Steve DiBerardine Named Notable Leader in Sustainability
Given his passion for ground source heat pump systems, it's not surprising that Steve was recognized as one of the area's Notable Leaders in Sustainability by Crain's Detroit
SES President, Steve DiBerardine, has dedicated his career to sharing his enthusiasm for ground source heat pump systems. Given that passion, it's not surprising that in the March 21 issue of Crain's Detroit, he was recognized as one of the area's Notable Leaders in Sustainability. Below is a snippet of his submission, explaining why he truly is a notable leader. How have you championed, developed, or implemented sustainability strategies and initiatives?
In 1998, I received a design-assist grant for $4,000 from the Department of Energy for Detroit’s Canfield Lofts, our first geothermal project. This money allowed SES to hire a consultant out of Philadelphia to show us how to design geothermal systems. I often feel that was the best $4,000 the government ever spent, as it’s rather impressive to consider that small seed allowed us to go out and spread the word about geothermal energy, resulting in over 150 geo projects since.
After designing geoexchange systems for a decade, I grew concerned that the technology could potentially get a bad rap from poor installation. I saw a need for reputable and skilled geothermal contractors to provide high-quality, proper installation of the systems I designed, and began offering geothermal contracting at SES. Creation of SES Geothermal aligned with the economic downturn, and I was able to help several trusted friends find new careers in geothermal contracting after training and educating them in the technology. Beyond that, I was able to use the federal tax credits offered during the recession to help drive geothermal projects at a time when the economy was struggling.
How do you contribute to the industry?
In addition to the memberships and support of industry organizations, I am always willing to invest my time by speaking with anyone who is interested in geothermal energy. I view myself as a representative for geo, and want to help change the way that people think about HVAC. As such, I have a vested interest in ensuring geothermal technology does not incur a bad reputation due to poor owner choices, bad designs, or incorrect installation. I have an intense desire to see people do geothermal successfully, even if I’m not involved in the project. There may not be a financial interest for me, but there is always a personal interest.
What are some of your most recent big wins, significant highlights, or sustainability initiatives?
A few years ago, I gave a geothermal presentation to the Michigan State Capitol Commission. Although my goal was merely to educate these state officials on the technology itself, I was able to help them determine that geothermal was an excellent fit for their needs. I’m thrilled to be able to say that Michigan is now the third state to feature a Capitol Building served by geothermal heating/cooling. SES designed the geothermal heat exchanger and provided construction administration services for the addition of the sustainable system, which not only serves the 315,000 square foot capitol building, but will serve a new 55,000 square foot below-grade addition as well.
I’m also currently working with a large institution who has aggressive carbon reduction plans for the future. These carbon reduction plans mean not burning fossil fuel, and I’ve been educating them on ground source heat pumps, which are optimal for people who no longer want to burn fires in order to keep warm, and therefore a perfect fit for their goals
How do you donate time or skills to enrich your community?
I’ve always considered people to be more important than money, so I firmly believe in giving back to the community and to those less fortunate. For many years, I’ve helped support the South Oakland Shelter, a local organization aimed at ending homelessness, by adopting several families during the holidays. I’ve donated my engineering skills through multiple pro-bono efforts for deserving organizations such as the Judson Center Autism Wing, Covenant Centering Clinic, and First Step Domestic Shelter. One recent and notable project was Bountiful Harvest, a food/clothing pantry and soup kitchen serving Livingston County. In addition to designing MEP systems for the facility, we also designed and installed a complete geothermal system—all pro-bono--allowing more money to be put toward feeding people rather than feeding energy bills. We were also able to enlist many of our corporate friends to assist, and arranged for free drilling and installation, and donations of plumbing and lighting fixtures, exhaust fans, and vibration pad. We were even able to get a water heater at-cost.
Recently, I spearheaded the creation of “SES Cares”, a program to formalize the ongoing philanthropic efforts of SES. In the short time since it’s started, we’ve purchased and wrapped gifts for foster children, cleaned up neighborhoods as part of Life Remodeled, and donated tens of thousands of dollars to a wide range of non-profits through the Employee Match Program. This program allows our team members to double their giving power with a dollar-for-dollar match.
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