December 01, 2023

Ecosystem’s Trevor Smith on Building Tomorrow Podcast 

Amidst the ever-evolving cityscape of New York City, a wave of renovations looms on the horizon, centered predominantly on multi-family and commercial buildings. With its less than traditional integrated design and construction approach that excels in implementing innovative strategies for energy upgrades, Ecosystem is a leading force in this landscape.

On the latest episode of the Urban Green podcast, Building Tomorrow, Trevor Smith, a Project Manager at Ecosystem, offered insights into the challenges and solutions associated with executing efficiency retrofits in occupied buildings.

“We tout ourselves as energy systems specialists,” explained Smith to co-hosts Ellen Honigstock, Senior Director of Education at Urban Green, and Shruti Narkar, Sustainability Project Manager at JLL. “What we’ll do is we’ll come into a facility, we’ll look at how they’re being used, and work with clients to better understand what their needs are for those facilities across a number of different spectra. We’ll build projects around those goals and implement those projects.”

Integral to the Ecosystem methodology is a meticulous understanding of client requirements. Engineers collaborate closely with building owners to grasp the facility’s needs across various domains. This collaboration ensures projects are custom-tailored to enhance existing assets while addressing specific infrastructure requirements.

“Our owner’s founding mantra was around making sure that engineers were accountable for their designs,” emphasized Smith. The only way this can be achieved is through this integrated design and construction model.”

The conventional construction process involves various layers of contractors and subcontractors, shifting risks but making cost management complex. Alternatively, the integrated design and construction model has the project developer manage the design directly, collaborating closely with engineers. Their approach cuts down layers by directly subcontracting to trades, ensuring clear communication, aligning goals, and maintaining accountability with dedicated points of contact for efficient decision-making throughout the project. This streamlined method aims to maximize facility value and investment while emphasizing client collaboration and streamlined communication.

“The one thing I’ve always said to the guys is we don’t bill hours; Ecosystem doesn’t bill hours. We make our money on building these projects, so my time is free,” said Smith. “If I’m not paying for a contractor, you can call me and I’m happy to help in any way that I possible can.”

Executing renovations in occupied buildings poses its own set of challenges, primarily managing disruptions. Smith highlights proactive communication as a critical solution.

“We prioritize notifying occupants well in advance, mitigating nearly 90% of potential issues. Equipping them with project insights helps alleviate disruptions,” he noted.

What truly sets Ecosystem apart is performance-based contracts, ensuring ongoing support to meet energy targets post-renovation.

“Our commitment goes beyond mere installation; it’s about securing sustained benefits for our clients,” asserted Smith. “That means at least one person from Ecosystem is assigned to be fielding calls to make sure that when equipment goes down, it’s being adequately serviced so we can hit those performance targets.”

This collaborative approach fosters an extended engagement between designers, project managers, and building operators, resulting in more efficient outcomes that resonate with Ecosystem’s commitment to a sustainable future.

“We just have this very single-minded focus on outcomes,” added Smith.

Ecosystem’s innovative approach represents a significant shift in the construction industry, highlighting the importance of collaboration, innovation, and client-centered performance in successful energy upgrades within occupied buildings. As New York City’s skyline continues to evolve, Ecosystem remains steadfast, leading the charge towards a more energy-efficient and sustainable urban landscape. You can listen to the entire episode here.

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