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Green buildings take Evansville engineer around the world

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GINA R. HEINE
February 6, 2012
— Steve Carlson was into green when green was just a color.

“I’ve been doing this long before it was popular,” the engineer said of his energy efficiency consulting business.


“It’s interesting because the stuff I was doing before, nobody really wanted in the early ’90s,” he said with a laugh, “and now I can’t stop them from asking me for it.”


From his desk overlooking downtown Evansville, Carlson works on projects around the world.


“I got interested in it in the late ’70s in high school with the energy crisis and solar energy,” he said. “I thought briefly maybe I wanted to be an architect, but realized I’d rather know how it works.”


After graduating from UW-Madison, he got a consulting job in New York, where he later founded CDH Energy.


Carlson this year spun off XRG Analytics from the New York business to focus on buildings. The New York office is more into research and demonstrations, he said.


The name XRG is a play on a thermodynamic term—exergy—which is the amount of useful work that can be extracted from a system, he said.


Carlson is originally from Madison but started calling Evansville home after moving back from New York. His family liked the small-town charm of the city, and he lives in an old Victorian home where he can walk from home to work.


“That’s why we chose it,” he said.


Carlson has worked on more than 100 projects in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system, an internationally recognized mark of excellence developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.


Carlson and his Evansville staff support design teams evaluating and pursuing high-performance buildings. Carlson provides energy analysis options, building commissioning, performance monitoring and verification and assistance with LEED certification.


“A lot of that work has come about because people are pursuing (LEED certification),” Carlson said.


A building gets LEED certification based on several factors, including green building materials, water usage and construction methods.


The core of his work is in the Midwest, though projects take him around the world, much of it by word-of-mouth. He’s consulted on projects in the Philippines, Malaysia and China, and has 26 Middle East projects in the works.


“I tend to work a lot with the consultants that provide the whole green sustainability package,” he said.


He works on all types of commercial and industrial buildings, from a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., to hospitals and clinics in Wisconsin, to schools and university buildings, including the Beloit College Science Center.


Because of the extreme conditions in Doha, Qatar, his projects there have been his biggest challenge, he said.


“It’s a whole different environment,” he said. “We have an area where they have to cool the fountains outside because of scalding risk. They have to cool their swimming pools because they’re too hot—the water coming out of the ground is 70-80 degrees.”


Sand storms are like fog, so equipment has filtration requirements to clean the air.


He’s also learned how Coca-Cola bottles its products in Malaysia for an energy analysis he completed.


“Definitely doing new things every day is fun,” he said.



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