Down in the Trenches

The president of Grumman/Butkus Associates isn’t afraid to work alongside the rest of his engineering team to push for a higher form of environmentalism

Dan Doyle is the president of engineering firm Grumman/Butkus Associates.

Dan Doyle, the president of engineering firm Grumman/Butkus Associates (GBA), admits that he was a little different as a kid. In elementary school he spent his days reading books about the environment by Rachel Carson, author of the renowned ecological manifesto Silent Spring. In high school, he was president of the Ecology Club and cofounded a recycling center. So, as a steadfast environmentalist with a penchant for math and science, it made perfect sense when Doyle decided to pursue a career in engineering. And after graduating from the University of Illinois with a BS in mechanical engineering, he reached out to industry friends for employment leads related to energy conservation and improving the environment.

“I kept hearing about Dave Grumman and his tiny firm, Enercon,” Doyle said. “Dave founded his energy consulting firm before anyone was even thinking about energy; it was six months before the first oil embargo. I felt like it was fate. All signs pointed towards coming to this firm.”

Enercon, Ltd. offered consulting services to clients interested in reducing their operating costs through energy conservation. In 1981, just a year after Doyle joined the company, Al Butkus was appointed vice president of the Illinois office, and Enercon changed its name to Grumman/Butkus Associates. In 2000, nearly 20 years later, Doyle became president, and his dual passions for work and the environment have helped shape the Chicago-based firm’s reputation in the Midwest as the premier energy-management consulting agency. The firm’s name has become synonymous with high-performing, energy- and resource-efficient buildings and facilities, and two recent projects—the Daniel F. and Ida L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center at the Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG) in Glencoe, Illinois, and the new bed tower at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital (ALGH) in Park Ridge, Illinois—are proving to be its most ambitious yet.

Before these projects, GBA was already considered a leader in the healthcare and laboratory markets. Some of this can be credited to Doyle, who developed the firm’s annual hospital energy- and water-benchmarking survey in the 1980s, which anonymously benchmarks hospitals’ energy use and costs, providing valuable information to healthcare-facility managers. The free survey was formalized in the 1990s, and currently up to 120 hospitals participate each year, with GBA shouldering the costs.

Given its placement within the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Rice Plant Conservation Science Center naturally was a candidate for green elements. On the exterior, the structure's photovoltaic panels also create a brise soleil. Also visible is the facility's rain garden. Photo: Michelle Litvin.
The view from the interior gallery of the Rice Plant Conservation Science building offers a glimpse of the green roof outside. Dan Doyle estimates that the building will be 40% more efficient than similar buildings due to its high-performance systems and occupancy sensors. Photo: Michelle Litvin.

Today, ALGH represents the engineering firm’s continued commitment to efficiency. GBA added a cutting-edge facility to the hospital campus with 192 private rooms and a new patient-bed tower. Early in the design process, energy modeling helped evaluate the insulation levels and window performance, allowing GBA to optimize the energy efficiency of the building. All energy-heavy mechanical equipment was prepurchased based on lowest life cycle cost, and air-handling units were selected with low-velocity coils and filters, resulting in lower fan-power draw. A high-efficiency condensing hot-water boiler plant was also put in place.

To give an idea of their efficiency, the condensing boilers used for both the ALGH bed tower and the Conservation Sciences Center have a rated efficiency of 92 percent, 12 percentage points above the International Energy Conservation Code requirements. The ALGH facility was also equipped with high-efficiency chillers, cooling towers, and pumps; a chilled water-supply temperature reset; and a green roof. When the facility received LEED Gold certification, it became the largest healthcare project in the Midwest to do so.

The Plant Conservation Science Center is equally noteworthy. All of the building’s materials are no- or low-VOC, it incorporates FSC-certified wood, and it is made from more than 40 percent recycled content. Energy efficiency was an important goal in the center’s design, too, and the structure features high-performance heating and cooling systems, a high-performance chiller, and high-performance condensing hot-water boilers for heating, including in-floor radiant heat. The lighting is also efficient and is coupled with occupancy sensors throughout the building so that it’s never unnecessarily illuminated. GBA predictes energy savings of nearly 40 percent and a final score of 9 out of 10 possible LEED points in that category.

“We’re trying to save the environment one building at a time,” Doyle says. “We’re down in the trenches, and we need more folks down in the trenches rather than debating whether or not man-made climate change exists. The time for debate has ended. The next step is figuring out what to do about it.”