MacDonald-Miller: Building a Smarter Industry

Aaron Presberg of Portland Public Schools at Grant High School in northeast Portland.

Brand Story – How a data-driven mechanical contractor is driving tomorrow’s design-build sector.

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According to public perception, designers design, builders build and engineers engineer. Plumbers handle plumbing, electricians work with electricity and so on. As one of the Pacific Northwest’s leading design-build mechanical contractors, MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions (MacMiller) does it all.

Whether designing  mechanical systems for new construction projects or retrofitting an existing building, the 50-year-old organization is shaping the industry’s future one better building at a time.

“We do what we do every day as a mechanical contractor to create healthy environments, reduce emissions on this planet and give meaningful data to those who run buildings, so they can be empowered to make smart business decisions,” says Nicole Martin, marketing manager, MacDonald-Miller.

On paper, a mechanical contractor takes care of a building’s mechanical equipment. In reality, MacMiller’s one-stop-shop building solutions span HVAC, plumbing, electrical, design, sheet metal, pipe fitting and all aspects essential to an effective construction. Ultimately, the team makes old buildings efficient and new buildings smart.

DSCF2944Deploying solar energy systems can help a company’s bottom line from the top down.

“With our Smart Building Services, we have the ability to connect buildings to a single source where customers can see what’s happening everywhere at one time and make changes 24/7,” explains Everett Walker, general manager of MacDonald-Miller’s Portland office. “It’s proactive; we can tell if a piece is being overworked or underutilized.”

With data and a centralized overview on their side, owners and managers of smart buildings notice system inefficiencies immediately. They can pinpoint the problem and equip technicians with necessary information before their onsite visits to cut costs and increase repair speeds.

“The term ‘Smart Building’ sounds expensive and technical, but when you think about just connecting your mechanical systems together to gather data you can take action on, you start to understand there’s a smarter way to take care of your building. And that’s where the ROI is,” Martin says.

DSCF2959Tim Hendricks, CFM, Facilities Director for the Bill Naito Company.

MacMiller helped PeaceHealth Sacred Medical Center at RiverBend run smarter by providing boiler retrofits that saved energy and lowered fuel costs. It now has direct, remote access to the boiler plant via a tablet computer from anywhere in the hospital.

To boost the health of Portland Public Schools, Smart Services modernized Da Vinci Middle School’s mechanical systems and maximized its life-cycle costs. The team installed and integrated the control systems, using a high-performance building automation solution to maintain student comfort and safety.

Since the beginning, the organization has solely employed union technicians because of their guaranteed skill level and high-quality work. With each project — whether a laboratory, health care facility, marine construction or commercial office — that decision has paid off.

In response to the smart building movement, MacMiller is launching a new Smart Building Operations Center with on-call technical experts, while its virtual reality lab, M-Lab, lets clients “walk through” their buildings during the development stage.

IMG 8996Scott Grice checks on his very efficient, retrofitted RTU controls.

As a pioneer in the field, the team — driven by a culture that openly values ‘fun’ — continues to push the envelope of what it means to be a mechanical contractor.

“Today, I can sit on the beach in Hawaii and control my building. That’s already a long way from those old mercury thermostats we used to hang on the wall,” Everett concludes.

“And it’s just going to continue becoming more automated, proactive and predictive.


Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues.  The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.