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Q&A with Energy Efficiency Expert Ravi Chavan

Learn how Ravi Chavan, Project Manager at Colliers, uses his energy efficiency expertise to reduce utility costs, energy consumption, and carbon impact from the built environment.

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Q&A with Energy Efficiency Expert Ravi Chavan

For 20 years, Ravi Chavan has been using his expertise to reduce utility costs, energy consumption, and carbon impact in the built environment through new building commissioning, retro-commissioning, and energy audit projects. His vast knowledge and passion for cost, energy, and carbon savings have served clients – and Colliers – well. From residential high-rises, to educational facilities and corporate offices, Ravi’s knowledge and understanding of the ways in which the building energy sector has grown over the years have been vital to the success of our clients.

Why did you decide to go into engineering?

My father owned a high precision, non-ferrous foundry. I was fascinated to watch the process of melting metals, creating molds, and pouring the molten metal into sand molds to form machine parts. I would spend hours playing in the molding sand and pretend casting my toy cars.

As I grew older, I would join him on the weekends and learned about reading engineering drawings and pattern and mold making. He would take me on field visits where I would see the aluminum plates cast in our foundry with shapes and holes that made no sense, fit perfectly on a two-story diesel engine or high precision medical X-ray machine. Knowing that these impressive machines contained important parts made in our foundry gave me a sense of pride. After high school I continued my technical education and eventually moved into engineering.

What led to your focus on energy savings, sustainability, and reducing the carbon footprint?

I studied Industrial Engineering and worked with data, conducting analysis and observing trends and patterns. During my master’s degree studies, I was part of the Industrial Assessment Center team that conducted energy audits at industrial properties as part of the U.S. Department of Energy program.

Analyzing the data and observing the trends and results, I discovered how much potential there was for energy savings and carbon reduction by modifying any one parameter such as reducing compressed air pressure by a few pounds over the third shift. When the results were shared with the owners and operators of these industries, there would be excitement and praise. These savings directly affected their bottom lines and resulted in reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the factories.

My love for Excel modeling and data analysis, and the feel-good factor of using analysis skills to reduce energy use and carbon, and save costs led my focus in energy efficiency.

How have sustainability projects changed over the last two decades?

The impact of climate change has shifted the focus from energy efficiency towards carbon and greenhouse gas emission reductions. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Green Globes, and Passive House Institute certifications have positively impacted the overall design and construction of buildings.

Newer buildings and major renovations incorporate products and systems that provide efficiencies beyond the minimum energy code. Specifications include products adhering to EnergyStar, WaterSense, and Green Seal certificates. These buildings are very energy efficient and have low environmental impact. The advancements in electronics and communications technologies have resulted in smarter building devices. For example, an occupancy sensor not only turns your lights on or off but also adjusts your space temperature while remembering your preferred light level and temperature setpoints. We live in a connected world and so do our buildings.

Larger cities like Boston and New York now have emissions mandates, such as Local Law 97 in NYC that puts restrictions on the amount of CO2 emissions a commercial building is allowed per year. These restrictions will become more stringent every 10-15 years until the final goal of zero emissions by 2050 is reached. Existing building owners must act as soon as these mandates go into effect and buildings originally designed for traditional HVAC systems will not meet the criteria without major changes to their design or operations.

What is the largest/most complex sustainable project you’ve worked on?

The largest project was the decentralization of the heating plant at a large university campus in Pennsylvania. The campus was served by a central steam heating plant that was inefficient and past its useful life. The underground steam piping had failed at several locations resulting in steam plumes rising from the ground throughout campus and buried steam piping traceable in winter due to the green grass and no snow accumulation along the path. The facilities staff used to joke that the campus was the Yellowstone of the East.

The project involved decommissioning the plant, converting several building systems from steam to hot water, and installation of energy efficient condensing boilers for each building. Some of the buildings dated back to the early 1950s and working with the mechanical systems was challenging.

How long have you been with Colliers and what types of energy efficiency- related projects do you typically work on?

I will have been with Colliers 10 years in December. I work on feasibility studies for solar energy, ground source heat pumps or other renewable energy sources, engineering studies focusing on carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and studies pertaining to mitigation of fossil fuels. I work with utilities to identify incentive opportunities, manage implementation of these projects, and provide measurement and verification services as per ASHRAE guidelines.

Almost every project we work on requires complex energy modeling. I use Microsoft Excel to model building energy systems as part of energy conservation, decarbonization, and engineering feasibility studies.

For about nine years, I have been providing engineering reviews of grant applications for energy efficiency and decarbonization projects submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources as part of the Green Communities Designation and Grant Program.

What would you say to people looking to work in this field?

Almost everyone is aware of the impacts of climate change and the resulting effect on natural resources, wildlife, and the health of our planet. Younger people in particular are realizing the need for urgency to tackle sources resulting in global warming. Many want to get involved in changes to policies, design-code requirements, and behavioral practices that will promote sustainable lifestyles, produce zero emissions, benefit the environment, and help rehabilitate wildlife.

Our planet needs our help and so do the other species we share this world with. Anyone working in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainability is making a direct impact on the wellbeing of the planet.

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Click here to learn more about how Ravi and Colliers Project Leaders can help with your upcoming building commissioning, retro-commissioning, or energy audit projects.