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BAC Alum Uses Sustainable Design to Commission Buildings

Wesley Stanhope, MDS '13, CEM EBCP, first learned about sustainable design after earning his bachelor's degree in construction engineering and management. Originally from Massachusetts, Wesley and his family moved to Ireland when he was 11 years old. Wesley studied at the Limerick Institute of Technology, where he graduated with his bachelor's degree in 2004. After starting his own business in Ireland, Wesley started learning more about sustainable design and decided to pursue a degree in it. The BAC spoke with Wesley about his education, his work in sustainable design, and what he would like to accomplish through his work.

When did you become interested in sustainable design?

I started my own business in design and construction in Ireland while working on my bachelor's degree. Energy is expensive in Ireland, so people are concerned over larger buildings, disliking them because of lack of sustainability. I like larger buildings which led to my interest in energy efficiency, durability, and sustainability. I want to give older buildings a chance to compete and have a lower impact on the planet. The economic recession was hitting worldwide around this time and working in the energy efficiency and sustainability market would be both profitable and wise in a recessed economy. I knew that if I could help buildings operate better, more efficiently, and causing less harm, there would be a market for it.

How did you find the BAC and what made you choose to study at the BAC?

I was at a building trade show in Dublin and the BAC was there. I liked that it had the architectural program, and the Boston connection appealed to me because of my childhood in Massachusetts. Enrolling in the graduate certificate program allowed me the flexibility to study online while still living in Europe. I started the program in 2008 and earned my certificate while still living and working in Ireland.

After completing my graduate certificate, I noticed that the BAC was starting a master's program in Design Studies in Sustainable Design. I had moved back to Massachusetts in October 2010, and was able to enroll in the master's program. I started my master's degree in August 2011, and in 2013, I was part of the first class to graduate from the BAC's Master of Design Studies program.

What was your BAC experience like?

I had a good experience at the BAC. I learned a lot, especially how to interact with people from a distance. Because of that, I now give lectures for distance learning. The BAC allowed me to really shape my capstone project into something that I wanted to work towards professionally, post-degree, and that was a huge benefit to me. It gave me the advantage of already having done research and work in my field, allowing me to establish myself professionally while getting my degree.

Tell me about your capstone project and what resulted from it. Where did your interest for this type of research come from?

My capstone project focused on building commissioning, the process of verifying all of the systems and subsystems for mechanical (HVAC) and building automation systems to achieve the owner's project requirements as intended by the building owner and as designed by the architects and engineers. In my career this expands to other systems such as building enclosure and interior compartmentalization, IAQ, moisture and water management in buildings, lighting, and water.

Buildings fail all the time, whether it's failing to keep the outside out and the inside in, i.e. being air and thermal tight to prevent enclosure related issues. Or having many mechanical systems that need to all work together holistically as one unit for the building to function, but they don't work together as intended. I had worked with a lot of hospitals and had access to their information, so I was able to research the effect commissioning had on buildings versus those that had not been commissioned. My research proved that buildings that were having commissioning done to improve their systems were having the best impact on the energy consumption and operational costs.

Is your capstone project available for use by agencies or companies to examine buildings?

After condensing my report from 150 pages to 20 pages, I was able to publish my capstone through the Association of Energy Engineers. I now have a PDF that I can email to people, including my clients, as well as a shorter version that I use for presentations.

I understand you teach at Mount Wachusett Community College. What subjects do you teach?

Yes, I really enjoy teaching. I teach about eight different courses, depending on the syllabus and demand. I teach courses on Renewable Energy Sources, Sustainability and the Built Environment, Intro to Energy Management Principles, Energy Calculations, and Sustainable Building Operations & Management, among others. I was even honored with the Course of Distinction award for my Renewable Energy Sources course at the 12th annual Massachusetts Colleges Online (MCO) E-Learning Conference.

What other kinds of research/projects are you working on now?

I work for a firm in Massachusetts, and I still have some clients in Ireland.

I'm currently commissioning a couple types of buildings: large scale, multi families; commercial projects; and university institutions. I'm doing design review with designers and engineers, doing reviews of entire buildings to ensure systems are integrated and will work with each other, making sure designs are thorough, ensuring that specifications are correct because they tell you the quality of what is to be built, and performing construction quality control and testing of building components.

Right now I'm working for a college that has one building that is 1 million square feet. They're looking ahead to five to ten years from now and want to know what should be fixed and improved now to ensure it still runs smoothly in the future.

Another project is a new building on the ocean that has high humidity issues because it was constructed with the wrong equipment and now does not have standard dehumidification. I'm looking at how to make this building work without dehumidification with a combination of the building systems available.

What is your ultimate goal or dream for your design career?

Ideally, I would like to have a private consultancy that I spend half of my time on so that I can continue to lecture for the other half of time. I would like to have a team of several people for the private consultancy, so that I have specialists for different aspects of buildings.

I hope to continue working on projects that are not of the cookie cutter variety. I like a project that is difficult to troubleshoot, difficult to accomplish. I like a good challenge and I want to have something different from every project.

Click here to read Wesley's capstone project, The Art of Commissioning: A Cost Benefit Analysis of 23 Large-scale Federal Facilities.