the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year Award
in 2001. Our system has been recognized because we have succeeded in
reducing campus energy use and costs,
allowing us to fund infrastructure and
building improvements without raising
utility rates or affecting our bottom line.
Q. You also will be receiving a 12th
award in September from the Association of Energy Engineers. Tell us more.
A. Yes, I will be receiving AEE’s national
award for 2005 Energy Engineer of the
Year. That is a tremendous honor. It will
mean national recognition for U.Va.’s
energy program. While the award goes to
one person, one person can’t do it all. It
takes a very committed team with lots of
people sharing a common goal and
working very hard together to achieve
Q. What does the future hold for U.Va.’s
district energy system?
A. Tremendous growth. Construction is
under way on a $66 million upgrade of
our main heating plant. We’ve also started on what will eventually total $25 million in chilled-water plant expansions,
and we’re getting ready to begin $7 million in substation expansions. We are
currently constructing a new central
heating and chilled-water plant in our
Massie Road precinct as part of the construction of the new John Paul Jones
Arena project, and there are multiple
projects in the works to upgrade and
expand our distribution systems.
Q. What do you think differentiates the
operation of a district energy system on
a college or university campus from
that of a system within a city?
A. Their issues are actually quite similar.
Some might say that a campus’s ‘
customers’ are held hostage, but I disagree.
I strongly believe that campus district
energy managers have just as much
need to market their systems and
demonstrate that those systems provide
the most cost-effective, best value for
Q. What’s the greatest challenge currently facing college or university campus district energy systems? And
what’s the greatest opportunity?
A. The biggest challenge is keeping ahead
of the tremendous growth that is happening on campuses right now. That’s actually
also the greatest opportunity.
Q. We understand you are quite active
with APPA, the Association of Higher
Education Facilities Officers. How did
you get involved with the APPA Institute?
What do you currently do for that
A. I’ve personally been a member of APPA
since I became U.Va.’s director of energy
and utilities. I first learned of the APPA
Institute – an educational program
focusing on four core competency areas
of facilities management – by going
through the program myself. Right now I
am dean of the energy and utilities
‘track’ for the institute. Besides energy
and utilities, the other areas are facilities
planning and design, administration,
and operations and maintenance. The
Institute is held for one week, twice a
year. To graduate, members must attend
all four tracks, which is a four-week
commitment. In my track, I am responsible for curriculum and faculty. I also
teach two two-hour core curriculum
courses myself, as well as some electives.
Q. When did you join IDEA, and how
did you first learn about it?
A. I became a member of IDEA in 1994.
When I was a senior mechanical engineer
at U.Va., and getting more and more
involved in district energy-related projects, the utilities director at that time
suggested it might be useful for me to
attend an IDEA campus conference. So
I first went to one at the University of
North Carolina-Chapel Hill. I then joined
IDEA after the campus conference at
MIT/Harvard where I gave a presentation.
Q. What do you gain through IDEA that
you aren’t able to get as easily elsewhere?
A. Technical knowledge specific to district
energy and the opportunity to meet
‘partners’ who help me do my job: vendors, suppliers, consultants, manufacturers and colleagues at other colleges and
universities. Getting to know professionals from other systems gives you an
immediate network of people dealing
with similar issues.
In my experience, IDEA’s conferences,
in particular, present great opportunities
to advance your knowledge and make
contacts. The technical sessions and presentations provide background and context for conversations and learning
exchanges that occur among the attendees. The same is true of gatherings
around exhibitors at the trade show: The
products and services demonstrated
there provide lots of food for thought
and opportunities for exchange.
Q. What does it mean to be a leader?
A. Many things, but I’ll list only a few.
First, it’s having a vision of where you
want the ‘ship’ to go – anticipating the
challenges and opportunities that are
coming. Second, it means ensuring that
those who work for you have the
Cheryl Gomez, shown here speaking at IDEA’s
2005 annual conference, will chair IDEA’s board
until June 2006.
resources they need. I’m a strong believer
in the inverted pyramid concept: It’s the
leader’s job to ensure that those who
work for him or her are given the opportunity and provided the environment to
be as successful as they can possibly be.
Third, being a leader means matching
the gifts and talents of your employees
with their work. It’s a shame when bright,
talented, energetic people aren’t successful
because they’re doing jobs that don’t
best suit them.
Q. What’s your leadership style?
A. I build teams and consensus, and I’m
Q. What do you like to do in your free
A. I enjoy running and hiking, attending
theater and music events (I love opera),
getting together with friends, and reading
and going to my book club. I also spend
time volunteering, including raising
money for causes through running races.