experience, building information modeling (BIM) and overall construction intelligence. BIM software has become a common platform that teams leverage to communicate and document prefabrication concepts.  A diverse team that possesses these skills along with the soft skills mentioned have the tools to be successful.

“Before the reward there must be labor. You plant before you harvest. You sow in tears before you reap joy.” Ralph Ransom

Prefabrication and manufacturing have the ability to move a significant percentage of the labor activities off-site. Fabricating components off-site reduces the number of tasks that must be completed on the construction site. This reduces the pressure on finding skilled workers in an ever-changing economy.

Additionally, prefabrication enhances job-site safety and quality control for crew members. The modules are designed to be more compact and delivered to the job site with everything needed for installation. This significantly reduces overhead tasks, eliminates daily mobilization and de-mobilization activities, and reduces the number of on-site materials and equipment needed for installation. Less work completed in the field means lower risk of injury and a safer job site overall.

For mechanical construction, starting the scope of work earlier in the project means it can be completed out of sequence compared to traditional, linear project delivery. This results in earlier completion dates and increased flexibility in the project schedule.

Prefabrication and modular construction strategies are becoming more popular and can significantly improve a project’s outcome. Establishing a clear vision, leveraging timely decision making, and building partnerships will help ensure success. How much of your next project will consist of prefabricated components?

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Charles (Chuck) Visser has more than 20 years of experience in engineering design, pre-construction, and construction. Currently an Executive Vice President at Bernhard, Chuck has managed pre-construction and engineering for several large-scale projects in hospitality, healthcare, higher education, and commercial sectors. He specializes in design-assist and design-build delivery, working collaboratively across project stakeholders to deliver the best possible solution for the customer. Chuck is a registered Professional Engineer and brings exemplary leadership and technical expertise to his role at Bernhard.

Building Resilience to Weather the Storm – Literally

By: Jessi Bienert, Bernhard’s VP of Sustainable Solutions

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A 500-Year Storm

The North American winter storm (unofficially referred to as Winter Storm Uri) was a major winter and ice storm that had widespread impacts across the United States, Northern Mexico and parts of Canada from February 13 to 17, 2021. This once-in-500-years storm left 10 million people without power and Middle America was hit hard. Hospitals were among the most critical institutions impacted.

Hospitals in particular have unique interdependencies in their utility types. Power, water, heating, and more are intricately connected in healthcare facilities and any impact to one type of utility could mean disaster. Winter Storm Uri uncovered multiple vulnerabilities in the infrastructure serving hospitals and caused cascading effects. However, many of these issues can be mitigated by effective and efficient energy measures paired with good operations and maintenance practices.

The extreme cold affected gas markets from Texas to Minnesota leading to once-in-a-lifetime gas prices at extreme highs. Multiple electricity wholesale markets also spiked while its infrastructure reached emergency operating levels. In fact, wholesale electricity markets rose anywhere from 100x to 360x normal market prices.

The Brink

In this condition, both electricity and gas distributions were on the brink of shutting down. Hospitals, particularly in the southern states of North America, battled extreme market prices, the inability to receive additional diesel fuel for backup systems and frozen water infrastructure causing loss of water.

This storm affected all utilities because of the interconnection between natural gas, electricity and water. While some hospitals lost utilities for short periods of time, many experienced catastrophic impacts to utility budgets, which have only begun to be realized. In February alone, hospitals saw anywhere from a 65% to 5,000% increase in gas costs. Their inability to mitigate this price shock stemmed from a few key factors:

  • Extreme cold weather forced peak natural gas consumption at peak prices.
  • There was a lack of price signals from utilities.
  • Freeze protection measures and pandemic operations increased peak energy consumption.

Short-Term Impacts

With these factors at play, the situation became dire. Short-term impacts were felt in extreme budget strains, water leaks, negative impacts from energy-saving measures and demand response obligations. One Bernhard client, the University of Arkansas of Medical Sciences (UAMS), purchases natural gas as part of a large pool in Arkansas. While we did explore opportunities to cut back on natural gas during the storm, this set-up enabled the hospital to stay out of the skyrocketing market. Unfortunately, our team at Bernhard saw other hospitals that were not in a pool arrangement incur costs that doubled their annual natural gas budget.

Pragmatically, many facilities in the southern United States were not created to survive such a freeze. That explains why leaks occurred and frozen pipes caused issues for facilities. Many were caught immediately, but underground pipes were not initially observed. Careful monitoring was necessary in the short-term, but is also a consideration for continued management.

During the storm, UAMS ran their facilities on diesel fuel on three occasions in order to reduce the peak load on the power grid serving central Arkansas. However, this actually increased natural gas usage in some ways. The facility’s two heat-pump chillers are unable to run while the facility was on generator power so the hospital still needed to run their natural gas boilers.

Since 2007, UAMS has implemented a strong energy conservation program, reducing its total utility cost by about 65% and cutting its carbon footprint by 30% with Bernhard’s help. But even the most prepared and energy-conscious organizations were greatly impacted by the weather crisis. Many of these occurred due to overcorrections that were never reverted post-crisis. With extensive, consistent monitoring using tools like automatic fault detection, facility operators can automatically identify energy concerns.

Long-Term Impacts

We are still discovering and experiencing the long-term impacts of Winter Storm Uri. Budget concerns will continue to impact future plans for many hospitals. From a legislative perspective (especially in Texas, but also in Oklahoma, Arkansas and other states), there are cascading impacts. Current legislation examines grid reliability and generation assessments, new weatherization requirements, changes to critical customer status, new bond programs and existing utility generation assessments.

On the electricity side, many hospitals take interruptible electricity. This gives them price breaks from their utilities, but means they can be required to cut back from or come off of the grid. On the gas side, most hospitals look for interruptible-type rates, but when that’s not possible, there are provisions and inclusions that actually make you curtailable. In this arrangement, it is imperative that you have a backup utility. All of these factors are important to pay attention to until we see how tariffs and utility rules are changed.

Increased utility rates are one of the many long-term concerns. During this storm, electricity saw high fuel costs as the market costs peaked. While the market stabilized in the short-term, fuel costs are rising again due to storage shortfalls brought about by Winter Storm Uri, those fuel costs will begin cascading down into your electricity costs as a fuel charge. Some states, like Oklahoma, approved new bond programs to allow utility companies to borrow money at a low interest rate so customers can pay over a longer period of time. As a result, the impact will be felt for 13-24 years with a 4-7% cost for electricity, just from those harrowing eleven days.

With so much storage withdrawn during the storm, commodity prices have not come back down to what we saw in 2020. We will continue to see sustained higher pricing in the long-term. Additionally, some utilities have filed to amend their integrative resource plan. This is a long-term plan for generation capacity and they want to amend it to move away from natural gas. This will impact how the cost gets passed down to customers as well and potentially reduce reliance on natural gas for electricity production.

Current Investigations

In the affected areas, most attorney general offices are investigating price gouging and general utility purchasing practices. In Arkansas, for example, the state commission has opened a docket examining how and if utilities are prepared to respond to a storm like this and how the fuel and purchase power is procured and allocated.

There are also federal investigations that look into wrongdoing in the natural gas market. It cost hospitals, customers and utilities billions of dollars, but there are people who made money. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), which regulates the electric grid, is working alongside the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to understand the rolling blackouts, both in Texas and two regional transmission markets (covering the entire central United States).

Mitigating Future Risk

For hospitals, patients always come first. There are ways to mitigate future risk and it starts with communication. It’s vital to create a line of communication between commodity suppliers and facility personnel. Your local provider may be focused on keeping you online, but not concerned with the costs. Some of our customers hedged up to 90% of their natural gas and were still heavily impacted by the storm. It’s important to understand how you are purchasing natural gas and understand its impact in a situation like this storm. Review your commodity price risk mitigation plans and make a plan for possible emergency flow orders by keeping your nominations up to date.

Be aware your supplier often takes your monthly nominations and spreads them evenly throughout the month. That’s why it’s important to reduce consumption in non-critical areas and talk to those commodity managers to be sure you’re monitoring closely together. Very practically, you should ensure unoccupied areas are scheduled to minimum heating for freeze protection. We recommend checking this and the maintenance of your steam distribution year-round. One failed steam trap can increase your natural gas consumption by 20%.

Dual-fuel operations are vital, but in order for this to work properly, operators must be comfortable swapping to either fuel. Run each type regularly and check your diesel storage tanks to make sure you have enough fuel for an extended period of time.

Waste heat recovery technology, such as heat-pump chillers, will reduce consumption. Bernhard has clients that realize natural gas savings of more than 50% thanks to this equipment. Plate and frame heat exchangers are excellent tools for efficiency and they are even more important on the heels of this storm. Some of these measures can be time-consuming if you don’t have good control systems, so controls upgrades are a vital part of creating efficiencies.

Other key mitigation measures include:

  • Maintaining override logs.
  • Managing peak energy consumption.
  • Investigating electricity programs that subsidize full back-up power during an NERC level 2 and 3 emergency
  • Creating a historical reference guide of utilities failures including cause and detailed procedures to restore.
  • Completing vulnerability and gap analysis for utility sources and distribution.

Lessons Learned

Interdependency between hospital utility types can have catastrophic effects on cost and availability during extreme weather. Now more than ever, we are aware that regulated utilities do not protect consumers from market price spikes; in fact, costs can simply be delayed. Most importantly, there are operational steps that can be taken to mitigate utility price impacts, such as energy efficiency measures. These measures can create resilient facilities against volatile commodity prices, especially when paired with good operations and maintenance practices.

About the Author:

Jessi Bienert has worked at Bernhard since 2009 and most recently served as a Director for the Logic group where she oversaw Bernhard’s measurement and verification, utility analysis, utility management, benchmarking, and O&M training service lines. She is an expert in utility management and specializes in utility rate analysis for large-scale campus energy conservation programs. Jessi is passionate about her work and often advocates on behalf of clients with utility providers to secure the best possible utility rate solutions.

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How a Bernhard Crew Stuck Together, Became Family, and Built the Raleigh Skyline

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As new projects are started, it’s common in the contracting industry for a crew to shuffle their roster with new incoming workers while outbound members join new teams on different projects. This may be the norm for some, but certainly hasn’t been for one Bernhard crew in North Carolina.

A group of 26 crewmembers have stayed together and are finishing their third project in the Raleigh area with plans to stay together for a fourth.

“I haven’t seen anything like it,” said Stacy McKillips, superintendent. “There is definitely a culture here now where we have more of a family than a crew.”

Beginning in July 2017, the crew of 26 has worked on three high-rise apartment buildings (two in Raleigh and one in Durham) totaling more than 1.4 million square feet and 84 stories. North Carolina residents will have seen the result of the crew’s work over the years with the construction of Durham City Center, FNB Tower, and one of the tallest high-rises in the North Hills area, Kane Tower, a 35-story residential tower that is projected to be completed in April 2022. These buildings are some of the latest in Bernhard’s storied 20+ year history working in the Carolinas.

The group of mostly plumbers, sheet metal workers, and pipefitters, includes multiple father-and-son pairs, a father-daughter duo, and even a set of identical twins.

“Even though each person is different and there are so many different backgrounds, everyone gets along,” said Chris Esposito, plumbing superintendent. “Ego gets left at the door immediately and everyone understands they are on the same team and the same level. With that mindset, each member is held accountable and that has created some incredible results.”

The expertise of the group and track record of success is part of what keeps them together. Leveraging the team as a one-of-a-kind asset has increased the demand for their high-quality work.

“We’ve had a pretty impressive run where one project ends and then we’re ready to go onto the next one all in the same region,” said McKillips. “Everyone agrees it makes sense to keep this team together. The results speak for themselves.”

Aside from the connections the workers have made with each other, supervisors and managers have benefitted from the continuity just as much.

“Each job you’ll usually go through learning periods and have to hope the crew catches on quickly,” said McKillips. “These projects don’t have that trial and error period. No one has to play catch up, which greatly increases our efficiency.”

It also enables the team to employ creative solutions to project challenges. For construction of Kane Tower, Bernhard installed piping as individual floors were built to meet demands of an aggressive timeline. This work, along with off-site manufacturing of key mechanical and plumbing components, has helped put the project four months ahead of schedule.

Without a dramatic learning curve, the project site has also become safer, which is always Bernhard’s top priority.

“When you work with new crewmembers, you don’t know what their habits are,” said Pablo Gomez, foreman. “I know exactly the training everyone on this crew has received and I know they practice safe procedures because of our time working with them. That level of comfort allows us to focus on our task with the trust that we are all doing what we’re supposed to.”

The team’s collective experience and knowledge of safety practices is a trademark of Bernhard’s approach to a safer workspace. Bernhard instills safety at every job site with an industry-leading safety training program geared to maintain a safe and healthy work environment, safeguard all persons who enter, work, or live near worksites, and meet or exceed regulatory standards.

The team is scheduled to begin work in 2022 on The Cardinal at North Hills East Tower addition. The 453,390-square-foot building will bring 18 stories of residences and upscale amenities to The Cardinal senior living community. The project is located just blocks away from Kane Tower.

Although the crew are professionals with decades of experience and projects between them, they admit to feeling a sense of pride with what they’ve accomplished together.

“I catch myself noticing the skyline when I drive down the highway,” said Gomez. “It brings back a lot of memories of days on the job with people I now consider good friends.”

If you are interested in opportunities in the craft job market and would like to know more about the benefits of a career with Bernhard, visit bernhard.com/careers for more information.

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Job Market Exploding Across the United States for Craft Workers as Previous Generation Nears Retirement

By: Craft Recruiting Team at Bernhard

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Anyone living in major cities across the United States is sure to have noticed the increasing amount of construction projects around them. Cranes and new high-rise buildings are filling city skylines and the construction industry as a whole is expected to see more than 12% growth (compared to 7% for all other occupations), according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. With heightened employment opportunities and industry growth expected on the horizon, why are recruiters expressing concern?

“We’re about to see a large chunk of the craft workforce entering that retirement age,” said Ralph Stingo, North Carolina Business Unit Manager. “There could be a mass exodus of the workforce and that includes mostly upper management and supervisors.”

In a 2017 report by the National Center for Construction Education and Research, it was projected that 41% of the construction workforce will enter retirement by 2031. An already expanding industry with nearly half of the workforce retiring will create an enormous job market for career-hungry job seekers. This level of opportunity for placement and promotion may not be seen again in the industry.

“This will be an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for anyone entering the job market,” said Philip Garcia Jr., Executive Vice President at Bernhard. “Craft work is an incredibly quick track to a secure a career immediately after school or in some cases, you can enter your career and receive training while on the job.”

Bernhard believes training for craft employees will only add to the high quality standards the company has and as such, offers craft training and apprenticeship programs at several locations around the country.

2021 has seen a 46% increase in trade-based jobs since the same time last year and Bernhard is uniquely situated to offer a career for those seeking a start in the construction sector. Out of the estimated 1 million crewmember jobs in the United States, Bernhard has offices in 33% of the locations including the largest markets of Texas and Florida.

“Location versatility is a huge bonus for Bernhard,” said Richard Purcell, East Coast Labor Coordinator at Bernhard. “Someone interested in this career would have unparalleled flexibility on where they choose to work.”

Those new to a career in craft work can also expect a multitude of other quality of life and professional perks craft employees at Bernhard enjoy:

  • Comprehensive benefit package including competitive pay rates, health benefits, PTO, Holiday pay, and 401k employer match.
  • Paid, on the job, industry and trade specific training and testing, that not only supports continued skills development, but also career advancement within Bernhard.
  • A safe and hazard-free work environment. Bernhard prides itself on creating and implementing the most current safety practices on all of its office and work-sites.

“Because we are in the industry every day, it’s easy for us to see the trends and project these huge moments that others may not be aware of,” said Patrick Sanders, General Superintendent in Florida at Bernhard. “I hope those in trade schools and apprenticeships right now realize the opportunity that’s in front of them.”

If you are interested in opportunities in the craft job market and would like to know more about the benefits of a career with Bernhard, visit bernhard.com/careers for more information.

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Bernhard Instrumental in First C-PACE Project in New York City and Largest in the United States

By: Ryan Hoff, PE, CEM, Project Manager at Bernhard

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When we think of improvements, we often think of “bigger, better, faster, stronger.” Instead, perhaps we should be determining when less actually becomes more. Bernhard and Petros Partners recently demonstrated that less is more when it comes to carbon emissions and less traditional loan financing.

Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) financing is at the core of this new philosophy. C-PACE is a program created to give building owners a path to finance projects that increase building efficiency (and therefore reduce energy use and carbon emissions and create more sustainable buildings). This program is unique because the financing can fund up to 100% of all project costs that contribute to energy use improvement and it’s now available in a majority of states.

Although paramount to the process, financing is just one part of the deal. C-PACE needs an energy model of the project’s baseline, design building and an evaluation of the project budget in order to move forward. That’s where Bernhard’s team of experts come into the picture. Bernhard has been providing these crucial energy audits for C-PACE financing since 2017 and we work hard to fully understand the differences of each state’s C-PACE program to help determine the maximum amount of financing for which a project is eligible.

To date, 38 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to allow the use of C-PACE financing. For most states, the savings over the term of the loan must exceed the total loan principal. The recent, historic project in New York will do just that. This project at 111 Wall Street will retrofit the 900,000-sqare-foot tower for efficiency, resiliency, and local law compliance. Not only is this the first C-PACE project in New York City, but it is also the largest C-PACE loan in United States history. It is estimated to save $3.0 million in annual energy costs and avoid $850,000 in annual Local Law 97 fines starting in 2030.

According to Real Estate Weekly, by 2030 the program will create 689 green jobs and reduce 447,600 metric tons of CO2e from our atmosphere, an equivalent of taking 97,344 passenger cars off the road for a year.

For this groundbreaking project, Petros Partners is the financial group providing the loan and Bernhard provided the energy audit. The building was flooded during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and ownership has struggled to operate at anything exceeding 50% occupancy. The building required a major renovation and a final decision was made to creatively combine C-PACE financing with standard loans to complete the work.

Energy improvements included:

  • Replacing all existing lighting with LED lighting
  • Redesigning and replacing a majority of the existing HVAC system with modern energy efficient systems
  • Replacing all existing plumbing fixtures with new low-flow fixtures
  • Replacing all existing elevators with new high-efficient elevator system
  • Abatement and removal of hazardous asbestos containing material

Along with the estimated energy and operation costs, the project is estimated to decrease carbon emissions by 42%. The energy conservation project is being paired with an architectural renovation that anticipates enabling the building to reach full occupancy again. The aging infrastructure, high energy utility rates, and Local Law 97 all make New York City a prime market for additional C-PACE projects, and the 111 Wall Street project is a clear example of how successful they can be.

This is just one example demonstrating how Bernhard can help building owners pursue C-PACE. Our team of experts have completed C-PACE energy audits in 13 different states and have identified more than $830 million of C-PACE financing for our clients. Our projects have ranged from $1 million to $89 million and have included new construction or renovations in buildings such as:

  • Offices
  • Apartments
  • Hotels
  • Sports complexes
  • Warehouses
  • Hospitals

If a project is ongoing, our experts are able to partner with a financial group and identify the amount of C-PACE for which the project is eligible. If determining energy savings opportunities or the replacement of aging infrastructure is the goal, Bernhard has a full mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) design team with an emphasis on sustainability, which works to:

  • Identify the energy conservation measures
  • Make a business case for energy efficiency
  • Design the project
  • Provide PACE energy audit
  • Provide commissioning
  • Provide measurement and verification

We have specialized expertise in energy audits for C-PACE financed projects and we know how to help you maximize your budget, leverage savings and be part of creating a more sustainable future. Learn more about our commercial energy audit services here.

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Bernhard Connect Modernizing Energy Data Management with Customers in Mind

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Throughout its storied 100-year history, Bernhard has consistently shown a commitment to innovation with the ability to adapt and evolve to best fit the industry’s needs. Innovation and improvements big and small have created the expertise and talent we know at Bernhard today.

Recently, facility managers have truly began to harness the power of energy and performance data and analytics, but are burdened with outdated tech and a cumbersome user interface. Bernhard leaned on their willingness to innovate and set out to modernize the available technology.

“This hasn’t been a traditionally high-technology industry,” said Stephen Heard, Senior Director of Software Development at Bernhard. “We hope by modernizing the services we’ve performed for decades, we can be the driving force for a technological revolution.”

Bernhard Connect is the culmination of years of experience in engineering analysis, measurement and verification, and automatic fault detection. Developers have taken their experience and built a scalable, performant platform that executes at a level not previously possible. Bernhard Connect is modern software that has been built using underlying engineering techniques that have been honed over the last decade.

How Connect Works

The real-time cloud processing power of Connect provides data in a centralized hub, giving facility owners and staff direct access to energy and performance analytics with the push of a button. To enhance user experience, the platform offers multiple views of energy usage and equipment operation data that can be shown from an entire system perspective, for one building, or even drilled down to one data point. Services available through the Connect platform include measurement and verification, data collection and archival, utility management and automatic fault detection.

Connect receives data from outside sources such as third-party hardware, utility websites, client databases, manual entry, and automated data collection processes. The ability to automate these data collection processes allows for seamless integration with existing workflows without disruption to operations. Another key component of Connect is the Bernhard Data Collection Device (BDCD). The BDCD is securely installed within existing Building Automation System networks to collect massive amounts of equipment performance data.

“By really utilizing the power of Connect, each user obtains a customizable gateway into the most impactful data analysis for their facility to operate at its peak,” said Rachel Poff, Bernhard Connect Product Manager. “Connect was truly made with the client at the forefront of the design process because it more tightly aligns with what our customers actually need.”

Security First

Understanding that security measures must be at the forefront of any software design in a rapidly-changing digital world, Bernhard engineers built Connect with a hyper focus on security from the beginning of the process and even utilize a third-party security assurance report to back it up. The system is vetted through IT professionals at each facility to ensure the system is good to go and compatible with their standards.

The Bernhard business model is unique. Varying teams within the company need data for differing
uses and because those teams use this data in the facilities they operate in Energy-as-a-Service
partnerships, the engineers know exactly which data points make businesses better. The first-hand usage of these technologies every day in the systems being managed lends credit to the notion that the developments in building automation and control systems being made simply work better – for Bernhard and for clients.

Data at Your Fingertips

The data within Connect provides clarity for clients and removes any guesswork on what their energy bills will look like. Clients can use the detailed analytics Connect provides to find and focus on an issue in order to take action sooner. Bottom line: By using Connect, managers have direct access to data that is most important and useful to them.

“Connect was built to be better than what had been used for decades,” Heard said. “There was a need to develop it so that we can execute our advanced engineering techniques at a large scale. Existing software packages simply couldn’t produce a good enough result, and manual techniques weren’t agile enough to use on massively large projects like Energy-as-a-Service,”

Greatly improving on navigation and overall user interface of previous platforms, Connect uses modern software design vs. relying on outdated technology that greatly hinders the user experience. Instead of forcing users to understand different applications for each data point, Connect brings it all together under one platform. Clients can find trends, faults, invoice data, and savings reporting in the same place. Connect also reduces false alerts. Previous technology and platforms would routinely inundate users with false alerts and make it difficult to spot the actual faults and focus in on issues.

Information That Teaches and Learns

Once the data has been received, it begins processing within Connect’s highly scalable data pipeline, which is able to perform millions of real-time calculations on the incoming data. This device is the foundation of Bernhard’s energy, analysis, and automated fault detection systems. Our energy engineers continually analyze data trends to identify operational issues. If an issue is identified, they will work with the facility management staff to troubleshoot the problem until it is quickly resolved.

“Data provided by Connect offers better insights into equipment performance, which correlates to better informed decisions,” Poff said. “Better informed decisions lead to more efficiency, and more efficiency ultimately leads to better business.”

To learn more about how Connect can improve your data management, visit Bernhard.com/connect.

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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.