Energy-Efficient Solutions One Building at a Time

Enersolv Design and Build

Enersolv is a design-build mechanical contractor focused on providing cost-effective, energy-efficient solutions for sustainable projects. The company is based in Vancouver, British Columbia and works primarily along the west coast.
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Enersolv’s sister company, Fēnix Energy, provides ownership and operation services for mechanical infrastructure. Together, these companies work in complement. Enersolv designs and builds sustainable heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, and Fēnix Energy purchases, operates, and maintains those systems for the client on an ongoing basis.

The company was established to fill a gap in the marketplace. Its founders identified a need for a turnkey provider of mechanical infrastructure that focused on energy-efficient buildings. “There was a lot of resistance in the market to building better buildings,” says Adrian Ryan, Business Development Director at Enersolv. “Mechanical contractors at the time had a very formulaic approach and they wanted to build what they wanted to build as opposed to what the engineers wanted to design.”

Designers would incorporate sustainable ideas, but mechanical contractors would frequently remove them as a cost-saving measure during the value-engineering phase. For many clients, saving on cost was a high enough priority that changing the design made sense. Enersolv was founded to serve clients that understood the value of energy-efficient design.

The clients that did prioritize sustainability over cost were looking for a mechanical contracting company that was capable of meeting their needs, and this represented an opportunity for Enersolv to take on some of the more environmentally progressive projects that were available in the marketplace. The company kept its focus on high-efficiency HVAC and sustainable mechanical designs, and built the company around that expertise.

After approximately fourteen years in business, Enersolv employs more than 75 people and has developed an impressive portfolio of HVAC, refrigeration, and plumbing infrastructure for commercial, residential, and mixed-use projects throughout the province of British Columbia, Washington state, and as far east as Toronto, Ontario. “Mixed-use development is where we’ve had our most success,” says Ryan. “That means developments that have a residential component, a commercial component, and a retail component. They’re normally north of one million square feet. We’ve done individual standalone projects all over the place but our pedigree is in fifty-five story towers.”

In order to be successful with projects at this scale, Enersolv depends on the expertise of its team, but also on their ability to work together and with the other teams on the project. Over the course of its existence, this capacity for collaboration has become a key value proposition for the company, and when considering prospective employees, Enersolv focuses on character over an educational background. If a worker is a good fit for the company’s culture, they can be trained; however, qualifications in and of themselves are of very little use if an employee cannot engage with the team and communicate effectively. Enersolv considers personality first and then develops its employees internally.

Toward this goal, the company provides mentorship programs for its newer employees, enabling those with the necessary experience and expertise to pass on the skills they have acquired throughout their career. Whatever the specialization, the company helps its workers develop their abilities to establish them as assets to the team. “Every time we’ve tried to purchase talent rather than growing it organically, we haven’t been as successful,” says Ryan. “Our focus is always on younger people with a lot of drive and good character, and then we build an apprenticeship and build teams around that.” The company’s leadership has learned over time that it gets the best results when it educates its own workforce.

This approach has resulted in a very efficient team and a capacity to bridge the gaps that often exist between the various groups working at a job site. Enersolv is focused on building and maintaining long-term relationships with not only its clients but also with other contractors in order to improve workflow and collaboration. The company has learned that by sharing its experience and its expertise with the other groups on-site, they can work together and innovate better solutions to any issues that might arise.

One of the ways that Enersolv has been able to stand out in the marketplace is its broad skill set. The company offers a full suite of services from design and build all the way to owning and operating mechanical infrastructures long after the initial work is completed. While it bills itself as a mechanical contractor, the value it brings to a project is substantially greater. The company has professional engineers on staff for the design phase, and design-assist is typically the minimum of its involvement at that stage. From there the team will take the project through building and construction, and finally into potential ownership of the asset in total or in partnership with the client, which includes ongoing operation and maintenance.

For clients who bring Enersolv on in a design-assist capacity, the result is significant savings in time and cost. The company’s experts will work closely with architects and engineers during the design phase. This collaboration enables the company to share its expertise and improve the efficiency of the project overall. With a typical design-build relationship, the mechanical contracting team is not brought onto the project until after the designs have been completed. By engaging Enersolv early on, the company can provide guidance on a wide range of issues such as cost estimation, permitting, optimizing the life cycle of mechanical assets, and Building Information Modelling (BIM).

BIM is a way to take standard two-dimensional flat architectural drawings and use them to create highly accurate three-dimensional models. While BIM is well established in the construction industry, it is still relatively new to mechanical infrastructure planning such as HVAC, refrigeration, and plumbing. By leveraging this technology, Enersolv is able to provide a perfect simulation of the project to all teams, minimizing costly mistakes and conflicts. BIM is one example of how the company uses technology to provide the best possible value to customers.

Through its sister company Fēnix Energy, Enersolv also provides retrofitting services for geothermal exchange systems. Fēnix has developed an innovative, low-headroom drilling process that enables the company to retrofit a geothermal exchange system underneath an existing building and integrate it with the existing mechanical infrastructure. There are many benefits to installing a geothermal exchange system, but when it comes to retrofitting the system into a building that is already operational, there are additional considerations. One key factor is how the installation will impact business tenants.

Geoexchange systems use heat from the earth and therefore must be installed underground, below the building. For a retrofit, this means drilling dozens of boreholes, hundreds of feet deep. Fēnix Energy has carefully selected its equipment and designed its processes to minimize its impact on the building’s operation.

By keeping its focus on the development of its team and its innovative and diverse skill set, Enersolv has built a reputation for quality work and has seen significant organic growth as a result. “Our reward is our ability to retain clients,” says Ryan. “All of our clients are repeat clients. Once they start working with us, they understand the culture, they understand the value we can bring, and we deliver on what we say we’re going to do. Those are the rewards that matter.”

Going forward, Enersolv is planning to continue its course of organic growth and expansion. The company’s leadership is looking toward new markets in the United States for future development and believes that there is a need for its skill set, its breadth of knowledge, and its experience with sustainable mechanical infrastructure. Currently, it is in the process of expanding its geographical footprint into Ontario with a new location in Toronto.

Since the very beginning of its existence, Enersolv has been committed to providing solutions that are energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable. The company has built its keen expertise around connecting mechanical infrastructure to renewable energy sources and this has enabled it to create a unique service offering in the marketplace.

By seeking out green projects and making every effort to recover, store, and reuse energy wherever possible, the company is continually reducing its carbon footprint. For Enersolv, this approach is more than a selling point. “We do it because we believe in it,” says Ryan. “We actually believe that we can make a difference one building at a time. We’re committed to doing things the right way when it comes to energy and sustainability. As long as we believe in our people, and our people believe in what we’re doing, then I think there can be a win for everybody and that’s what we’re committed to.”

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

November 22, 2019, 1:00 PM EST