Harry Takesian – Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School
With his father working as a diesel mechanic for a railroad in Massachusetts, Harry Takesian has always wanted to work with tools.
While attending Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School in Haverhill, Massachusetts, Takesian enrolled in a summer program designed to give students even more hands-on experience with machinery and equipment. It was then Takesian says he fell in love with HVAC work.
“I learned so much, and my HVAC instructor, Dan Heyward, was so helpful. I got exposure to so many different areas of that type of work,” he says. “I owe a lot to Dan.”
After graduating high school, Takesian didn’t go to college. Instead, he got a job and took certification and continuing education classes paid for by his employer. He loves the trades and says it’s sad there’s not as much interest from young people in this kind of work.
“There’s so much work out there, but so many of the trade industries are having a difficult time finding people to do the job,” he says.
As the director, facilities management for Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School in Franklin, Massachusetts, increasing students’ interest in a trade career—including carpentry, plumbing, electric and automotive—is something of continuing importance for Takesian.
“It’s right up there with fixing problems throughout the school and making sure we have a safe environment for faculty, staff and students,” he notes.
Raising the roof
When Takesian came to Tri-County Vocational in September 2018, he walked around the school’s only building—a 280,000-square-foot structure built in 1977—and noticed a lot of equipment that was beyond its useful life. Things like air handlers, heating units and some tools and equipment needed to be replaced.
The biggest problem, though? When it rained, water cascaded down the walls, especially in vocational areas, where it would drip onto equipment and tools.
“We needed help right away,” he says.
After being turned away by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, Takesian and school officials prioritized what needed to be replaced immediately and what could be put off for a year or two.
A project of this size can be costly, he adds, especially when traditional sources of funding aren’t available. Using an approach called performance-based energy contracting, he worked with Trane to fix the roof and make other essential repairs, paying for the work with the resulting energy savings.
“Trane worked with Harry to bring nearly $7 million in essential facility upgrades, which will result in an annual energy savings of $178,300,” says Leo McNeil, a regional director of comprehensive services for Trane. “Trane will provide ongoing service and maintenance and will measure and verify energy savings annually.”
Improvements on the inside
In addition to replacing the roof, an upgrade was made to the ventilation system to allow for the circulation of more outside air, as well as a switch to LED lights with sensors that detect if a space is occupied—both included in the building’s improvement plan.
Throughout the building, the air systems were so unbalanced that in one classroom the temperature would be 80 degrees while the classroom next door was 60 degrees. That’s a problem, Takesian deadpans.
The other big improvement, he says, has been the installation of a state-of-the-art building control system that makes it easier to operate everything inside the facility.
The Trane Tracer Ensemble system allows Takesian and his team to view and control individual room temperatures and the equipment dedicated to each space. Temperature adjustments and system monitoring can all be done on-site as well as remotely. With the platform it provides, it’s easy to see how each space within the building is operating.
Now that the roof has been replaced and the lighting and HVAC systems upgraded, Takesian and his team—which includes a groundskeeper, two mechanics, an electrician and seven custodians—can focus on the next set of improvements for the 43-year-old building.
“We’re going to start looking at doors, windows, distribution systems behind walls and the envelope of the building,” he explains. “The plumbing and electrical systems, and all the underground pipes, are more than 40 years old.”
And there’s good news on that front.
Recently, Takesian found out that Tri-County Vocational was accepted into the funding pipeline with the Massachusetts School Building Authority for a building project. The school is looking to hire a project manager to help decide whether it makes more sense to renovate the existing building or construct a new facility. A feasibility study will provide added clarity, but he doesn’t expect to make any decisions on future work for a while.
Finding a silver lining
Takesian has spent a career in facilities and was at his last job for 18 years. He jokes that during his last few days there, he noticed things about the facility he had never seen before.
“You’ll never see every square foot of a building,” he says. “But I do my best to see as much as I can.”
Takesian says he and his crew have worked hard since March to make Tri-County Vocational safe for everyone in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The building was shuttered when the pandemic hit, so it helped accelerate all the big renovations,” Takesian says. “My team and I always have a responsibility to ensure everything is running at its full potential, whether there’s students inside or not.”
The school was awarded federal grants to help fund the procurement of personal protective equipment for staff and students. Those helped pay for plexiglass dividers in offices, shops and classrooms—where the dividers were feasible—and face shields for every student.
The new air duct system, which was in the plans before the pandemic, will kill microorganisms and bacteria before they get into the distribution systems, Takesian says, thanks to the new UVC lighting setup installed in the main building’s air systems.
Throughout his career, he has maintained the interest and enthusiasm for the work that he had when he was just starting out in his late teens. Takesian has always believed his work provides essential services, be it to school districts, vocational schools or anyone in need. He’s in service to the buildings and the community.
“When I leave the building each day, I want to know that it’s in better shape than when I got there,” he adds.
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