Building Commissioning Specialist, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan
DeVon Miller didn't always want to be a commissioning provider. Coming out of high school, he originally wanted to be an Architect. When he received a football scholarship to Michigan Technological University, he decided to pursue Mechanical Engineering, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1996.
"I started my career working for a big-box retailer in the engineering department focusing on the building automation (BAS) controls for HVAC and energy management," says DeVon. "At that time, the retailer was transitioning from programmable thermostat controls to direct digital controls (DDC) on their HVAC systems. And with various departments such as general merchandise, food service, and refrigeration equipment under the same roof, it was extremely important to make sure that the DDC controls worked properly to maintain the desired temperature and humidity levels within the spaces."
There have been plenty of challenges over time. In DeVon's own words …
"I would say the first, and maybe biggest challenge was adjusting to the professional environment. Being the new person is a little overwhelming at times, especially trying to understand how things are typically done in the workplace. As a minority, I sometimes felt a little hesitant to ask questions — you don't want to feel judged by others. But I realized early on that I don't know everything, and the only way to get that knowledge is to ask questions to those around you. I'm not afraid to ask questions anymore, and being open to new ideas (thinking outside the box)." As a technical review team member for the BCxA/APPA Building Commissioning Handbook, 3rd Edition, DeVon now has plenty of answers to share. He volunteers as a member of the BCxA's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, advocating for BCxA education, representation and professional development.
"In 2003, I had the opportunity to work for a controls company in Atlanta, GA as a project manager overseeing the installation of building automation systems in small box retail stores. Within a short time, I was promoted to a senior project manager role and asked to manage a high-profile client's building automation system installation. This was a very proud moment for me simply because I had only been there for a short period of time, and they felt confident in my professional ability to give me this opportunity.
DeVon is a Building Commissioning Specialist at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI, where he oversees, monitors, and inspects the construction progress of major capital investment projects. In addition, he acts as a liaison between Maintenance Services and Campus Planning and Construction to coordinate activities and system training and manages the RCx and ongoing commissioning (OCx) programs for the University's Facilities Management Engineering Division. As the Owner's Representative for all LEED initiatives on campus for new capital projects and existing buildings, his long-term objective is to continue to grow the OCx efforts on campus.
"We redefined our OCx program in 2017 … we use fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) software tool to serve as a proactive maintenance automated diagnostic solution for the university. The OCx effort has slowly grown over time, where we are now monitoring 19 buildings. Ultimately, the goal is to monitor the majority of the buildings to allow for us to be proactive in prioritizing and addressing energy, comfort, and maintenance issues as they arise.
"I think the pandemic has changed the field of commissioning. Indoor air quality will be brought to the forefront as it relates to the built environment. As commissioning providers, we have always thought about indoor air quality, but I believe you will now have more building owners focusing on it. Potentially you may have employees asking building owners what improvements are being implemented to improve indoor air quality at their workplace."
We asked DeVon what advice he would have for newcomers considering entering a building-related field?
"Don't be afraid to ask questions. Be passionate about what you do to make the building environment better for others. Be open to new ideas and don't be afraid to collaborate with others in your profession."
And as always, we asked what's one thing no one knows about you? "I'm a big-time pro wrestling fan. I grew up watching pro wrestling dating back to the early 1980s. My favorite wrestlers are Rick Flair, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and The Undertaker."