FINALIST: Patrick Richardson for
the Smith-Wright Hall (NC)

Categories: The Smooth Operator

Who led the charge


Patrick Richardson
Energy Analyst
Appalachian State University

Patrick Richardson’s background includes a strong focus on technology. With experience in the private sector (as an electromagnetic compatibility engineer at Motorola) and the public sector (as assistant manager of technology for the US Census Bureau), Richardson has been reducing energy consumption at Appalachian State University for over five years.


It’s every manager’s nightmare: a costly building upgrade that leads to endless tenant complaints. Then comes the job of improving performance with a $0 capital budget.

Built in 1940, Appalachian State University’s Smith-Wright Hall was part of a $5.4 million renovation program that completed in 2006. But the work to improve air conditioning, floors, and fire safety only resulted in “innumerable complaints regarding comfort” and a disproportionately high source energy use intensity. So Patrick Richardson and his team stepped in to uncover ways to improve tenant comfort while cutting energy use—all with a whopping $0 capital budget.

Richardson and his team compiled anecdotal evidence through constant interaction with the building tenants to help pinpoint problem areas—“management by walking around” as he puts it. Open windows in winter and other complaints were signs of problems with the building’s control system. Team members lent their expertise to improve operations without incurring costs, finding new ways to sequence and optimize systems throughout the building. When it was discovered that solar radiation was throwing off thermostats, Richardson and his team opted to install small mirrors to reduce the problem rather than the far more costly option of moving the thermostats themselves.

The result is that occupant complaints have dropped to nearly zero and the improved operations have cut source EUI by over half. The team has seen similar drops across the university as their innovative control sequences have been applied to other buildings on campus.


  • Upgraded the air pressure control system
  • Improved sequencing and automation of systems for better performance
  • Developed a new method for unoccupied and occupied building temperature regulation when using series variable air volume boxes with reheat