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The Facilities Visionary

Mayor Bowser speaks at Tree Summit

Mayor Bowser speaks at Tree Summit

Washington DC is known as the “City of Trees” and our campus is an accredited Arboretum and Gardens. So, it makes sense that the District of Columbia’s Department of Energy and Environment would select AU as the site to host the Tree Summit 2015. This event , held last December , brought more than 200 administrators and interested citizens together to discuss the state of the city’s tree canopy and look for ways to preserve and expand the city’s tree coverage. Mayor Muriel Bowser (AU alum) announced the kick off of the Canopy 3000 initiative, a short-term, public-private partnership that aims to plant 3000 new trees across DC this coming year. At the Summit, Robert Vogel, Director of the National Park Service(NPS)- National Capital Region, pledged that NPS would commit to planting 1000 trees in the District this coming year. Additionally, Mayor Bowser announced that the District would contribute $400,000 towards Canopy 3000.

Mayor Bowser also announced the establishment of the Urban Forestry Advisory Committee to expand coordination and assist the District in meeting its Sustainable DC goal to achieve a 40 percent healthy tree canopy by 2032.

American University is the only university to be included in the group of eleven public and private members that will guide this effort. AU plans to incorporate this initiative as a theme for our Campus Beautification Day 2016 event.

The Tree Summit provided AU an opportunity to showcase our campus and particularly our Arboretum and Gardens to a receptive audience. Mike Mastrota and Mark Feist from Facilities Management made a presentation showing the importance of trees on our campus and the various partnerships we have created based on trees and horticulture. The event ended with a walking tour of our campus guided by Facilities Management staff.

Tommy Wells, the Director of the DC Department of Energy and Environment, thanked AU for hosting this important event and said “Your commitment to making American University one of the most beautiful natural spaces in the District of Columbia truly has paid off."

More information about the Tree Summit and the Canopy 3000 initiative can be found at:

Understanding Building Use and Occupancy to Conserve Energy

By Josey Schwartz & Ravi Raman

Earlier this year, Energy & Engineering re-organized strategically to establish a full-time Energy Conservation Team. The goal was to allow dedicated staff to “dive deeper” into our systems and the data we collect to develop new strategies that would conserve energy, provide good financial return to the university, and increase occupant comfort and utilities reliability.

When looking for places to conserve energy, the energy conservation team usually looks first to the building automation system (BAS). The BAS is essential to any energy conservation strategy because it provides a platform to control major energy-using systems in a building. For example, the BAS has the ability to put the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning (HVAC) equipment, found in most buildings on the AU campus, on a schedule. HVAC systems account for the largest amount of energy use in buildings.

Recently, the AU Energy and Engineering (E&E) staff completed the first part of its in-house energy waste reduction program by reviewing equipment operating schedules for all buildings controlled by the BAS. The goal was simple: stop and prevent wasted energy used to heat, cool, and/or ventilate spaces when they are unoccupied. The program consists of three parts.

First, E&E staff created a consolidated list of campus building occupancy schedules, the HVAC equipment inside each building, and the equipment run times as they were scheduled currently. The team then used its powerful energy management tools and dashboard to analyze occupancy patterns in the building. By looking at the energy use intensity, E&E’s energy analysts were able to develop a comprehensive understanding of when people are in the building. From there the energy managers worked with their E&E colleagues who manage the BAS to set HVAC equipment to run in accordance with actual building occupant use patterns.

Next in the in-house effort to reduce energy waste, energy managers worked with BAS programmers to divide areas of each building into logical zones based on space use and occupancy. For example, there were air-handling units in residence halls that ran continuously to serve both students who occupy the building throughout the day and the offices on the ground floor that only worked during business hours. The units did not need to run overnight on the ground floor when staff members are not present. E&E’s BAS programmers grouped the equipment that serves the offices into a zone and set it to shut off during unoccupied times. Shutting off equipment when it’s not needed prevents energy waste, increases the life of the equipment, and reduces maintenance costs.

Juan Allen, Chief Engineer and technical lead for E&E’s Energy Team, noted, “Some buildings present themselves as obvious candidates for equipment operating schedule changes that should be made, while others may remain unchanged. There are some places, because of system complexity, age, or both, that require the use of new technology or more advanced programming to address the energy usage issues, and we review these on a case-by-case basis to ensure customer comfort while achieving energy savings."

This is where the third part of the program comes into play. In places with air-handling units that are “constant volume,” meaning they provide maximum ventilation whenever they’re running, the E&E plans to install variable speed technologies that enable a range of outputs from the HVAC equipment to match the occupancy level’s ventilation and air-conditioning needs. Office spaces typically have a consistent schedule and energy load, but classrooms and other assembly spaces with variable occupancy uses are much trickier. However, using variable speed technology alone won’t reduce waste and optimize energy usage.

In cases where setting a static schedule is not possible, the E&E seeks to implement demand-driven strategies that are practical for many variable-occupancy situations. The space is fed a constant minimal amount of conditioned and/or outside air during occupied hours. Temperature, humidity, and CO2 thresholds are programmed into sensors that monitor a space constantly. Once a threshold is crossed – for example, if too much CO2 is detected, an indicator of a lot of people in the space – more conditioned air is brought into the space until the readings drop back to acceptable levels.

In addition to helping keep our community comfortable, energy reduction strategies divert carbon from entering the atmosphere, save money on electricity, extend the life of equipment, and lessen the frequency that operations staff must perform planned maintenance. Preventing energy waste and optimizing HVAC systems to support the university’s mission and programs are a delicate balance and very challenging. To reach the university’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2020, the E&E staff continues to seek creative solutions.

Directors Corner - Office of Sustainability

By: Megan Litke

Megan Litke

Megan Litke, Director, Office of Sustainability

The Office of Sustainability is full of new faces and other changes as we enter 2016. I’d like to introduce myself as the new Director of Sustainability Programs. I joined the office in August 2014 to work on green buildings before becoming the director in August 2015. Prior to arriving at AU, I ran the Office for Sustainability at the University of Richmond for four years and before that, I worked as a financial analyst, budget analyst, and grants manager at a research hospital and then at a university. As you all know, American University has earned an incredible reputation as a leader in higher education sustainability, and I am especially excited to see what we as a community accomplish next. Recently, we watched the global community collectively take unprecedented steps toward reducing global emissions at COP21 in Paris, and our office will continue to advance the university’s movement toward carbon neutrality by 2020. By signing the White House’s American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge, Dr. Kerwin recommitted American University to achieving our ambitious sustainability goals. However, our office cannot do this work alone. We rely on participation from each member of the AU community to achieve these goals. Every one of us can take steps on our own, with our friends and colleagues, in our classes, and as engaged citizens to create a sustainable university, city, country, and world. We look forward to continuing and building new partnerships to expand our work. We are always open to new ideas and are happy to support your efforts in any way we can. I look forward to working with you in the years to come as we continue our active pursuit of sustainability.

Meet Hannah, Sustainability Manager

Hannah Debelius, Office of Sustainability

Hannah Debelius joined American University in December 2015 and will focus on sustainability outreach and communications. She comes from almost four years at the U.S. Green Building Council in the Center for Green Schools and previously worked as an outdoor environmental educator with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. She earned her Bachelors of Arts in Environmental Studies with a concentration in policy from the College of William and Mary. She enjoys hiking and exploring the Chesapeake Bay region.

Meet Amit, Sustainability Coordinator

Amit Paul, Office of Sustainability

Amit Paul joined American University in November as the Sustainability Coordinator. Previously, he worked as an energy engineer and sustainability consultant conducting energy audits, making energy models, and creating energy reduction plans for commercial and multifamily projects located in NY, NJ, and DC. Amit earned his Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the George Washington University. At American University, Amit will focus his time on LEED, STARS, and other sustainability assessments.

Arboretum and Gardens Host Donor Appreciation Luncheon

By Mike Mastrota

Appreciation Luncheon

During October, Dr and Mrs. Kerwin hosted the annual donor luncheon celebrating American University’s Arboretum and Gardens. This year’s event sold out, as more than 100 attendees enjoyed lunch and an insightful program. WAMU radio personality, Diane Rehm was on hand to introduce the keynote speaker , “John Bartram”, a noted horticulturist who many consider to be the “King’s botanist and was named the Royal Botanist of America by Britain’s King George III in 1763. The real John Bartram passed away in 1777 but was portrayed convincingly by the talented Kirk Brown.

Brown’s captivating reenactment of Bartram included his perceptions of the American University campus and the many tree species on campus that were founded and grown by Bartram on his farm outside of Philadelphia. One particular tree of note is the Franklin tree which grows on the side of McCabe Hall. This species called Franklinia alatamaha first was discovered by Bartram during his travels to the south along the banks of the Alatamaha River in Georgia. Bartram collected seed from this unknown yet beautiful tree and brought them back to his farm in Philadelphia. He gave some of the seeds to his friend and fellow farmer, Benjamin Franklin. Together they grew trees successfully on their respective farms. A few years later Bartram and his son William returned to the banks of the river in Georgia to collect more seed. To their surprise the stand of trees was nowhere to be found. The trees never were seen again in the wild. Bartram decided to name the species after his friend Ben Franklin and the place they originally were discovered. So today all of the Franklin trees including the one specimen in AU’s arboretum are descendants of the ones grown by John Bartram and Ben Franklin.

This was one of several interesting stories told during the donor luncheon. Diane Rehm revealed that she too has a connection to the Bartram name as her late husband was John Bartram Rehm, a distant relative to the aforementioned John Bartram.

This unique and popular luncheon was enjoyed by all and if you would like to see for yourself, check out the video clip produced by our AU student, Emile Ikeda:


Fall/Winter Construction & Facilities Projects

New Projects

Beeghly 303: Renovation of the chemistry lab.                                                                                                                      Project Manager: Jennifer Richardson, 202-885-1056,

Bender Library: Modernization of the elevator system including addition of card access to staff elevator.Project Managers: Tony Cortez, 202-420-9267, and Markus McEaddy, 202-885-2306,

Butler 407 Remodeling: New partition installation at least 6” below ceiling. Project Manager: Anna Maria Vincent, 202-885-1107,

Cassell interior: Installation of vent cove base. Project Manager: Jennifer Richardson, 202-885-1056,

Life Sciences Building: In the planning phase. Project Manager: Jennifer Richardson, 202-885-1056,

MGC TDR Servery: Relocation of condenser units will serve the walk-in chillers and freezers, as well as installation of new counters in the elevated seating area. Project Manager: Onyel Gibson, 202-885-1147,

McKinley: HVAC work schedule for rooms 322-326 and the auditorium.                                                                                   Project Manager: Jennifer Richardson, 202-885-1056,


Project Updates

Spring Valley Building: Construction is expected to commence by March/April 2016, and relocation of offices and departments will take place during the summer for completion by August 2016. Project Manager: David Dower, 202-885-2731,


Completed Projects

Asbury: Installation of green roof with parapet flashing.Project Manager: Eder Granados, 202-885-2331,

MGC: Switch Gear & Motor Control project completed over winter break. Project Manager: Tony Cortez., 202-420-9267.

Outdoor Basketball and Tennis Courts: Court repairs and painting are complete. Project Manager: Mark Feist, 202-885-2348,

Parking Signs: New parking signs installed in accordance with Public Safety parking regulations. Project Manager: Markus McEaddy, 202-885-2306,

Washington College of Law: First day of classes at the new Tenley Campus began on Monday, Jan. 11. Project Manager: Tony Roane, 202-274-4008,


Welcome New Staff

Planning and Project Management
Kristine Hesse

Office of Sustainability
Amitaya Paul
Hannah Debelius

Facilities Operations
Paul Heinrich
Vincent Weaver
Keith Whitlow

Grounds Maintenance
Austin Bittle
Greg King
Michelle Fish
Jorge Morales
Seife Asfaha
Howard Ashmon

Central Plant Operations
Mohamed Koroma

Facilities Management
Georgia Sideris
Ruby Tavernier

Employee Spotlight

By: Mike Mastrota

Please welcome Georgia Sideris and Ruby Tavernier to the Facilities Management team. Georgia was hired to fill the vacancy left by Michelle Frederick when she moved to HR full time. Ruby will provide additional administrative support with a focus on helping the CRDM group. Please take a minute to get to know them by reading their answers to the following questions.

Georgia Sideris

Please share a little bit about your background

I’m first generation Greek. I was born and raised in Maryland. I graduated in 2011 from the University of Maryland College Park with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Kinesiology. I spent the last four years working at an orthopedic/sport therapy clinic.

Why did you come to AU and how long have you worked here?

I came to AU because I decided I did not want to pursue a career in physical therapy anymore and I needed a change. I started working at AU in November 2015.

What do you think of AU so far?

I really like it a lot. The benefits are great and everyone has been really nice and welcoming!

What do you like to do when not at work? 

I love to bake, watch movies, work out and hang out with my family and friends. I also enjoy acting. I am currently taking classes at Studio Theater Acting Conservatory in DC.

Ruby Tavernier

Please share a little bit about your background

I graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in Communications. I worked for Marriott for about three years, and held several roles including sales assistant for the Marriott Regional office, and catering assistant for a DC Convention hotel. My most recent position was at the US Capitol in Visitor Services where I helped coordinate tour groups and assisted with Congressional Tours.

Why did you come to AU and how long have you worked here?

I was attracted to work at AU because of the great reputation the school had. I liked that the school was very diverse, and in the nation’s capital. I started working at AU in October 2015.

What do you think of AU so far?

I enjoy working at AU. I like that the campus is very green and that our department tries to promote zero waste.

What do you like to do when not at work? 

I enjoy playing badminton, cooking and hiking. I like to try new places to eat and new dishes. I also like to travel to new places or try new hiking trails. My goal is to travel to a new big city or country every year.


Eric Perry

Recycling Service Associate to Groundskeeper 1

Michelle Fish

Groundskeeper 1 to Senior Groundskeeper

Sunil Thaivalappil

3rd Class Engineer to 1st Class Engineer

Eyob Kassay

Shuttle Driver to Shuttle Operations Supervisor