Employee Spotlight: Brandon Johnson, Director of Electrical Engineering
Brandon Johnson, PE, joined KLH Engineers in 2010 as a co-op student and was hired on full time in 2013 as an electrical engineer. In 2019, Brandon was named Director of Electrical Engineering and now oversees the growth and direction of the electrical department and service offerings. He has extensive experience in the design of electrical systems including power distribution, fire alarm, lighting controls, generator systems, arc-flash studies and selective coordination. He has engineered projects in the civic, commercial, education and healthcare markets with a focus on transportation facilities, houses of worship, theatrical facilities, office and mixed-use developments. In addition to his design responsibilities, Brandon serves as a Software Business Analyst and has been a key member of KLH’s software department challenged with progressing the firm’s technology advancements.
You serve as both the Director of Electrical Engineering and as a Software Business Analyst at KLH. Tell us a little bit about each of your roles and how they work together.
As the Director of Electrical Engineering, my responsibilities center around establishing department standards, advancing the technical knowledge of all electrical employees, setting the future vision for the department and overseeing the implementation and ongoing use of our custom electrical software. As a Business Analyst, I help take an idea from a KLH team member and facilitate the creation of software execution plans to turn that idea into usable software. I then work with our software department to prioritize, test and rollout the software to the end users. It’s an interesting dynamic being both the person that sets the department vision and stays heavily involved in the creation of the software that brings that vision to life. I have to wear a lot of different hats to keep it all together but it’s really enjoyable to oversee the entire process from idea to software rollout.
What are some of the technologies that KLH has developed to help automate the electrical engineering design process while adding value for our clients?
We’ve created three custom tools recently that are slowly creating a brand-new way to perform an electrical design.
The first tool, called EZMap, creates electrical specific zones at the start of a project based on the 3D geometry of a building. These zones help our engineers make high-cost decisions such as service size and distribution gear layouts at the start of a project, whereas previously these decisions couldn’t be made until the end. We can then extract this information at a schematic design (SD) or even pre-award level for accurate pricing and space planning.
Next, we developed a tool called Placement Assistant that extracts information about the spaces within a Revit model and compares this information to placement rules that our engineers define. It uses these comparisons to automatically place electrical devices in a building. Not only does this significantly reduce the amount of time our team spends manually placing devices in a model, but it will soon allow us to produce a bill of material at an SD level with all electrical devices listed.
Once the devices are placed, the zones created by EZMap are then fed into the third tool, Circuit-Pro. This tool takes that zoning information and then automatically performs branch circuiting. Circuit-Pro can cut out 75 percent or more of the time typically required to circuit an electrical design. It also incorporates error checks—that are not possible with standard engineering software—that eliminate reoccurring change orders common in the electrical industry.
These tools and many others are all being developed to not only save us time, but to allow us to have more time in ever-shrinking project schedules to do true consulting and engineering for our clients. They also allow us to provide our clients with better information earlier in a project so informed decisions about project scope and budget can be made before thousands of dollars are spent designing a building that ultimately isn’t affordable. Wouldn’t it be great if we go to a point where value engineering exercises were no more? It’s possible with the direction our software is taking us.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
What I enjoy most is being in a company that allows its employees the freedom to innovate and spend the overhead time necessary to take a new idea and turn it into something tangible. I love the moment when an idea that came out of nowhere turns into software that redefines not only how KLH does engineering, but redefines the industry as a whole. This wouldn’t be possible if our employees didn’t feel empowered to take the time away from their billable responsibilities to see that idea through to completion. I love coming to work every day and seeing something new developed that can change the industry we work in. You don’t find that many places.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Be outdoors! Boating, water skiing and floating on a lake with a beer in hand is my ideal summer day any time you ask. When spring and fall come around I love riding my 4-wheeler, hiking and camping, especially in the Red River Gorge. In the winter, I like to snow ski although I’m far from a pro (I gauge the success of a ski tip on no more than one wipe out).
What are three words you would use to describe KLH?