Innovative engineering design for Western Michigan University’s Heritage Hall has earned a TowerPinkster mechanical engineer the highest award achievable by the international engineering society, ASHRAE.

Jonathan Rumohr, PE, HBDP, LEED AP BD+C, a senior mechanical engineer at West Michigan Architecture and Engineering firm TowerPinkster, received the Award of Engineering Excellence during the 2018 ASHRAE Winter Conference in Chicago. Each year the Society presents awards in six categories: Commercial, Institutional, Health Care, Industrial or Processes, Public Assembly, and Residential. Building energy performance must be proven through one year’s actual, verifiable operating data. For each category first, second, and honorable mention winners are named, and one of the category first-place winners may be recognized to receive the ASHRAE Award of Engineering Excellence.

The award was created in 1989 to recognize a first-place winner of the Technology Award competition for an outstanding application of innovative design and effective energy utilization. Recipients have demonstrated the best overall compliance with the judging criteria. Since inception, this award has only been presented five times; in 2000, 2005, 2013, 2014, and now 2018.

Rumohr received this award for his outstanding work on the renovation of Western Michigan University’s Heritage Hall. The 114-year-old building served as the foundation of the University until it became obsolete and was rendered to a “mothball” state for several years. As Rumohr and the TowerPinkster team worked to reimagine the space, they were able to create a building system that is currently, while the building is fully occupied, operating on less energy than when it was sitting in a vacant condition.  

As a result of energy design innovation, Heritage Hall operates at a 50 percent reduction over the LEED energy model estimate and more than an 80 percent reduction over the ASHRAE energy standard. The project is the first LEED Platinum building in the Kalamazoo area and the fourth LEED Platinum Higher Education building in Michigan. Heritage Hall also received the 2016 Governor’s Energy Award for Michigan in the public building category.

“This project offered me a unique challenge and opportunity to create a system that utilizes all of the best parts of modern engineering, to produce a truly innovative building, in terms of mechanical engineering,” said Rumohr about his success. “I am so grateful to have had the chance to complete this design for my alma mater and to be recognized by ASHRAE for my accomplishment. I am also very grateful for my team and their hard work on making the dream for this building a reality.”

Rumohr worked on WMU’s Facilities Management team while pursuing his Bachelor of Science and took on the role of mechanical intern at TowerPinkster in 2008. He then progressed into a Mechanical Designer role within the company and is now a Senior Mechanical Engineer.

Rumohr was assisted on the project by Jesse Hendershot, a TowerPinkster mechanical engineer. Hendershot, also a WMU alumnus, will receive his professional engineering license in April of this year.

“There are not many people that can say they have worked on a dream project within the first few years of their career,” said Hendershot. “When I was a student at WMU, I remember sitting on the cracked steps of Heritage Hall and wondering how that great building operated in it’s prime. I never thought I would have the opportunity to work on the restoration. Working on a design effort of such magnitude early in my career has certainly set a high standard for me and my future projects. It is extremely beneficial for me to be able to reference such a high performance, sustainably-focused system.”
Rumohr is equally eager to implement the lessons learned at Heritage Hall on his upcoming projects: “The systems we designed are going to offer real-time evaluations of the building’s performance so that we can further optimize current and future designs. Knowing that our work achieved the engineering excellence award, our team is motivated to push the limits of sustainability and design in future work.”