Case Studies

Environmental Systems Design Inc.

Designing Efficient Systems with Environmental Conscience

Hem Gupta founded Chicago-based Environmental Systems Design Inc. (ESD) in 1967. For more than 45 years, the consulting and engineering firm has been growing steadily, and now provides building integrated infrastructure consulting expertise for some of the most recognized companies around the world.

“The use of technology increasingly impacts all buildings from hotels and convention centers to offices and manufacturing,” says Raj Gupta, CEO of ESD. Therefore, ESD’s team of approximately 300 professionals offers capabilities to help businesses grow while maintaining efficiency and reducing impact on the environment.

“What I love about this company is the dedication to our mission,” Raj continues. “I started my career, right out of college, at ESD in 1984. We have great people working with us and we build long-term relationships with great people, too. I love leading our company and developing long-term relationships.”

It is evident that Raj enjoys what he does, and perhaps that is because ESD is truly a unique company. “We look at things from an integrated perspective,” he continues. “That is what really sets us apart. We are professional engineers with licenses to provide mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection / life safety systems [MEP/FP] design, and we have depth in integrating technology systems design of security, data, voice and audio visual infrastructure with MEP/FP systems.”

However, that is not all ESD has to offer. “Beyond design of these infrastructure systems, we also have expertise in validating energy efficiency, providing sustainability consulting and integrating smart building systems for long-term maintenance and operations through our energy+eco focus – providing greater value to our clients before, during and after major capital building projects,” Raj elaborates. “We consider it a five-part specialty: one, we do a lot of consulting work; two, engineering; three is technology; part four is energy+eco services; and then five is commissioning.”

Raj is proud to note that ESD’s clients receive the greatest benefit when these services are provided relative to business needs. Often, the breadth of ESD’s services bridge the gap between facilities, operations, IT and finance.

Adding Value

The key term for the ESD team is collaboration. A building’s infrastructure is increasingly more important relative to a company’s operational objectives. “Sometimes, these objectives seemingly conflict,” Raj says. “For example, most companies seek to reduce their energy consumption while increasing the amount of energy needed to connect their facilities and customers.” As a business, however, other factors come into play.

“They have to prioritize employee productivity, health and morale, while being able to attract and retain talent,” Raj notes. “These all come together through collaboration across the design team, contractors, owners and often others with an interest in facilities – whether it is an office, hospital, hotel, data center or a super tall mixed-use tower. A collaborative working relationship is earned through aligning our expertise to the needs of the companies who rely on their facilities for marketplace advantage.”

According to Raj, taking everything into account is important. “With the shift to Cloud computing, we cannot be the firm that will just come in and wire everything up,” he details. “We help customers through modeling lifecycle operations performance and costs; we understand what it means to migrate to a Cloud platform and the implications to space requirements.”

While the trend is to locate data centers off site, clients may need a different work setup to accommodate an off-site data center. “We are looking at projects holistically,” Raj explains. “We can lead them through the effort. What we want to know ahead of time is the company’s strategy, because real estate and information technology strategies need to be aligned with the company’s overall strategy. We are one of a few firms with the capability to bridge corporate real estate facilities departments and IT departments, which are so often separate with no communication.”

Unique Projects

ESD has grown immensely over its 45-year history, and the team’s ability to develop innovative solutions through collaboration has fostered opportunities to offer expertise around the world. “We go all over the place,” Raj elaborates. “We are in 20 to 25 states in the U.S. at any given time. Our work is specialized engineering, so if people want specialist, they usually don’t care where the expertise comes from. We are coast to coast in the U.S. and in six or seven different countries.”

In regard to the areas of specialization ESD offers, the firm’s services are of value to speculative developers of high-rise and super tall mixed-use towers to owners and operators of corporate offices, hotels, residential, as well as health care facilities.

“In the past, an owner’s representative would bring a consulting engineer onto a project after the space or building was conceptualized architecturally,” Raj continues. “Today we are adding value through collaboration early in the design and construction process more often. Some of the drivers include interest from owners to utilize Public Private Partnerships [PPP] design-build and variations of Integrated Project Delivery [IPD]; each delivery method requires a higher degree of collaboration from the onset of a project through occupancy. Beyond these formal methods for design and construction team collaboration, many clients seek the spirit of these approaches and have brought ESD in early so they have a clearer picture of how their choices impact not only construction costs, but also lifecycle operations and maintenance costs, as well.”

Currently, ESD is designing the world’s next tallest tower: Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia. “We’re engaged in the design for Kingdom Tower, including the infrastructure engineering design for mechanical, electrical and plumbing to providing technology infrastructure design for security systems and data communication systems and detailed energy analysis,” Raj explains. “The industry has changed with globalization. We can do buildings anywhere in the world from Chicago. It is not unusual for us to collaborate with different companies throughout the world.”

Stateside, ESD’s consulting engineers are involved with a major renovation for Wrigley Field. “This project has been in the local papers a lot,” Raj says. “We are really looking forward to seeing the renovation coming to fruition. Plans are still being finalized so there is not too much that can be shared yet. However, it is no secret they are looking to enhance the fan experience through upgrading many of the facility’s amenities while maintaining the character of Chicago’s beloved park in a vibrant urban neighborhood. Overall, the renovations and supporting mixed-use neighborhood development will take several years to complete and our team is excited to be a part of Chicago history in the making.”

Continued Growth

The business is growing steadily despite the slowdown a few years ago. “In 2007 and 2008, the whole construction industry went into a tailspin,” Raj recounts. “We run a debt-free operation, so we knew we would get through it. We put plans in place to grow as soon as business conditions improved. We were able to hire great people during the downturn and we are a much stronger company today. The economy is much better today and we are optimistic about how our industry’s outlook is improving. Even though we have grown through the recession and the slower-than-expected rebound, we are still committed to smart growth as a company even as the economy and our industry improve.”

With this in mind, Raj and his team are looking ahead to a period of steady growth. “We have employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction and financial goals,” he says. “Every day is an opportunity to improve the quality of our services while strengthening personal relationships. We take this commitment very seriously as it aligns with our mission of improving society through the built environment.”

Raj goes on to say that he is satisfied no matter what size the project. “We can meet customers’ objectives, with a conservation ethic, doing the right thing environmentally,” he continues. “When clients have their needs met and employees feel like they have grown through a project, that’s when we know we’ve done well.”

According to Raj, the most satisfying feeling is when the owner, design and construction team members collaborate to deliver a cost-effective building on time that promotes the owner’s vision and mission in a manner that stewards energy efficiency, sustainability, operational performance.

“As a result we can make people safer and healthier and more productive,” he says. “In order to do that, we make sure a building is flexible, reliable and environmentally friendly. We have a reputation for pragmatic solutions, achieving those things we just talked about and making it fit a budget makes us really happy. Trust and collaboration takes you a long way.”

With a proactive approach that embraces integrity and innovation, Environmental Systems Design Inc. will continue to grow far beyond the upcoming 50-year anniversary.

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