Q&A with Bob Misbrener, Office of the University Architect Project Manager II
Office of Sustainability Newsletter May 2021
What sparked your interest in architectural and engineering design, project management, facility master planning, and sustainability?
I started working in the engineering field back in 1980 at a Consulting Engineering firm in Green, Ohio named Scheeser-Buckley-Keyser. It has evolved and is now Scheeser-Buckley Mayfield. Interestingly, I worked on HVAC design on many Kent State buildings while at SBM for 19 years. I attended Akron University – now The University of Akron, for engineering while working at SBM. I had a great (demanding!) mentor in one of the owners, Gary Starr. The varied projects, energy calculations etc. sparked and cemented my interest in the field.
What is your favorite part of your position?
Being involved with projects that reduce cost for the university or improve the indoor and outdoor quality experience for student, faculty and staff.
What are your favorite accomplishments or projects you have worked on so far?
After starting at Kent State on January 25, 1999, I’ve been part of many transformational projects for Kent State. From utility tunnels, Residence Hall Refresh to Energy Conservation and Renewable energy. I must say my favorite accomplishment has been in the Energy Conservation and Renewables sector. I feel fortunate to have been able to make positive impacts and at Kent and almost all Regional and Satellite campuses.
Where is one of your favorite spots to visit on campus? And what makes it your favorite?
This question is very interesting and I was thinking about this very thing on 4/30/21 morning. I was visiting the Library 2nd floor eSports suite to check on an issue and for some reason was struck by the beauty and technology of the space. On my way out, I walked through the adjacent Wick Poetry study area and also appreciated the design beauty. This observation tells me that I need to appreciate the beauty that so many people work so hard to create, maintain and polish! There is so much history, creativity and social impact at Kent State that I would say that all spots are my favorite and each have something special to behold!
How does sustainability manifest itself in what you do at Kent State University?
It makes me never have a shortage of something to do! When you start seeing the positive impact of reduced operational cost and improved facilities, you begin discovering more things to improve!
What do you want the people of Kent State to know about you and your position as Office of the University Architect Project Manager II (or any other roles you have)?
That I take my position and what it represents very seriously and always want to help improve the institution. I’m also very happy that both my daughter’s graduated from Kent State and have fulfilling careers as a result!
What do you want people to know about Office of the University Architect (OUA)?
That we are a very dedicated group of people with a wide range of skills, working for the advancement of the University.
How long have you been at Kent State and what are your roles?
I’m working on year 22! My roles have been primarily as mechanical engineer and project manager at the Architect’s office, doing a wide variety of projects across almost every discipline. I was in management at UFM for a few years in the early 2000’s. This makes me aware of the challenges of what it takes to maintain this large campus and appreciative of their entire team. I returned to the OUA when the Energy Projects became a major initiative of the State of Ohio and for Kent State.
What are the advantages of solar arrays to Kent State University?
I’ve been fortunate to be part of the Renewable energy projects – namely the solar PV arrays at Field House, Ashtabula, College of Podiatric Medicine (CPM), East Liverpool, Geauga, Salem, Stark and Trumbull. Field House has been online since July 2012 and was purchased by Kent State in early 2020. CPM has been online since 3/1/21, the other six (6) will be online very soon. Combined, they will eliminate 4,116 tons of CO2 every year, equivalent to the emissions of 805 cars. The commitment of Kent State leadership to support these projects for the betterment of the environment is admirable. The improvement of the air we breathe is a great benefit of these projects and certainly appreciated by persons with asthma and other breathing related maladies. The projects were all very carefully designed to also save the university money. A current example is at CPM: for the first month of operation in March 2021, the array produced 45,003 kWh of clean electricity (ironically one of the sunniest Marches on record), reduced the use of utility grid power by about one-third and saved CPM nearly $3,000 due to attractive kWh pricing by incorporation of the array into their current Energy Conservation Project with The Brewer-Garrett Company. We do not own most of the solar arrays, but have an arrangement with the developers to purchase all the electricity produced from them over between 15 and 25 years. At the end of the 25 year contract, we will have saved well over $1.6 million with a system with no moving parts to fail and a minimum 25 year panel life. Solar panel efficiencies are improving all the time. If at any time improvements are enough to prompt changing them, the same support structure can simply be used! There aren’t many technologies that can support that simple of an upgrade. We are also approved for and in early development phases of a large solar PV electric array coupled with a Battery Energy Storage System at Kent Campus – on Summit Street across from the Summit East Parking area. It will feed solar electricity directly into the Kent Campus electric grid!
For the ground mounted solar arrays, what is the plan for ground cover around them? (native plants, pollinator habitat etc?)
At Ashtabula, Geauga, Salem and Trumbull, Ohio native pollinators will be planted within the fence of the entire array! Native pollinators in solar arrays has been a trend for a few years, but certainly isn’t commonplace. We are fortunate to have this incorporated in our projects! The advantages are many: better rainwater management with deeper root systems than grass, attraction and support of bee and beneficial insect population, improved pollination of surrounding farms and residential gardens, beautification of the solar array area, reduced maintenance – 1X per year mowing, to name a few! My other hope is that after established, partnerships with local honey hive groups can occur to locate hives in/near the arrays for “solar honey”!
How does your work relate to sustainability and/or climate change?
Directly! I’ve given many examples above, but another example is through the energy conservation projects, when windows and roofs were replaced giving 60+ year old buildings a refreshed appearance and protection for many more years of sustainable service.
How do the three pillars of sustainability (planet-environmental, people-social, prosperity-economy & well-being) get woven into what you do at Kent State?
More recently, there is talk of a quadruple bottom line or pillars: People, Profit, Planet, and Progress. These are woven into most every thing I do at Kent State. The renewable energy and conservation projects themselves address all the P’s. The final one – Progress is addressed by the latest technologies used and the fact that the areas improved are for Higher Education that promotes Progress!
What would people be surprised to learn or know?
That I toured Germany at 17 with a German youth group, folk dancing and singing at countless performances! Also through which I met my wife of almost 35 years!
Thank you Bob!