Case Studies

Herbert Chu – RAM Partners

Painting the town’s new and current buildings green

No matter how well-crafted an air conditioning system is or whether it’s cooling one bedroom in a ranch home or 500 offices in a 15-story skyscraper, it’s completely worthless if a maintenance person can’t service it.

According to Herbert Chu, architects and engineers design heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems based on what the books and manuals indicate—but this isn’t always practical. For instance, a commercial building or residential home may have an HVAC closet that’s two feet by two feet in width. At those dimensions, it can hold a water heater just fine but isn’t spacious enough to allow a maintenance person access to service the unit.

He resolves such issues with his 26 years of experience. In addition to scheduling maintenance personnel to go out and change air conditioning filters or work on water heaters, he also works closely with architects on sites that are already built or in the planning and development stages.

Convincing owners and architects to make modifications is where he excels, explaining that such alterations will allow for regular maintenance and save money in the long run—whether the building is just an idea on a blueprint or decades-old.

Since July 1997, Chu’s been with RAM Partners, a full-service real estate management company based in Atlanta. He’s currently the regional director of maintenance and construction. The company doesn’t own any properties directly but rather focuses on ensuring that owners get the most out of their buildings. It specializes in multi-family community management and its current portfolio consists of more than 60,000 apartments across the nation.

“Everything we do revolves around our trained on-site personnel and in-office staff delivering the best service for our clients and residents, so both can stay in the buildings longer while getting the most bang for their buck,” Chu says.

LEEDing green growth  

Chu and his team concentrate on conducting due diligence for all properties RAM manages. They scrutinize the locations to determine how to make them profitable for the owner and a comfortable living or working space for residents or employees. Evaluating the strengths of RAM’s 1,000 maintenance personnel, he and his team make note of all deficiencies at a property that they can manage, correct and maintain.

Advising from the planning stages is also important to Chu, especially as he focuses more on increasing the number of clean, sustainable and green buildings being built across the nation. Many of the buildings RAM manages are LEED certified, a drive that originates from Chu’s experience in the industry and his LEED Green Certification.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a green building rating system with design, construction and operation standards used throughout the world. LEED looks at everything from carbon, energy, water, waste and transportation to materials, health and indoor environmental quality. These assets are as valuable to renters as to the environment, Chu says. He also lets owners know that they can apply for and receive funding, grants and bonuses from the local, state and federal government to put up such buildings.

“My hope and personal goals are to have every building one day be green and obtain LEED certification,” he says. “Sustainability is both cost and environmentally friendly.”

He can also devote more of his attention to this goal as the company has taken a step back from expanding in the past couple of years. This is despite the company’s portfolio growing from 42 to over 250 properties in the 26 years he’s been there.

Currently, he’s also focusing on expanding the knowledge and expertise of RAM’s maintenance team. One of his passions at work is training new hires as well as veterans. He’s involved in the hiring process, so he develops all the materials for trainings and schedules them.

“The main thing we do at RAM is maintenance, so we need the skills and talents of people who can see the big picture and, in some cases, look into the future,” Chu says.

The love of being a forever student

As much as Chu enjoys training and educating others, he also loves learning. He’s particularly fond of online training and participates in at least one webinar a month. This allows him to keep his knowledge current and updated—and he then shares this information with others.

“I never want to hoard knowledge but rather transfer it to my colleagues and even others in the industry, so we can all grow and learn from one another,” he says. “Even though I’m nearing retirement age, I have no plans to stop learning, perhaps only when I’m six feet under.”

Outside of work, he’s certified by the non-profit National Swimming Pool Foundation as a trainer for pool operators. He teaches them everything from how to handle and balance chemicals to the daily maintenance of pumps. He’s also certified by the Energy Services Company Institute as an HVAC and Environmental Protection Agency refrigerant regulations trainer. He’s also a master locksmith, so he has a treasure trove of information he can pass down to anyone whose path crosses his.

“I enjoy working with my hands and mind, as I constantly evolve in my field,” Chu says. “Every day is a new one at RAM Partners, and I love that I get to help my colleagues and the company’s clients with everything that I do.”

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. VI 2023 Edition here.

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