Geographic expansion, project awards, acquisition, recognition — and merging forward: this is the story of how a pioneering Cx corporation can lead the market.
You could say that Horizon Engineering Associates (HEA) and HEA Founder Michael C. English, PE, CCP, LEED AP, together, have always been trailblazers for getting buildings to operate more efficiently, raising building and commissioning standards from their beginnings.
HEA was established in 1995 (New York) as Horizon Energy Management to provide expert assessment on how facilities function and ways to improve operations, whether through performance testing, utility surveys or design applications. Soon after the firm was established, they found a niche in the market – third-party commissioning services that ensure building systems are working efficiently and as intended.
Michael English says, “We positioned ourselves to be experts in the building commissioning industry and in turn, this strong point allows us to compete against larger companies that have smaller commissioning departments. HEA chose to target the commissioning market as one of the few engineering firms that specialized in commissioning in the area.”
In 1999, HEA joined the Building Commissioning Association (BCxA) at the annual National Conference on Building Commissioning (BCxA Annual Conference).
“At the time,” says English, “the BCxA was the only organization that promoted building commissioning and their goals aligned with our goals – to educate and promote commissioning services.” He was among the first members of the BCxA, later earned his ANSI-accredited certification, Certified Commissioning Professional (CCP), from the Building Commissioning Certification Board (BCCB). HEA was awarded the Certified Commissioning Firm (CCF) Designation in 2016.
Before green building practices became prevalent, HEA joined the USGBC in 2001 to strengthen the firm’s commitment to preserving commissioning as part of the green building process. In the thirteen years that followed, HEA enjoyed explosive growth, opening offices to support major projects awarded in states around the country, such as:
HEA’s first commissioning award was Yale University’s Cogeneration plant, followed by a major new construction commissioning (NCCx) project – the 300,000 sf Sofitel Hotel in New York City.
As large-scale and long-term projects were awarded, HEA opened new offices in Pennsylvania, then Michigan, Missouri, Maryland, Florida, Texas, Utah and Massachusetts. Locally, additional offices became necessary to support work in Syracuse, Long Island and Albany within the State of New York.
New York selected HEA in 2007 to provide commissioning services for the monumental National September 11th Memorial and Museum, the country’s principal institution concerned with exploring 9/11, documenting its impact, and examining its continuing significance…honoring those who were killed in the 2001 and 1993 attacks.
Michael English says emphatically, “we worked down there, we moved down there, we are New Yorkers!”
Among numerous signature HEA commissioning projects, here are a few examples:
- St. Regis Resort megaproject, Bal Harbour, Florida. $500 million, 1.6 million sf luxury resort.
- Four Seasons/Legg Mason Tower, Baltimore, Maryland. LEED Gold certified (2010), 522,000 sf office building with a 4,800 sf data center on the upper floors, connected to the Four Seasons Hotel via underground parking garage.
- Tappan Zee Bridge, New York. The New York State Thruway Authority replaced the old bridge with a new 3.1-mile state-of-the-art, twin-span “smart” bridge across the Hudson River between Rockland and Westchester Counties. The $3.98 billion Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge is one of the largest single design-build contracts for a transportation project in the United States. Located less than 20 miles north of New York City, the cable-stayed span crosses one of the widest parts of the river and is the longest bridge in New York State.
- LaGuardia Airport Terminal B, a brand-new state-of-the-art facility. Valued at $5.1 billion (including $4 billion in construction value) the Terminal B Redevelopment is the largest public-private partnership in U.S. aviation history.
Project award examples over HEA’s 25-year history range from hospital and other healthcare facilities, K-12 schools, university campuses, hospitality, science and research facilities, government and institutional buildings and commercial buildings of diverse purpose and complexity.
2005 was a banner year for HEA, celebrating its tenth anniversary— named to the ZweigWhite “Hot Firm List” as one of the 100 fastest-growing architecture and engineering firms in the nation; Michael English was named President of the Building Commissioning Association; and HEA was a featured sponsor of the 13th annual conference in New York City.
When many businesses in the world were struggling through the recession, HEA grew its existing building commissioning (EBCx) services portfolio with retrocommissioning (RCx) and energy audits to meet newly proposed energy efficiency and savings policies and mandates. Over 700 proposals for EBCx “flew out the door” in 2009, and HEA courageously opened offices in Baltimore, Syracuse and Albany. By 2012, HEA was named a key industry player and participated in a market study by Pike Research.
Over the past five-plus years, HEA has met market needs by creating new internal specialty service lines and associated staff professionals, including traditional and hyper-scale mission critical (data centers), SMART buildings (metering), and cleanroom (laboratories).
HEA Turned 25 in 2020, celebrating its clients, projects, industry and, most importantly, its people.
Acquisition and Merger: This is Now
In true pioneering spirit, HEA acquired Lille & Company earlier, and has now forged an alliance and merger with FST Technical Services, LLC (FST). The new company, FST-HEA, LLC will be led by Troy Hall (FST) who will serve as Chief Executive Officer and Michael C. English (HEA) who will serve as President.
This partnership allows expansion into new, but interconnected, engineering and construction markets while providing technical services that help facilities maximize their operational efficiency and operate as they were intended. Ultimately, the relationship will be a storehouse of solutions for owners’ and facilities’ needs.
We asked Michael English to talk about certification, the current market, and the future of commissioning. Here’s what he says:
Certification CCF/CCP. Our motto, “Demand a Higher Standard,” drives everything that we do. The importance of being a Certified Commissioning Firm and providing a Certified Commissioning Professional to our clients upholds our beliefs. Not only does it help to advance commissioning services, being certified helps employers evaluate potential new hires, analyze job performance, evaluate employees and motivate employees to enhance their skills and knowledge.
Market leadership. Although Cx was a thriving industry in the Pacific Northwest, few providers have been able to penetrate the notoriously entrenched New York market. HEA was the driving force in bringing commissioning to New York. A series of high-profile success stories, coupled with an aggressive educational outreach program, has earned HEA its credentials, produced innovations, growth and reputability for the commissioning industry nationwide, and convinced New York area owners of the benefits of the commissioning process.
Coping with (and after) Covid. HEA has experienced the ups and downs and was fortunate to have built up a sufficient backlog of work to get us through the tough times. The first quarter of 2021 has been tough, but we have seen new sales coming in very rapidly, which is fueling our recovery.
Recommendations for new entrants. Be unique and specialized to your area. Do not lower your prices; doing so will cause a downward spiral for the industry and will actually make you a commodity.
FST-HEA, LLC remains headquartered in New York City with additional offices nationwide and internationally. “We continue to actively participate in the future of Commissioning and Sustainable Design through the high standards of our own practice, and through leadership in industry organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council and the Building Commissioning Association.”
HEA Founder Michael C. English, PE, CCP, LEED AP