Thirteen years have passed since Gary Goodwin joined the Building Operations team at Harvard's Biological Laboratories (Biolabs), but his energy and passion are as vital as the day he started.

As one of the most active building operations teams at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) with regards to energy projects, Gary and the other members of the Biology Building Operations team—led by Senior Building Manager Jim Costello, and including Les Takacs, Chuck Bilikas, and Eileen Snow—have raised the bar as to what a commitment to minimizing the energy impact of their building looks like. In the past three years alone, they have completed over 30 energy-related projects. I sat down with Gary last November to learn more about his team’s efforts and to understand their keys to success.

As any building manager would attest to, no facility is without its quirks and challenges—the Biolabs are no exception. In this case, age: built in 1931, the research needs have evolved significantly from the building design, and the facility’s infrastructure is currently operating well beyond capacity to keep up with the demands of the 25 research labs the building houses. The age of the building leads to higher maintenance costs, since more upkeep is required.

Furthermore, it also limits some of the energy projects that are feasible. For instance, the building is slated for a major air handling unit overhaul in a few years, so small scale HVAC upgrades are not practical in the mean time. To deal with the many challenges of a large and aging lab facility, Gary’s team tackles a mix of building-wide and lab-specific projects. As lab spaces have been renovated for incoming faculty, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly features were incorporated into the design.

The building now boasts more Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified spaces than any other building on campus; a prestigious industry standard that serves to recognize environmentally friendly designs. In addition to ensuring that new spaces are properly equipped with energy saving features—such as variable volume fume hoods, Energy Star appliances, and heat recovery units—the Biology Building Operations team actively utilizes the FAS Energy Fund to complete other energy reduction projects.

In 2006, Gary spearheaded a lighting retrofit project to replace all T12 florescent lamps with high efficiency T8’s. The project saves an estimated $68,000 in annual energy costs, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by almost 200 MTCDE. In 2011, occupancy sensors were installed throughout most of the building and the heating, cooling, and ventilation systems were tied in wherever possible saving an additional $22,900 in energy costs each year and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 58 MTCDE. By incorporating major changes into ongoing renovations, while upgrading building-wide infrastructure where possible, Gary’s team is able to meet the needs of the building occupants while minimizing the building’s environmental impact. 

Gary’s open-minded, can-do attitude has led to a number of pilot projects taking place in the Biolabs that expand the scope of sustainability beyond energy reduction. This fall, the building rolled out a composting pilot program in response to requests from building occupants—the first of its kind in a science building at Harvard. A specialty recycling station is also in the works to address some of the high volume waste items that are prevalent in the research labs. “I am willing to consider just about any project if it makes sense”, Gary explained. This approach has kept the building operations team at the forefront of energy and waste reduction efforts across FAS Operations. 

Gary has always had the drive and the ability to get things done efficiently and effectively. When it comes to energy conservation projects, he feels a responsibility to do what he can to reduce the impact of his building. “I want the planet to be around for my children,” he said in his characteristic self-effacing, matter of fact way.

He attributes his team’s success to a variety of factors. First, their strong relationships with different stakeholders have made identifying and implementing projects straightforward and simple. His team recognizes that no one is successful by working alone and realizes that projects couldn’t happen if they weren’t supported on all levels. When questions, concerns, or uncertainties arise, answers are only a phone call away. Gary provides strong leadership for the team, under the guidance of Jim Costello, and his open-minded attitude allows for them to test out new technologies and stay on the cutting edge. Gary also lends pragmatism to the role of building manager, balancing the needs of building occupants with an understanding of the building system that allows for a clear assessment of opportunities. 

At the end of the day, Gary and the rest of the Biology Building Operations team are successful for a variety of reasons. Their balanced approach between updating building-wide systems to be more energy efficient, while addressing individual lab spaces one by one through renovations for new faculty, ensures that the building meets the needs of its occupants as best as possible.

Gary’s forward thinking attitude ensures that their team is up to speed on cutting edge technologies and approaches to minimizing laboratory energy consumption. Lastly, their strong relationships with all of their stakeholders ensure that projects are developed and implemented in a timely, organized, and efficient manner. With Gary and Jim at the helm, I am confident their team will continue to lead the way into the future for years to come. 

Image Credit: From left to right: Chuck Bilikas, Gary Goodwin, Jimmy Costello, Paul Tighe, Les Takacs, and Eileen Snow. Photo courtesy of MCB Graphics.