Architects and MEPR Engineers: A Vital Partnership for Successful Building Design
CoolSys Energy Design specializes in designing energy-efficient and low emissions systems for commercial and industrial buildings. We interviewed Ben Rosenzweig, PE, Vice President, and General Manager at CoolSys Energy Design (CED), to understand why CoolSys Energy Design stands out as a MEPR (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, refrigeration) engineering firm.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is CoolSys Energy Design?
Ben Rosenzweig: CoolSys Energy Design is a consulting engineering firm licensed in all 50 states and working throughout North America and internationally, focused on energy efficient, sustainable, low emissions, MEPR and life safety building system design.
Our company was founded in 1980 as Clive Samuels and Associates by Clive and Allan Samuels. That company eventually became part of Emerson before transforming into Energy Squared and is now part of the CoolSys family as CoolSys Energy Design. You may recognize some of those names and not realize we are the same company we were then: the same innovation and passion for our projects, and many of the same people on our staff that started with us 30 or 35 years ago. We care for our people so they will care for you and your projects.
Is CED a traditional engineering firm?
BR: While we provide all the traditional services of a building systems consulting engineering firm, we also offer many value-added services to our clients that not all of our competitors provide. Our company looks at the lifecycle of the asset we are designing, whether it’s an existing building or new construction, and looks to take advantage of all the industry opportunities. We look to incorporate innovative technology into the design, whether it is something old that can be repurposed or something brand new that has not been used before.
We seek opportunities to capture energy incentives, tax rebates, and deductions. We also look at other types of state, federal, or utility-based incentives available to help reduce the overall cost of the project while being able to implement the right technologies.
What sets CED apart from other engineering firms?
BR: A few things differentiate us from other engineering firms.
- The people who work on our team. I have yet to come across another group of people so motivated to do a great job for each other and our clients.
- Our industry knowledge. We are passionate about knowing what is happening in the industry to bring the best solutions to the toughest challenges. That means knowing the current challenges based on the emissions limitations and the supply chain constraints on the industry.
- Principal-level engagement. As a medium-sized engineering firm, we bring principal-level attention and approach to every account, client, and project. You always have the right principal-level engineers and company management involved.
Can you expand on how your firm differentiates itself within the retail and grocery sector?
BR: Our largest focus is on the retail end-user base: food and non-food retail. We have a niche in refrigeration design. Over the last 40+ years that we have been in business, we have worked with many of the nation’s largest supermarket and grocery chains. We understand what technologies are being used elsewhere by staying on top of industry trends and attending international trade shows like EuroShop and Chillventa in Europe. Therefore, when working on design concepts and other projects with our clients, we can consider these new technologies and systems coming to the United States.
Why should architects choose to partner with CoolSys Energy Designs?
BR: We typically approach projects by either working directly for architectural firms hiring MEP and refrigeration engineers for end users or as a sub-consultant to architects.
No matter how we are engaged in the project, from a contractual perspective, we always treat the architect as the quarterback of the project. We know that a project can only be successful if the architect knows what is going on at all times and is looped in with all of the different sub-consultants. Bringing the technology and innovation is our job.
We know we should not rely on the architect to provide quality control services and coordination for our drawings. As a single-source consulting engineering firm, providing mechanical, electrical, plumbing, refrigeration, controls, and life safety design, it is our job to coordinate all those sheets and models. When you get our end product to put into the total project set of drawings or Revit model, you know that you can rely on it being quality.
What types of projects do you design?
BR: When it comes to working with architects and other end users, we work on many different types of projects, including commercial, industrial, and high-rise to mid-rise multi-family building projects. If you are an architectural firm that values your partnership with us as we value it with you, you can rely on us to work with a similar approach with all studios in your firm. Whether it is a ten-story high-rise multi-family building, a retail strip center with a grocery store as the flagship tenant, or a big industrial cold storage facility, you don’t need to find a different engineer for each market you work in.
Can you tell us about your firm’s sustainability and net zero commitment?
BR: CED is a proud early signatory of the MEP 2040 Challenge, a public commitment to provide net zero carbon designs by 2040, net zero operational carbon by 2030, and net zero embodied carbon by 2040. This means we are committed to knowing how to provide those designs and building systems for end users that want to implement them today, tomorrow, or by whatever time their company has committed to providing net-neutral carbon or net zero emissions designs.
It could be 2050, per the Paris Agreement, or earlier. If you want to develop a project like that, our company knows how to do it, and we are committed to doing it every day.
Why did you feel it was necessary to sign the MEP 2040 pledge?
BR: Personally, it was imperative to sign the MEP 2040 pledge because one reason I show up to work every day is to provide for my family. I have a two-and-a-half-year-old son, and I know that the world I’m leaving him needs to be better than the one that was left to me.
You know, mankind has spent the last 11 millennia constructing buildings, consuming raw materials, and generating emissions, landing us where we are today. If we do not show up to work and do something every day to improve the climate and our impact on the environment, it will not get done.
By getting to lead a nationwide premier consulting engineering firm, I knew that I could make a bigger impact by leading our company in the direction of providing sustainable designs to all of our clients.
Tell us about some recent projects and how you measured success.
BR: A project’s success can vary depending on what everyone is going after. If the building is not very technical or complex, success may mean meeting the schedule, error-free drawings, and great collaboration all along the way. But many of the projects we work on are highly technical, involve critical refrigeration systems, large electrical utility service requirements, and take a lot of ingenuity and creativity from the engineering side to make that project successful.
We are almost at the finish line on a project in Phoenix, Arizona: a 300,000 – 400,000 square foot industrial fulfillment center for one of the world’s largest prepared meals companies. Half of the building is a hot and humid industrial kitchen; the other half is refrigerated, distribution, storage, meal prep, etc. We were hired to design the entire building’s MEP refrigeration and fire alarm systems.
By being able to design all of those systems for the entire building, we could look at how all of those different systems were interconnected. We could analyze how each system would play with each other once the building was made operational and open for production. We looked at designing very low-emission and high-efficiency refrigeration systems. This building has four large trans-critical CO2 refrigeration racks with associated gas coolers. Very innovative design details were included in that with many months of planning. The HVAC systems are integrated with the rest of the building control so that excess energy is not wasted anywhere.
Ultimately, when this building is made operational, it will operate highly efficiently, with all building systems working in sync so that the end user can achieve their food production goals while also doing it at a low operational cost.
Another great project I’d like to highlight is a recent supermarket we designed in California. California has some very stringent energy code policies that took effect on January 1, 2023. Title 24, part 6 is the energy code in California. There are mandatory and prescriptive measures in the code for new construction and major alteration projects, like adding solar panels to the roof, battery energy storage to the building, and operational electric vehicle chargers.
We recently designed a supermarket building, standalone new construction with solar panels on the roof, battery energy storage in the electrical room, and multiple electric vehicle chargers in the parking lot with a fully integrated system. These systems will improve the customer shopping experience, the impact on the climate, and of course, be compliant with these new, very stringent codes in a manner that doesn’t break the budget for the end user.
A lot goes into high-rise mixed-use buildings. Is there any benefit to working with a single engineering firm on the entire project and design?
BR: Many retailers are moving into the ground or subterranean floors of multi-story, high-rise, mixed-use buildings with many stories of apartments above and retail below. When working with our architectural partners designing those buildings, it’s more efficient if the engineer who does the shell or building design also does the tenant improvement design for the flagship tenant, which is usually a supermarket.
As experts in supermarket design and multi-family building design, we can be that single thread of connectivity from the shell design of the building to the tenant improvement of the flagship tenant so that nothing is missed between start and finish. That is a fantastic way to engage with us on a great project.
Is your involvement in mixed-used building developments another differentiator for your firm?
BR: Absolutely. Most projects for mixed-use buildings have a shell MEP engineer that designs the shell of the building and potentially the residential units and the apartments or condominiums above. Then a separate engineer is brought in to do the tenant improvement design for the retail tenant. Often, that happens because the retail tenant has an engineer they prefer. But again, by being an engineering firm that has partnered with many of the nation’s largest supermarket and retail chains for over the past 40 years, we frequently are the engineer that the tenant would like to use.
Therefore, if you are an architect designing these types of developments or buildings, you can always rely on the fact that we know what the tenant’s going to look for, as well as the developer putting the shell together.
What do you want architects to know about CED?
BR: We have many architectural partners that we have worked with for almost the entire 42 years that we have been in business. Architects in nearly every corner of the country know the founders and leaders of our company and the common thread of technical success, quality control, and partnership that we provide. We understand that all of this boils down to people. It’s a relationship-based industry. We are not here selling widgets. We are selling expertise. We are making building drawings and ultimately making end users happy by making their projects successful.
We know what makes a project tick. We understand what architects face, from a project’s planning, zoning, and entitlements phase to the grand opening. Through our principal-level approach and long-term partnerships, we are a great partner to consider as an engineer who can work with you on all your projects.
How can architects benefit from collaborating with your firm?
BR: Something important these days, especially for end users doing tenant improvement projects, is finding a competent engineering partner licensed in all 50 states and registered as a firm in all 50 states—and that’s not an easy task. Our company is not only registered as a firm in all 50 states, but we have licensed engineers on staff in all 50 states as well.
Through the pandemic and the transformations our company has made, we have hired remote employees throughout the United States, so we can be anywhere we need to be to help you make your project successful. We can provide the same quality designs in Hawaii, Alaska, US territories, and the other 48 contiguous United States, so you don’t have to stress looking for a local engineer when you need one. Our job is to understand the codes and local ordinances everywhere we work.