Assistant Vice President, Engineering and Energy

Industry: Facilities Management
Location: New York - New York City
Sector: Higher Education
Search ID: 21-1207-08
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Lee Grandovic
Lee Grandovic


Columbia University has retained Helbling to conduct an executive search to secure an Assistant Vice President, Engineering and Energy.

Position Summary

Reporting to the Vice President for Operations, the Assistant Vice President of Engineering and Energy is responsible for visionary and strategic energy services and programs for Columbia University. This position will direct, strategize, and organize utility plant and environmental initiatives and services for the campus buildings totaling 9 million square feet. This includes master planning, conservation efforts, managing renewable energy portfolios, strategic procurement of natural gas and electricity, central plant oversight, and other energy-related strategic initiatives. 

The Assistant Vice President leads the tactical effort to integrate energy conservation practices into the University operations and activities. He/she develops and recommends plans to advance the University's energy conservation efforts; and provides leadership for the development and implementation of goals, policies, and elimination of GHG emissions. 

This position makes decisions on strategic initiatives with the goal of meeting the University's commitments to energy reduction. In addition, he/she is responsible for coordinating the energy procurement and utilization of the campus's central utility plants to maximize efficiency and minimize cost. This position will lead the Energy Management Group, the Engineering Group, the Building Commissioning Group, and the Central Utility Plants. The Assistant Vice President will work with and provide recommendations on sustainability and energy management initiatives to Capital Project Management, Operations, and the Sustainability committee, and works closely with the senior leadership to help balance short- and long-term strategic sustainability and energy management efforts. He/she will act as subject matter expert to provide leadership to develop campaigns and promotions that heighten awareness of energy issues.

Essential Functions

  • Develops strategic initiatives tied to utility management plan, consumption measurement, conservation technologies, renewable energy, sustainable systems, policy program development and implementation, utility recharge and forecasting, energy commodity market analysis, and procurement of natural gas and electricity. 
  • Leads the University’s efforts that provide guidance and identification of effective strategies for energy efficiency programs and optimization of energy usage. 
  • Responsible for the development and implementation of procedures to comply with regulatory programs.
  • Establishes and implements short- and long-range organizational goals, objectives, policies, and operating procedures; monitors and evaluates program effectiveness; and implements changes required for improvement. Implements strategies for continuous improvement of campus infrastructure, capital planning, systems, operations, and energy conservation.
  • Proactively engages utility users’ group to establish constructive dialog, credibility, and cooperation through informal authority. Provides oversight for energy efficiency projects including identifying and prioritizing opportunities and project implementation in cooperation with Capital Project Management and the Manhattanville Development Group. Manages utility vendor relationships to leverage value and influence service levels. Establishes appropriate key performance metrics to evaluate program effectiveness. Manages development of building construction guidelines for new construction and renovations that ensure proper use of energy wise methods and materials.
  • Directs Central Utility Plant Manager’s activities to ensure reliable, efficient, and cost-effective operations of the steam plants, steam and condensate distribution and metering systems, chiller plants, distribution, and metering systems. Ensures a comprehensive maintenance management system is in place; benefits are fully realized; and that it is compliant to all city, state, and federal regulations. 
  • Identifies opportunities for outside grant funding, rebate programs, or other savings programs and manages application submittals, grant program management, and various reports.
  • Identifies building mechanical problems impacting energy consumption; and analyzes heating, cooling, ventilation, and lighting systems to determine optimum operating conditions. Advises maintenance shops on energy efficient operation of building mechanical systems. Develops and recommends maintenance project priorities for equipment and operational strategies to maximize operating efficiency. 
  • Provides direction to the Building Automation Systems Manager to ensure establishment of and adherence to standards for existing control systems and new installations, and direction to ensure functionality of utilities sub-metering systems. Leads building re-commissioning and new commissioning efforts. Supports initiatives to optimize building systems operation. 
  • Develops a team environment for direct reports that support customer service and customer-response focus. 
  • Enforces strict adherence to safety rules, practices, and regulations.
  • Other related duties as assigned.

About Columbia University

Columbia University Facilities and Operations supports the core educational and research mission of the University by maintaining a safe, beautiful, and functional campus environment, and providing services and spaces for campus life and activity outside the classroom. Facilities and Operations is responsible for the safety, preservation, and maintenance of Columbia's real estate portfolio. It provides space planning; oversight of new building design and construction; renovation, repair, and restoration of existing spaces; operations and maintenance of buildings and grounds; and management of the University apartment housing inventory and campus public safety. Within the campus, Facilities and Operations also serves the community through the operation of its residential and retail dining program, event catering and venue management, undergraduate residence halls, student center and bookstore, and sustainability engagement.
As a valued partner of the Columbia academic and campus community, Facilities and Operations:
  • provides high value and quality;
  • seeks ways to continuously improve our operations;
  • grows with the changing needs of the community;
  • collaborates with University colleagues;
  • delivers exceptional customer service; and
  • are respected stewards of Columbia's physical assets.


New York, NY



  • Bachelor’s degree in engineering or related field required.
  • Master’s degree in Engineering, MBA, or other advanced degree preferred.
  • Ten years of experience in utility infrastructure, university utility and facilities operations preferred; ten years of experience in related field required. 
  • Demonstrated experience managing the operation and maintenance of central utility plants preferred. 
  • Minimum of seven years of environmental / sustainability experience including implementing environmental or sustainability programs, resource management, environmental initiatives, or equivalent experience required.
  • Supervisory experience required; working with unionized workforce preferred.
  • Certified Energy Manager or Certified Energy Procurement Professional preferred.
  • Demonstrated experience in sustainability or LEED AP credentials preferred.
  • Demonstrated experience with energy, water, and waste conservation in buildings required.
  • Skilled in budget preparation, financial management, and analysis required.
  • A flexible, problem-solving approach to leadership required.
  • Demonstrated effective leadership skills within a complex, multilayered organization required.
  • Ability to think strategically and drive priority initiatives through the organization required.
  • Strategic planning skills. Ability to make administrative / procedural decisions and judgments required.
  • Skills in examining and re-engineering operations and procedures, formulating policy, and developing and implementing new strategies and procedures required.
  • Ability to develop, plan, and implement short- and long-range goals required.
  • Sensitivity and diplomacy to balance competing campus interests required.
  • Computer literacy in Windows and Microsoft Office environments required.  
  • Strong communication and presentation skills required.
  • Demonstrated ability to work with senior leadership required.
  • Demonstrated management skills with ability to relate to a diverse and complex operation and supervision of exempt and non-exempt staff required.
  • Utilization of principles of management to ensure responsibilities are met effectively and efficiently required. This includes planning, controlling, leading, and organizing.
  • Demonstrated skills in using sound analytic methods and ability to work with complex analytic issues required.
  • Ability to effectively interact with departmental staff, as well as campus and university-wide administrators required.
  • Excellent customer service skills and ability to effectively communicate within and outside of the department required.
  • Skills to effectively communicate orally, in writing, and electronically required.
  • Ability to maintain accuracy and attention to detail in a fast-paced environment of changing priorities required.
  • Respond promptly by phone or in person as appropriate to emergency situations and therefore 24/7 availability required.
  • Valid driver's license and successful completion of the University's Motor Vehicle Records background check process required.

Mental Demands / Skills and Abilities

Attention to detail; communicating effectively in writing or speaking to customers, vendors, and employees of the organization; performing within deadlines; reading; confidentiality; problem solving; understanding appropriate codes and ensuring at least minimum compliance with those codes while operating within the limits of resources. Prioritizing competing demands, ability to maintain productivity, and ability to work in a fast-paced and high-stress environment.

Physical Demands

Ability to move around campus to inspect buildings and infrastructure including use of stairs and ladders and walking in below grade utility tunnels in extreme temperature conditions; ability to review architectural/engineering plans and specifications. Keyboarding; bending; stooping to reach files; light lifting; standing. Some travel may be required.

The above statements are intended to describe the general nature and level of the work being performed by people assigned to this job. They are not an exhaustive list of all duties and responsibilities associated with it.

Columbia University is an equal opportunity / affirmative action – Disability / Veterans employer.
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