Employee Spotlight: Patrick Fernbach, Director of Mechanical Engineering
Patrick Fernbach, PE, WELL AP, started as a co-op at Kohrs Lonnemann Heil Engineers, Inc. (KLH Engineers) 10 years ago. Today, he serves as director of mechanical engineering and oversees the mechanical department’s use of innovative design solutions and workflows, guides professional development plans for team members, and helps facilitate ideation of new technologies that enhance mechanical design.
Congratulations on obtaining your PE license and being promoted to director of mechanical engineering. What are you most excited about in this new role?
The most exciting part of this new opportunity is being able to support and grow others in the department. The best part of this position is setting up a healthy and strong system and culture to serve our team to show up the best version of themselves every day. This year we are setting up programs in the department to support members to pass their FE, having an “engineering deep dive” training series, and a structured self-development/awareness program. All of these and others are intended to continue growth of our team. I get energized by exploring engineering concepts in our department, growing strong team cultures, fostering relationships with our community leaders and clients, and creating systems that allow our team members to engineer our clients’ dreams into a reality.
You also just obtained your WELL AP certification. What are you doing to improve the sustainability of a building and the health of its inhabitants?
I obtained my WELL AP certification because I believe in the importance of designing and creating healthy built environments. The WELL program focuses on providing fresh air, clean water, healthy light levels, and managing sound transmittance to support human well-being.
Outside air is critical for the occupants’ wellbeing; therefore, reviewing items such as CO2 ppm levels in the space and the outside air getting to the breathing zone can go a long way. We recently measured CO2 levels in an elementary school throughout the day for a week and were able to confirm that the school needed additional ventilation. We also have a software that allows us to run HVAC system analysis quickly on most projects to compare energy usage and total life-cycle cost. This allows us to arm the owner with information regarding the building before we start design.
As building designers, engineers and architects, we have a significant impact on society and it is our responsibility to use evidence-based approaches, such as WELL, to design buildings that promote healthy living. Obtaining this certification allows me to contribute to the creation of spaces that support the well-being of individuals and communities.
How do you help clients plan ahead when there is tight supply chain?
Consulting early in the project on expected lead times is key. We have strong relationships with many trade contractors and vendors to get updated lead times. During design, we will also explore lead times across a few manufacturers to determine which have lead times to meet the project’s budget. Lastly, we will work with the owner and/or contractors to put together early equipment packages to help meet the project’s schedule. On our design-build projects, this workflow is almost a necessity.
When you’re not designing, what are some of the community initiatives you are excited about?
Recently, KLH joined the 2030 District of Cincinnati. I am excited to join this community focused on sustainability and wellness in our tri-state area. As a professional engineer, I feel as though I have an obligation to serve society and design buildings with the most sustainable and efficient design that meets the owner’s budget and project goals.
Outside of the office, I serve as the treasurer of our local American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) chapter and have been on the board for two years. I have met so many great community members that share my passion for construction and engineering through this organization. I am also a new member of the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) and look forward to establishing new relationships within this great organization.
Ten years ago, you started co-oping at KLH. What advice would you give current and future co-ops?
My advice to co-ops at KLH: bring your A-game, always be curious and ask questions, find mentors, focus on fundamentals like time management and communication, and don’t wait to take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam post-college! Lastly, be honest with yourself and those around you. This will set you up for success in your engineering career.
What has been one of your proudest moments working at KLH?
I don’t know that I have a single moment at KLH that I’m most proud of; I’m prouder of the journey I’ve been on. I’ve learned so much at KLH and there’s a lot that brings me pride and satisfaction. When I started at KLH in college I didn’t even really know what ductwork was used for nor the difference between supply and return ductwork. I’d never thought about it. I also didn’t know how to model in Revit, develop software programs, write business proposals, design a chiller system, and so much more. I cannot say these things anymore, but there is still a lot I need to learn. As I continue my journey, a large source of pride comes in supporting others on their journey at KLH to fulfill their goals and aspirations.
Describe KLH in three words.
Innovative problem solvers.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my spare time, I enjoy cooking, working on home improvement projects, and spending time with my family. Cooking is a passion of mine and I find it to be a great way to relax, be creative, and bond with my loved ones. I also enjoy tackling various home improvement projects, such as remodeling the kitchen, building an attic in the garage, and trenching storm gutters across the yard. These projects have taught me valuable skills and have given me a newfound appreciation for skilled labor in construction. And nothing is more satisfying than completing a project and being able to enjoy it with my family.