Engineering – The Ultimate Rooftop View

Feb 23, 2021

As a young girl, I was always looking up to everyone and everything. My Mom and Dad would take me and my sisters to downtown Denver and I would gaze up at the tall skyscrapers. Every time we went, I would ask myself: What’s up there? What does it look like up there? How do I get up there?

Thinking back now, I cannot remember a day when my dream was not to be an engineer. When I was little, everyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I always said “Environmental Engineer.” I would get the same look from everyone, wondering how I could do it, and wondering if it would actually happen. In the 2000s very few women were engineers, and even fewer studied the environment and how engineering fits into it.

Through my schooling I experienced a lot of these kinds of doubts from others. My environmental engineering classes at University of Colorado at Boulder were fairly small, and even fewer students wanted to focus on energy. I found myself in many male-dominated classes, where I either sat alone or found the one other person I knew to sit next to. Through uncomfortable interactions over the years and my interactions with other engineers, my dream of becoming one got harder and harder to visualize. When I talked, I spoke twice as loud to have myself heard, and even then I felt uncomfortable and smaller than everyone. These experiences made me stronger, and I looked up to the engineers I connected with in hopes I would someday be the one others look up to.

Then I walked at my graduation in 2018 from the University of Colorado at Boulder, the proudest point of my life, with an engineering degree in my hand! That day I stood a bit taller with a wealth of experiences in my back pocket, and my yearning to see the light at the top of the skyscraper was stronger than ever.

My first work experience straight out of college involved Virtual Commissioning projects. I called clients, talked them through their equipment, and how to operate their Building Automation System (BAS) to optimize their energy usage. During this time of my career, I saved 8 million kWh (equivalent GHG emissions to 14 million miles driven in an average car) from my analyses alone. But I still wanted more for my career. I wanted to continue to make a difference in the energy consumption of facilities, but also get more technical and hands on with it. This was a big decision for me, and a step closer to being like the engineers I trained under.

In September 2019 I stepped onto my first roof as an energy engineer and as an employee at Nexant. Did you know that you sometimes have to climb a two story ladder to get to the roof, and emerge through a small roof hatch? That is something they did not teach me in college, so it came as a surprise to me, and even with all our safety trainings, my hands were shaking on the rungs of the ladder as I climbed. I stepped off the ladder on the roof and it was a breathtaking moment. I could finally see all of the equipment hidden from the ground, hear the hum of fans, and take in the view of Denver and the mountains in the distance. It’s amazing how you can hear the difference between a rooftop unit (RTU) running correctly and one that was struggling. I could even visualize the floor plan of the building and which unit was serving what areas and how it could be optimized. It was in this moment I finally felt like I was stronger than I was before, I accomplished so much to get to this point, and I was able to look down at the small things that I struggled with. No matter what hurdles I had to jump, and the moments feeling small, this was the first time I knew what I was here for.

I am ready to make a difference in the world, and save our environment one rooftop at a time. Each time I go up, I take a deep breath and take in the moment when I reach the top of the ladder. I learn something new each time, keeping constant communication with my colleagues to get the answers I need to improve my knowledge as an engineer. I look forward to optimizing each building, making it easier for our clients to understand energy savings projects, and to deliver energy and emissions savings for our environment. I want to continue my efforts in studying more energy options, energy saving solutions, and providing our community with many ways to protect our environment during our daily lives. I still stand as a strong woman engineer, and still use the experiences from my past and future to pave my way. When I find myself in tough situations, I picture myself on the roof, looking down, and looking at the world beneath me, and I remember how I got here.

Carrie Fendrick is an Engineer in Nexant’s Energy Efficiency and Delivery group located in the Louisville, CO office. She is an experienced project facilitator who focuses on engaging with mid-size to large business clients to help them understand their opportunities to reduce energy consumption. Carrie is proficient in data modeling and analyzing utility data to define energy saving opportunities at commercial and public sector facilities. Carrie has worked on the Energy Efficient Buildings program for Xcel Energy, is an Energy Advisor and Energy Manager for the Efficiency Works Program through PRPA Utilities, and has experience in conducting level 1 and level 2 energy audits. She also has worked with colleagues on RCx programs, expanding her knowledge of building automation systems and technical equipment. Prior to joining Nexant, she worked for Power TakeOff in the Virtual Commissioning (VCx) program. In this program she grew her knowledge of building systems and saved over 8 GWh. Carrie has a B.S. in Environmental Engineering and a Minor in Energy Engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Within Nexant’s Utility Services, Engineering is a cross functional group led by the Director of Engineering, Lonny Peet. Engineering consists of more than 70 engineers across North America serving in various capacities to deliver innovative programs and technical services to utilities and end-use clients.