In 2004, HPAC Engineering launched the Engineering Green Buildings Conference in its hometown of Cleveland. Among those in attendance was Steve Melink, PE, founder, owner, and president of Melink Corp., provider of building-commissioning services, energy-saving kitchen-ventilation controls, and solar-photovoltaic systems for commercial and institutional buildings.

“Our company was growing, and we needed a larger office/plant, so I attended Kevin Hydes' session (“Anatomy of a Green Building Project”) to learn how to make our new space green,” Steve recalled. “Melink was in the business of selling energy efficiency, but there was nothing about our internal operations that showed we were walking the talk.”

During the presentation, inspiration struck.

“I remember the last slide was a photo of Kevin and his daughter walking along the beach, and he said, ‘I don't want to have to tell my daughter that I used the last barrel of oil,’” Steve said. “The emotional impact of that statement had more of an effect on me than all the technical data he and the other speakers presented. It helped give a sense of meaning to our work as architects, engineers, manufacturers, contractors, and building owners that transcends financial benefit.”

The experience started Steve on a five-year journey, one that saw his company's corporate headquarters in Cincinnati become the first building certified Platinum under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Existing Buildings rating system in Ohio and one of the first net-zero-energy buildings in the United States and earn International Renewable Energy Project of the Year (2010) honors from the Association of Energy Engineers.

In September, when HPAC Engineering's annual event — now known as the Optimum Buildings Conference — rolls into Indianapolis as part of HVACR Week 2011, Steve will look to “pay it forward,” inspiring others as he was so inspired seven years ago, when he presents “The Art and Science of Net-Zero-Energy Planning, Implementation, and Verification.” The session will cover strategies and technologies to consider when planning a net-zero-energy building, how to ensure an organization's culture will sustain a long-term commitment to net-zero energy, how to financially justify net-zero energy beyond energy savings and simple payback, and how to verify net-zero energy after a building's design and construction. It is one of more than a half-dozen sessions on tap. For more on those sessions — plus the HVACR Week opening keynote event, “A Story of Survival” by Capt. Scott O'Grady, the former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who evaded capture for nearly six days after being shot down over Bosnia — visit http://bit.ly/Optimum_Buildings.

Optimum Buildings is an opportunity to learn from cutting-edge practitioners, network with fellow buildings professionals, and discover the latest offerings from leading manufacturers and service providers. Recalling the inaugural event in 2004, Steve Melink said: “Never in my professional career had I met so many people who were passionate about changing the world and the building industry in particular. It was refreshing and inspiring and helped give a mission/purpose/cause to my career above and beyond making money.”

While education is at the heart of the Optimum Buildings Conference/HVACR Week, we know how to have a little fun as well. Take, for instance, the HVACR Week Thursday Night Extravaganza. This year, we will be taking over Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the National Football League's Indianapolis Colts, where attendees will be able to test their punting, passing, and kicking skills on the field, in addition to enjoying great food and drinks.

We hope you will join us. Stay tuned to HPAC Engineering, its electronic newsletters, and HPAC.com for further details.