Merchandise Mart - 2014

Abdul Wadood | Duke University

  • Abdul Wadood
  • Abdul Wadood
Metro Area: 
Chicago, IL
Facility Type: 
Office Building

Abdul Wadood, a 2014 EDF Climate Corps fellow at the Merchandise Mart, was tasked primarily to identify reasons for after-hours energy use in the building and mitigate it through tenant engagement measures. The Mart is a very large building, spanning 4.2 million square feet with over 350 tenants, all individually billed through conventional meters.

After-hours energy use varied from tenant to tenant, so tenants’ meters were manually read to calculate individual energy use and power footprints. Lease data sets and information on tenants’ space lights and plug loads, along with space retrofit possibilities were used to normalize, compare and prioritize high potential tenants. This data was then used to estimate the amount of after-hours kilowatt hours that could be saved at the Mart. Excluding building base load, 120 tenants were estimated to capture 90 percent the building’s after-hours use potential. This was attributable to lights and plug loads at the building. Based on this information and through successful tenant engagement, the Mart could reduce 470 metric tons of carbon emissions and save 520,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually - which is over $60,000 in savings for tenants.

The team established that the majority of the load reduction would be from behavioral changes, so customized tenant engagement reports were made. These included energy and power use densities, peers energy performance, the building’s own success stories and easy energy conservation tips. Tenants were also requested to answer questions and pledge energy savings based on their past performance. Tenants with complex loads, such as refrigeration at retail food stores, data centers or supplemental cooling units at offices, required a case-by-case assessment. An inventory of all supplemental loads, including lights with usage behavior was created via door to door surveys.

Fellow Profile

The reason I applied for EDF Climate Corps:
EDF Climate Corps will provide a platform for me to help solve one crucial environmental challenge, i.e. conservation of electrical energy. Through EDF, I intend to expand my expertise and portfolio in energy and electric markets, beyond the boundaries of my home country. EDF provides a structured approach for training, pooling in resources through a diverse set of fellows with various backgrounds, and it works with host organizations to understand unique problems and finds opportunities to help solve tailored needs. I look forward to a professional environment in order to prove the viability of existing powerful and tangible solutions for achieving energy efficiency.

A recent professional or volunteer experience I've enjoyed:
My last job, before graduate school, was at a small research and development company that I thoroughly enjoyed. I worked with a visionary boss and mentor who, after a successful career in the US, returned to give back to his country. I believe in his grounded spirit, charisma for hard work and belief in science to help solve civic problems – including the energy crisis. He made me think on a human level, which has been a great gift and professional lesson. My efforts in translating engineering work by writing proposals, engaging potential customers and presenting for commercialization captivated me. I thoroughly enjoyed the unique way he led and coached – instilling the ability to critically think and imagine. I also learned the value of persistence and the ability to look past negative energy when fraught with challenges and difficult decisions.

One skill I hope to make use of this summer:
I have experience in indigenous development, deployment and commercialization of projects geared towards efficient energy distribution. This summer, by working at the Merchandise Mart, I intend to use my background knowledge in a new environment and to execute it in a unique workplace with different requirements and procedures.

My favorite class or activity in graduate school:
I have especially enjoyed two classes while studying at Duke University, and it would be hard to pick one of the two as my favorite. In the fall semester, I took ‘Competitive Strategies’ and that course helped me to think differently about how companies portray and position themselves. Because of this class, I understand the meaning of different business models, value migration, sustainability and how a clear value proposition can create effective market niches for red ocean businesses. Having a strong proclivity for understanding intellectual property, my intuition after taking the ‘Intellectual Asset Management’ class has increased. Considering I always wanted to take law as an elective in graduate school, it has been useful for me as I see myself debating different topics on intellectual property and enjoy valuing intangible assets.

My favorite outdoor place:
Although I have travelled to different beautiful and welcoming places around the world, there is no one specific place I would call my favorite. Being an avid runner, after days of hard work, a good long run in a park with a cold breeze, sun and trees around the peripheral vision, passing by, does wonders for me. I think it would be a blessing if everyone had access to a place to run with clean and safe air. Maybe for similar reasons I like to take advantage of going to sports events and outdoor games.

One thing I hope to achieve:
I have been involved in the energy domain for the past four years in different capacities including large implementation projects with utilities, collaborative efforts with private entities to promote smart grid technology, conservation struggles and renewable initiatives. Repeatedly, the significant success factors have been the scope, gravity of the efforts and appropriate choice of technology – such that it is inherently scalable and viable long term. I want to see that utilities and consumers take the technological leaps required of them so they can positively contribute to the energy ecosystem. This should be in terms of availability, equitable distribution, efficiency, environment and responsibility. In pursuing this, I want to grow significantly as a policy framer who understands and contributes to the technology, trail blazes innovation and satisfies the shared goals of all affected stakeholders.