By Katie Rogers
David Juarez was a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo when, sitting on a hill overlooking the countryside, he had a vision of himself walking in a solar field. This vision inspired him to graduate with a degree in electrical engineering and interest in renewable energy.
When seeking a career post-college, he was excited to find a fellowship opportunity at the San Mateo Community College district through Climate Corps. He was interviewed by Isaac Knipfing, a former Climate Corps fellow himself. As a fellow, he got to know energy management systems and experienced operations hands-on. “My knowledge of facilities management grew exponentially in my time there,” Juarez reports.
As his fellowship came to an end, the facilities manager from University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), spoke at Climate Corps Facilities training and mentioned they’d be growing their team. SEI worked with UCSF to develop a fellowship position, for which Juarez was a perfect fit.
As a senior fellow, Juarez helped form the energy team at UCSF. He became a full-time employee at UCSF upon completion of his fellowship. Currently, Juarez works on energy and utility projects, such as installing solar at a major hospital in Mission Bay, adding variable frequency drives at another hospital so HVACs are saving as much energy as possible, installing a solenoid valve that saves 500,000 gallons of water each year, and ensuring UCSF sites continue to have power amidst PG&E’s rolling blackouts.
In March, when Covid-19 hit the San Francisco Bay Area, the UCSF energy team knew they needed to be prepared for an influx of patients at UCSF’s hospitals. At the time, not much was known about the virus. In the event that Covid-19 was airborne, UCSF would need to convert ICUs into negative pressure rooms in order to prevent the virus from spreading throughout the hospital. Juarez was on the ground in ICU rooms, changing dampers to make rooms negative pressure and thus safe for housing Covid-19 patients. “That was really awesome for me, because I got to walk the halls of the hospital while everything was going on - seeing the work I do in sustainability happen alongside healthcare workers on the frontline. It was really awesome to be right there with them,” said Juarez.
Of his fellowship experience, Juarez remarks, “SEI gave me the opportunity to learn about the world of energy and sustainability in a facilities context. SEI helped build my interest in renewables and passion for energy in general. The network of people - of friends - passionate about solving this same problem, coming from nonprofit or government or facilities - all these different approaches to solving the same problem...It’s inspiring, really, to see so many people working to solve a big problem.”