Senior Director, Energy, Engineering
Bob Olson approaches his work as senior director of the Physical Facilities Energy, Engineering and Sustainability Department from a broader perspective than most. His experiences working with small construction companies, large industrial firms and the U.S. departments of Defense and Energy give him the diverse background necessary for such an all-encompassing position.
Olson has lived all over the country from California to Virginia, but now, along with a team of 130 people, he is working to improve Purdue’s sustainability and energy management efforts while supporting its mission of education and research.
What brought you to Purdue?
I’d done some consulting at Purdue and enjoyed my experiences at the University, so when I saw the university engineer position open up, I was interested. A campus composed of 160 primary buildings with both old and new structural, mechanical and electrical systems presented an exciting professional opportunity. I was the university engineer from 2006 until I began my new position in April 2010.
Why did Physical Facilities create the Energy, Engineering and Sustainability Department?
The creation of the Energy, Engineering and Sustainability Department allowed us to organize existing operational units performing closely related functions into a single cohesive department. Our department is now structured to address the production, distribution and consumption portions of the energy management process. This approach has provided us with outstanding opportunities to maximize efficiency and effectiveness and become more versatile.
As a strategy in the University's strategic plan, as well as one of Physical Facilities' strategic plan goals, sustainability has been recognized as a priority throughout our campus community. While working in support of the University's educational and research mission, it is the responsibility of Physical Facilities to lead energy management efforts. The Energy, Engineering and Sustainability Department is well-positioned to actively address both of these areas of campus-wide focus.
Are there any specific goals queued up for the EES department?
We are currently accepting comments on the final draft of our Comprehensive Energy Master Plan (CEMP). The idea behind CEMP is to evaluate the energy production, distribution and demand on campus. It looks at chilled water, steam and electrical production and evaluates the potential energy savings in campus buildings. The final plan will provide Purdue with a framework to guide us in managing energy production and consumption on campus as it continues to grow and evolve.
What is your favorite part of your job?
The variety. One day we could be focused on routine operations and the next we’re assisting with a major initiative like the Ten Year Capital Improvement Plan. I also enjoy the position because I have the opportunity to interact with a number of stakeholders throughout campus. In addition to our energy, engineering, and sustainability focus, we regularly contribute to new construction and building renovation projects.
Do you have any personal goals that this position allows you to fulfill?
I am particularly interested in increasing connections between our operations and student learning. We are uniquely positioned to provide professional experience and contribute to the education of Purdue students, while simultaneously learning from students. I have found the students with whom I have worked to be sharp and creative and want to extend our efforts to involve students in the real world "living laboratory" our department can provide.