Brian Heath – Salt River Project
Standing outside in the searing Arizona sun, Brian Heath takes a break to wipe the sweat beading on his brow. It’s hot outside and he’s concerned. He’s just gotten word that the old clay pipeline at the Southside Water Service Center location collapsed and requires immediate repair.
At Salt River Project in Tempe—one of the largest nonprofit public power utilities outfits in the nation—the company’s mission for the past 100 years has been to deliver water and power to more than a million customers across Central Arizona.
To keep pace, Heath, the company’s senior director of facilities, helped to develop the Facilities Betterments Roadmap, a strategy to improve and maintain SRP’s 21 locations, totaling 120 buildings and 2.1 million square feet of space.
“A master plan is vital,” he says. “It’ll take us 10 to 20 years into the future, positioning us for success.”
The first project in the master plan was to renovate SRP’s East Valley Service Center, home to SRP’s line construction and hydro generating operations. The four-building complex includes a 33-year-old administrative building, a warehouse, a transportation garage and a workshop.
Started in 2018, the renovation involved replacing the administration building’s aging systems—including electrical, mechanical and architectural components—to make them more energy efficient. It also included interior remodeling of the restrooms, conference and breakrooms, as well as fresh paint on all four buildings.
With office staff working remotely due to COVID-19, Heath’s team was shortened the construction schedule to complete the project in June, reducing construction costs.
“This was a great example of how master planning efforts led to consolidated work to provide the most bang for the buck,” he says.
Homing in on HQ
Recently, SRP also completed its new corporate headquarters: a 450,000-square-foot building big enough to house 1,500 employees. It replaced an earlier structure, built in 1956, that had been expanded with three sections to accommodate the company’s growth.
Walking into the new headquarters, employees will find wider corridors, a new café, larger conference rooms, LED lighting, more efficient HVAC units for heating and cooling, as well as updated security.
One of the biggest design considerations, Heath says, was making the building contiguous. The original structure required people to go outside to come back inside. Now, employees can walk inside wherever they need to go.
“This will position SRP well to support the community for the next 50 years,” Heath says.
Next, SRP needed to consider what to do with its 16th Street location in Phoenix—the site of its groundwater service repair and maintenance operations used to fix wells, waterlines, canals and irrigation systems to deliver water to residents. As the oldest service center in SRP’s real estate portfolio built in the 1950s, it needed considerable updates.
“It would be one of our most expensive properties to renovate and it’s not an ideal location,” he says.
SRP decided to sell the property in 2022 and consolidate departments to its Southside water facility, along with other teams from its water operations.
Work is underway to construct a new space for all. Once completed in 2022, this new base of SRP’s water operations will house the department and have new electrical panels and transformers; an additional building with a warehouse; room for parking service trucks; and a new water loop into the site, replacing old clay pipe that collapsed in the area.
“It’s a comprehensive project,” Heath says.
Elevating the standard
Another focus for new projects is sustainability. On this front, Heath has two goals: a 30 percent reduction in carbon and 45 percent reduction in water use.
“That’s a heavy lift for us as a facilities department,” he says.
To that end, SRP is developing buildings with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certifications—striving for platinum certification at the new headquarters building which signifies a project has achieved the highest levels of performance ratings for water and energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality.
“Having comprehensive master planning in place allows us to plan ahead for water and carbon reductions, improving sustainability in the future,” he says.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company also incorporated the latest Centers for Disease Control guidelines at SRP facilities to protect employees, designing its work and meeting spaces with social distancing in mind.
“SRP historically hasn’t been involved with teleworking, so we wanted to create a site that’s a ‘homing beacon’,” Heath says. “As we move forward and embrace a hybrid workplace, we want to welcome back and safeguard our employees and preserve our company culture that’s made us successful for 120 years.”
Invested and tested
There’s a reason Heath can shift seamlessly between projects: He’s worked his way up through the organization for 22 years. With his steady string of promotions—from the mailroom to senior leadership—he’s quite the SRP success story.
Hired in 1999 as a material handler III in SRP’s Mesa warehouse, Heath managed inventory and handled shipping and receiving duties. Later he trained others to do the same. In 2003, he was promoted to a warehouse foreman in Gilbert, managing multimillion-dollar inventory and coordinating engineering inspections for two years at the Santan expansion project.
He earned both a degree in business management from Western International University in 2009 and an MBA in 2017. While attending school, he moved up the corporate ladder, handling everything from hauling operations and investment recovery, to managing construction and maintenance services. Over time, he also learned about construction management and mechanical maintenance.
Promoted to his current role in 2017, Heath now supports five divisions, with a team of five managers and 12 supervisors. The work covers a range of construction, including in-house maintenance and support activities related to operations, engineering, power plant support and hydro maintenance.
“I came in as a young person and facilities wasn’t on my plate at the time,” Heath recalls. “But in this supportive environment you can do anything you want if you work hard. There are so many opportunities to learn.”
Perhaps his favorite project during his tenure was developing the facilities strategic master plan.
When he came into his leadership position four years ago, there was really nothing in place. Partnering with executives and other stakeholders, Heath enjoyed developing a long-term vision for SRP’s facilities.
“We partnered with Corgan—an industry expert planning and design firm—and implemented change,” he says. “These efforts ensured that our facilities group became a strategic partner, working to support corporate goals.”
While the first plan was developed in 2018, it was updated again in 2019 and then annually.
“I am a customer service-driven person with the goal of ensuring we have what we need to complete our mission,” Heath says. “We’re all part of the valley and have a sense of pride in our work and community. It’s the place we call home.”
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