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Eduardo Cuevas – Environmental Engineer


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Eduardo Cuevas – Environmental Engineer

By Sustainability Interns | January 9, 2015

 

Eduardo Cuevas

I am a recent graduate of the University of California Riverside. I majored in Environmental Engineering and received my Bachelors of Science degree in June of 2014. Throughout my undergraduate career at UC Riverside I had the opportunity to work at several locations on campus where I was able to do work that I was passionate about and gain experience that was invaluable in my search for employment following graduation. These locations included the Center for Environmental Research and Technology, Transportation and Parking Services, and the UC Riverside Office of Sustainability.

My opportunity to intern at the UC Riverside Office of Sustainability came as a result of the Green Campus Action Plan (GCAP), approved by the UCR student body in the 2010 campus elections. GCAP established a funding source for large-scale green initiatives on the UCR campus, grants to allow student organizations to pursue their own sustainability-related projects, and internship opportunities at the Office of Sustainability. Most recently, the UCR student body voted to approve the extension of GCAP in the April 2014 student elections. This extension of GCAP will ultimately lead to funding for more on-campus projects and internship opportunities.

What did I learn as a LEED Intern?

I started working as a LEED-EBOM intern at the Office of Sustainability the summer following my second year of undergraduate studies. For those who may not know what LEED is, LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design – It is a building certification program that allows for the recognition of buildings that embody the fundamentals of sustainable building operations and development practices (think “green” buildings). There are several different LEED rating systems, which is meant to allow for the certification of different types of buildings, including those that are extensively renovated. My LEED Internship focused on EBOM certification projects, which stands for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance. A building is LEED certified after earning a minimum number of credits in various categories pertaining to building construction, location, operations, and maintenance.

I learned a great deal from my experience as a LEED intern. This included learning exactly what LEED meant and how it could effectively be applied on our campus. Through this internship I learned of the many ways that existing buildings can be improved, in terms of energy efficiency, occupant comfort and safety, and minimization of impacts on the environment. I learned that having an environmentally preferable building extends beyond just reducing the energy required to keep the lights on. It includes reducing of waste that a building produces, promoting recycling, analyzing how building systems impact air quality and human health, and determining how the building itself interacts with the surrounding environment.

Besides learning about LEED, I had the opportunity to directly apply the knowledge I gained to active LEED projects on our campus, including LEED certification projects for the Materials Science and Engineering Building (MSE) and the Glen Mor 1 residential apartments (both LEED EBOM projects). I was assigned several LEED credits for each of these projects. For each credit I was assigned, I had to research the exact requirements of the credit, determine the information that would be needed to complete the credit documentation, and devise a plan to obtain that information. It did not take long to realize that some credits are rather straightforward, while others can turn into multi-month efforts requiring significant research and planning.

I also gained practical engineering experience during my time as a LEED intern. This included reading architectural drawings to obtain necessary information on specific building systems and building interior dimensions; performing calculations related to energy consumption, lighting intensity, and air flow; and collecting building energy and water use data.

 

How did the LEED internship help me reach my goals?

In many ways, I saw the LEED internship as an opportunity to expand my knowledge of environmental issues and the methods that engineering solutions could be applied to those issues. While my undergraduate studies focused on air and water quality concerns in our environment, the LEED internship provided me with insight on the development and operation of environmentally preferable indoor living and working spaces. Like many engineering problems encountered in our coursework, I learned that the construction and maintenance of a “green” building is a multifaceted process that should not be approached with a narrow mindset.

The experience I gained as a LEED intern was invaluable in my search for a full-time environmental engineering position. I gained experience and skills pertaining to project management, communication, problem solving, and time management. In regards to project management, I had the opportunity to lead the data collection effort for credits pertaining to two of our campus LEED EBOM projects. I learned to communicate and collaborate with multiple groups crucial to implementing environmentally preferable building features and and ultimately, LEED certification. In the case of LEED-EBOM projects at UC Riverside, these groups included UCR Housing, UCR Physical Plant and Facilities Maintenance. While working on several credits, I encountered situations that required me to produce a solution to a problem that was not clearly defined in any LEED guide, which served as a great lesson in problem solving. Also, working on multiple credits with varying deadlines and documentation requirements helped me develop time management skills related to handling multiple project elements.

Overall, I learned that each of these skills is instrumental to any position that you may seek in the future. The work I do today involves much of what I learned while at the Office of Sustainability. Specifically, my work involves determining the environmental impacts resulting from large-scale construction projects and the effects those project will have on their surroundings once they are complete.

Beyond all the work experience that I gained at the Office of Sustainability, I am very grateful for having the opportunity to work alongside others who had the similar goal of making our campus a better place through the mantra of sustainability. I met wonderful people, including employees, interns, and volunteers, who were clearly passionate about their work and devoted to promoting sustainability on our campus. I am especially grateful for the guidance and mentorship provided by John Cook (Director of Sustainability) and Ruby Gonzalez (LEED Analyst at the Office of Sustainability) during my time as a LEED intern. Their help and insight was key to making the LEED internship such a fulfilling experience.

I strongly recommend that you consider volunteering or interning at the Office of Sustainability as some point in your undergraduate career. It was an extremely rewarding experience for me and I have no doubt that it can serve as a stepping stone for others who wish to pursue a career committed to environmental stewardship, regardless of your major or background may be.

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General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Office of Sustainability
University Village
1223 University Avenue, Suite 200

Tel: (951) 827-1270
Fax: (951) 827-3890
E-mail: sustain@ucr.edu

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