Meet Brad Hanson, P.E., from Arnold & O’Sheridan Consulting Engineers.

Brad Hanson, P.E.


Brad Hanson, P.E., is the director of plumbing and fire protection for Madison, Wis.-based Arnold & O’Sheridan Consulting Engineers. A University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate and a 17-year veteran at A & O, Hanson and his team consult on projects in main-market sectors such as health care, justice and higher education, as well as other commercial, corporate and civic initiatives. The firm’s higher education experience includes many University of Wisconsin campuses, including several recent high-profile projects at UW-Madison. pme recently talked with Hanson about a variety of topics, including green engineering and navigating in today’s economic climate.

pme: How extensively do you work with green technologies?

BH: We have done a large number of LEED-certified buildings. Even when a project is not pursuing LEED certification, we still try to incorporate as much green technology as we can. Our mechanical engineers have been working on a large number of projects using geothermal. On the plumbing side, we have been specifying low-flow fixtures for several years. We have designed storm water reclamation systems and are currently working on a project where we will be recycling wastewater from a vehicle wash bay. We also specify brine recovery systems to reduce the amount of water being used to regenerate water softeners. I think sustainable technologies are critical. Maintaining the potable water we have is very important for the future.

pme: Has the green/energy-efficient movement hit a plateau yet?

BH: I think it has reached a small plateau right now, mainly because of the economy. There is a cost premium for many high-efficiency products. Right now, we are seeing those with pretty fast paybacks being implemented. As the economy improves, owners will be more likely to spend a little more to implement more green technologies that may have a little longer payback, but will still offer financial opportunities.

pme: Where do you see the next big movement in green technology?

BH: Rainwater harvesting will continue to grow in popularity. With technologies advancing and cost premiums coming down, graywater systems will become more popular as well. There will be more advances in water conservation, not just with plumbing fixtures, but also with minimizing wastewater from equipment such as water softeners and reverse osmosis systems.

pme: Where do you see rainwater harvesting on the present sustainable ladder?

BH: In the Midwest, we have not seen rainwater harvesting grow as quickly as other areas. The Great Lakes offer a tremendous freshwater supply in this area. The water rates are relatively inexpensive and the payback for rainwater harvesting is nonexistent. However, we still find a small percentage of building owners who want to invest in rainwater harvesting, simply because they feel it is the right thing to do. As with any technology, I predict rainwater harvesting will become more popular as the cost premium comes down and the awareness goes up.

pme: How has the current economic climate affected how you approach projects?

BH: Clearly, we have seen budgets get tighter as a symptom of the economy. Costs are being scrutinized even more than before. We are seeing owners investing in green technologies for energy savings that can offer attractive paybacks. Incentives from the government and programs such as Focus on Energy are becoming more prevalent in the projects we design. We are being challenged to think outside the box even more to develop systems that are cost-effective and energy-efficient.

pme: How big of a role is BIM playing for plumbing and mechanical engineers?

BH: BIM is playing a bigger role these days as the software is getting more advanced. It requires more decisions to be made earlier in the design process. That allows us to determine sooner what potential coordination issues may arise. However, we are finding BIM only works well if everyone is on board from the start, meaning all design team members have bought into the process. The BIM model is only good if everyone has accurately modeled the information - garbage in, garbage out.

pme: What advice do you have for young plumbing engineers just entering the field?

BH: Be patient. Rome was not built in a day and your career won’t be either. Be proactive, ask questions, strive to keep learning and work hard. You will get noticed. Understand that coming out of school, you have the tools to work in the engineering field, but it’s important to find a good mentor to show you the ropes, especially in plumbing. While there are more and more plumbing courses in colleges every year, learning from an experienced plumbing engineer is still the best way to advance your career.

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