Spotlight: Dan Forino

Not every New York kid gets to design a fire hydrant, but that’s what Dan Forino did for his first college engineering internship. His next internship included getting out into the field with a forensic team, where he realized that fieldwork and troubleshooting were much more interesting for a guy who doesn’t like to sit in one place for long.

After earning a degree in mechanical engineering, Dan considered graduate school in order to further specialize in some way, but he really wanted to get into the field and work on problems in buildings. In search of his first job out of school, he googled “Field Engineer”, found Horizon Engineering Associates (HEA) on his first try and was able to get an all-day interview with some of the familiar names in the commissioning profession like, Mike English, Ed Moore, and Joe Lorino. He says, “I felt like I bombed the interview, but they hired me anyway after talking with Mike and Joe about the Mets for about 2 hours.” That was January 2007, nearly ten years ago.

Dan considers himself fortunate, and he is. It’s also clear that he is a mover: starting out in the New York City office at HEA, he spent another year and a half in the Long Island office, moved to Charlotte to help establish their office, and back to Long Island/New York City area as the Sustainability Manager.

As he progressed through the locations and hoops at Horizon, Dan managed to earn a LEED AP BD&C credential and study six hours a day to achieve his license as a Professional Engineer. “It gave me a lot of confidence. I was a ‘babyface’, which can make it look like I don’t have experience. I got respect by learning about LEED and helping people. I was a resource for them.” Last year, Dan completed an MBA at SUNY Stony Brook, earned his Certified Commissioning Professional certification from the Building Commissioning Certification Board, and was elected to the International Board of the Building Commissioning Association.

When he expressed an interest in indoor air quality (IAQ), Senior Partner Mike English, said, “Okay, GO!” Dan heard that loud and clear, and is grateful. “They’ve given me every opportunity I’ve asked for, recognizing what the industry is doing.”

Dan wants to be involved in shaping what’s happening in the industry and to know what the rest of the country is doing. “I went to Mike to say, I’m a commissioning engineer, not a design engineer. Unlike most other commissioning providers, I didn’t migrate from design to commissioning, I started out as this. It’s important to me to keep it going, keep the legs it has. Where do I go to do that?”

Through HEA, Dan became involved in the NYC Department of Buildings, sitting on multiple commissioning panels. Because HEA was on the board of Local Law 87 (“Energy Audits and Retrocommissioning”), he has learned how commissioning is implemented in energy code. As a result, he has also been involved with NRDC on establishing water auditing standards and developing standards for water Cx in existing buildings in areas that are drought prone.

He is now Engineering Manager at HEA and is intent on “giving back to my profession.” As a member of the US Green Building Council and very active in the BCxA, he believes it’s important to “…stick with your community. I try to be active in one organization so as not to spread myself too thin.”

At one point Dan’s career goal was to open an office on the west coast, and oversee the region for HEA. He says, “I connect with my company’s message and culture, and have been given the chance to mold that culture. I want to work in that, where I now have a great work life balance – take the baton and continue at Horizon because we’re always looking to move the needle for the services we offer. We’re looking at more IAQ and other areas to enhance the role of the commissioning provider and bring expertise to every aspect of the building.”

For example Dan worked with an associate to conduct an ASHRAE Environmental Air Quality (IAQ) study at the Whitney Museum in New York researching museum standards and needs for the facility, which did achieve LEED certification. As a result, his company won a large museum project where he’s able to use knowledge from his MBA to show the secondary effects of commissioning, such as reducing insurance costs and liability.

Tips For Newcomers to the Cx Profession

Dan says, “Don’t say no. Remember you’re stretching, don’t stay in your comfort zone. It’s a good career for reaching further. You can go far. Make sure you move forward – it’s a knowledge-based profession, and you need to keep up with knowledge.”

He believes that for the young engineer, there’s a big gap between the older and younger guard. The biggest gap being less exposure to the hands-on side of the business due to all the advancements in technology. “The troubleshooting tips you’ll get from a CxP that had a previous life operating a facility for 20 years are difficult to translate or pass on without experiencing it ourselves. I think the direction the BCxA University is going with the lectures, as well as the great lab component, will go a long way in bringing the newer CxPs up to speed.” And, he’d like to make sure the war stories get passed down.

The Personal World of Dan Forino

Dan and his wife of two years, Ashley, just bought a house for themselves and their English Bulldog, a “grumpy old man” named Roland. Dan likes kayak fishing on Long Island Sound – for stripers and whatever’s biting – and taking them home for another great delight: experimental cooking. “I love playing with different risottos and seeing how I can change the recipe. I try to reduce waste by recycling food scraps to make different stocks for risotto (vegetable scraps, chicken / pork bones, parmesan rinds). And after that anything I can teach myself to make from scratch that we typically take for granted and buy from the store – broths and stocks, different types of bread and pasta. Recently I spent most of a Saturday reducing down my own sweetened condensed milk for my first attempt at lemon meringue pie! Came out great (the second time…)”

Keep moving, Dan, and keep reaching! You are an inspiration.


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