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Extreme Problems, Extreme Solutions
ME Engineers is redesigning The Hills at Vallco, a mixed-use project in California that will house the world's largest green roof" (all photos courtesy of ME Engineers).
As most of the world found themselves shutting down due to the pandemic, ME Engineers Managing Principal Ed Bosco saw an opportunity.
An engineer who’s made a career finding solutions to the design challenges of large venues, Bosco recognized a growing dilemma as the coronavirus began spreading across the planet last spring. Every building, large or small, would need a pandemic plan. Even a space as small as an elevator required planning.
“If we believe that putting 10 people in a room is dangerous, what happens with 20,000?” Bosco says. “If we can solve the elevator for the density problem — high density, small space — and we can solve the 20,000-people-in-a-building problem, then we’ve got it. Everything else in between should be easy.”
Bosco deployed the firm’s ExtreME team, a group dedicated to tackling tough, interesting challenges. And that bet paid off. Since creating what Bosco calls their “COVID-19 Engineering Response Team,” ME Engineers’ business has helped global clients develop effective solutions for dealing with the impact of COVID-19.
Most notably, ExtreME advised on the return to professional sports last spring, working with officials on protocols after realizing, following their study of data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and other research centers, that the coronavirus could — and would — become airborne. The company also developed operational strategies and quiet, high performing filtration systems for Arthur Ashe Stadium, home of the U.S. Open, so play could continue unabated.
Currently, Bosco’s team is working with Oakview Group (OVG) to integrate solutions that improve health and safety at the UBS Arena in Belmont Park, New York, the $1.5-billion future home of the National Hockey League’s New York Islanders, which Bosco says will serve as the model for existing and new buildings across the world.
The team is also working to design The Hills at Vallco, a mixed-use development that includes the world’s largest green roof in Cupertino, California. The roof will include vineyards, orchards, and running tracks while covering 8,600 below-grade parking spaces and 16 buildings housing both commercial space and 2,400 residential units.
But finding solutions to engineering problems is what Bosco has done over his 30-year career. Melding a passion for both design and research, Bosco cut his teeth building art museums, schools, and hospitals before tackling bigger projects, including revamps to Madison Square Garden and the U.S. Open Tennis Campus.
But Bosco says this drive to take on the more pressing, COVID-related engineering challenges came from his Vistage group and his Chair, Jerry Cahn, who pushed him toward developing more innovative projects.
At first, Bosco was skeptical about Vistage when he first joined in 2017, but he found Cahn to be level-headed and knowledgeable. Cahn understood business challenges, Bosco says, yet also urged his group toward innovation.
Cahn says embracing innovation has worked especially well for Bosco. ME Engineers’ approach, which includes creative problem-solving, feeds the company’s bread-and-butter projects in healthcare, education, and commercial buildings. “He’s carving out a niche by applying the science of engineering to tackle tough problems,” Cahn says.
Bosco believes that they’re on the right path toward a solution to making large venues safe. His experience building hospitals gives him insight into the importance of multiple air changes, in particular strategies to increase air change rates in existing buildings depending on infection rates and how close together people are in a building. ExtreME is advising more than 50 large venues worldwide.
By taking on such innovative work, Bosco hopes to inspire the next generation of engineers. Most young engineers find working on buildings to be boring, he says, but he hopes that by taking on hard problems, he can show them that this work can actually be exciting.
“My goal is to deliver good thought to these projects and find design challenges that will attract the top engineers and make them want to come work for us,” Bosco says. “Because if we do that, we’ll continue to make these amazing projects a reality.”