Building It Better, Building It Green

Jordan & Skala Engineers, Inc.

What does a student dorm in San Diego, a 15-storey office building in Charlotte and a Habitat for Humanity housing project in Dallas have in common?

They all have advanced, environmentally friendly and sustainable engineering thanks to Jordan & Skala Engineers, who played a role in these projects and many others across the U.S., Central America and the Caribbean.

Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, the company is a mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering firm that is licensed in all 50 states. The firm has also been at the forefront of green building projects, energy modeling and energy compliance programming.

Aaron McEwin is Director of Sustainability and has seen his share of green focused products during his 14 years at Jordan & Skala in business since 1953.

“I started as a co-op student here from Texas A&M and worked on mechanical engineering on restaurants and the senior living facilities doing a bit of anything and everything,” McEwin says, proud of his career with a company that is recognized for innovative and sustainable design and engineering.

“For me it was the opportunities, the project types we got to work on. I worked on everything from post offices to manufacturing facilities to multi-family projects for low income. Giving families better housing really hit home for me.”

A lot of Jordan & Skala’s efforts are focused on sustainability through HUD financing which helps people get into housing at a more affordable rate. “We are building community. A lot of the mixed use buildings that we are doing allows people to live, work and play in one location. They really get a chance to connect with each other in different ways through the buildings they live in.”

The firm’s leadership in environmentally friendly projects is clearly a cornerstone in its philosophy. Jordan & Skala is part of U.S. Green Building Council, which is committed to developing buildings that are designed and built using both environmentally and socially responsible practices. One of the more recognized aspects of this approach is LEED certified buildings. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and has a range of ratings from LEED Certified to Silver, Gold and Platinum.

“LEED looks at everything. It doesn’t just look at energy, it looks at water, is the site walkable? Is it next to community services and transportation? Which is all part of sustainability,” says McEwin who is a LEED accredited professional.

The specific projects mentioned earlier all had unique challenges that McEwin and his team had to overcome to help find sustainable solutions. Colwood, the student housing project in San Diego had 212 Kilowatt photovoltaic solar panels installed to help manage the building’s energy needs. “That was one of our first solar projects. It started a trend of people wanting to do solar,” he says. “They still have a TV monitor that shows how much power they are producing.”

The office building at 440 South Church St. in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a mixed-use building that includes restaurants, cafes and a hotel in addition to office space. Jordan & Skala designed and built the project and engineered dual flush water closets that gave the building 14 percent greater energy performance. The project was eventually awarded a LEED Gold Certification.

“We are here to educate clients on what is available to them and how we can help their project, whether it’s an office building or hotel or whatever it is,” McEwin explains. “We want to help our clients be recognized as leaders in the community in efficiency and water use.”

Not only is the firm’s sustainability approach resulting in better buildings, it is also helping the bottom line: 2018 was a record-breaking year for the firm and sustainability continues to be a major focus with big benefits. This does not just start and end in design and building, but extends to client satisfaction through dedicated customer service and being truly connected to what the customer wants. Being licensed across all states and having a number of different developers who can see projects through on a nation-wide scale is also a huge advantage for clients.

The firm has 285 employees across eight regional offices throughout the U.S. McEwin’s sustainability group is located in the Dallas office which has 65 employees overall. And with the importance of building sustainable, environmentally friendly buildings quickly becoming the standard, one of Jordan & Skala’s challenges is finding quality employees right now in a job market that has been heating up considerably in the past four years.

The other challenge about managing the work-life balance, which pertains to sustainability for the firm’s employees. Among their many wellness programs and benefits, the company helps people focus on making better choices in their diet. There’s a program challenge that runs from Thanksgiving to Christmas called Maintain, Don’t Gain that is designed to help avoid overeating and choosing healthy options over the holidays with people weighing in before and after the time period!

Come summertime, the company’s Booster Club in Dallas handed out snow cones. That is no small feat when you are trying to keep them from melting in the 102 degree Texas heat.

Beyond their employees, Jordan & Skala is also committed to finding ways to support the communities where its employees work and live. For example, the firm has supported the Atlanta Community Food Bank with 1,095 pounds of food and helped to clean up Little Sugar Creek, an urban waterway that is at the heart of Charlotte’s greenway and park system.

What is really exciting for McEwin is being able to put the sustainability skills and expertise of his team to work on projects that help those who are less fortunate. It takes him back to his Boy Scout days. “We do energy code testing for Habitat for Humanity. We are not making money but it covers our employees’ time.” The firm sends teams to conduct energy code testing for single-family homes that Habitat for Humanity builds in the Dallas area.

“We do the duct tightness to make sure air isn’t leaking and test the walls and the windows to make sure the houses are not leaky and that goes a long way to reducing the costs for heating and cooling.”

It is this approach to making sustainability not just a design approach but a central part of Jordan & Skala’s mission that differentiates the firm from other engineering companies in a very heartfelt way.

As McEwin puts it, “We want to give back to the community that we serve. To me it is not just about family, it’s about community. And it takes a community, I’m learning this with my two boys, you can’t do it all by yourself. You need a team and community. Giving back that way and helping people in need it has always been a part of me.”

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 14, 2019, 8:29 AM EST