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Meet the 100: Brandon Steele, Sustainability Engineer – Big Ass Fans

The E+E 100 are the VPs, directors, managers and engineers who are making significant strides in driving our industry. See the complete list here or download the report for more detailed information about these leaders. And stay tuned for the Call for Submissions coming in the fall, when you can nominate your favorite sustainability or energy management professional!

Now, meet Brandon Steele, sustainability engineer with Big Ass Fans.

Big Ass Fans, headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky, has become well known for manufacturing energy-efficient fans and lights that improve comfort in large spaces lacking air conditioning. Steele is the company’s dedicated sustainability employee, focused on energy conservation, environmental stewardship, and projects related to those areas.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in the last year or two?

The biggest has been creating awareness within the company. A lot of people are not entirely aware of some of the impacts that we’re making and the issues we’re facing, from pollution to emissions.

Along with that, we have an energy audit of our Lexington campus, which includes our global headquarters, manufacturing, and R&D lab. We’re working with the University of Kentucky Industrial Assessment Center on a large-scale energy audit of all three facilities to generate new ideas for projects that we can improve on as a company.

How have you addressed that challenge?

We focus on educating all employees through onboarding classes, which I instruct. It’s more of a conversation than a lecture. Everyone has different levels of experience. Internally, we highlight what is going on within our facility operations, what kind of impact are we making as a company, and what projects we are doing to make improvements.

For example, posting effective signage in strategic areas about our ongoing recycling program, what is recyclable, what isn’t, and what our local recycling program will accept. Something as simple as promoting not using the elevator if it’s not necessary — taking the stairs. It’s a benefit to grab a bit more exercise and save energy on the elevator.

Our manufacturing facility relies on our high volume low speed (HVLS) fans to circulate the air, and so do our R&D lab and headquarters. The manufacturing facility also uses our high bay LED fixtures. We practice what we preach.

What advice would you give other professionals as they try to accomplish their sustainability or energy management goals?

The biggest one is education, promoting awareness of the relevant issues we are facing as a society — and relate them to the business.

It’s impossible to move without momentum, and it’s impossible to move without support from the entire company. Creating this unity, it’s a lot easier to move toward a goal.

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