MENTOR INTERVIEW: Brian Borak – Engineering

Photo of Brian Borak installing PV panels

Energy Mentor, Brian Borak, Installing PV Panels
Photo Credit: Aditya Gaddam

Brian Borak is always on the lookout for new technologies. As an Energy Program Technical Analyst for Booz Allen Hamilton, he spends his days designing, executing, and managing energy research and development programs for his government clients, with the goal of translating the more promising technologies into commercial use. So what better place to scout cutting-edge energy technology than a solar competition? It’s a hotbed of possibilities for guys like Brian.

But it’s the Terp blood running through his veins that compelled Brian, who received his Ph.D. in Physical Organic Chemistry and Photochemistry from Maryland, to sign on as a WaterShed team mentor without hesitation. After all, he was the DC Electrical Team Leader for LEAFHouse in 2007 and is able to put his veteran experience to good use. Assisting the electrical team on designing and installing the solar panels, Brian has been able to share some of the pitfalls the LEAFHouse team experienced and prepare the WaterShed team for design challenges they might face. He enjoys working alongside students and getting his hands dirty. Below Brian discusses how green technology is readily available now and how entries like WaterShed show just how easy and affordable it can be to implement.

What has been your favorite aspect of working on WaterShed?
BB: It’s been great to work with so many smart, creative people on the team. Everyone brings their unique background and experience to contribute something special. I think the end product speaks to the love and care that the team has put into this project and how well they’ve worked together. Having a team with such a diverse range of backgrounds with dedication and drive really creates an atmosphere where innovation thrives. It’s really exciting to be part of that. I also really enjoy being able to get my hands on some of the latest technology in solar power and green building design, it’s a great test bed!

What do you hope the students take away from working with you on WaterShed?
BB: I hope they’ll be able to gain an appreciation for the design process and for the opportunities that lie ahead for them in the green energy technology and building industries. I hope working on the Solar Decathlon will inspire them to pursue a career in energy and use their talents to help secure our country’s energy future.

What have you learned from working with the students this year?
BB: I’ve been really impressed with the team’s ability to work together to face some challenging design decisions; it serves as a reminder to keep an open mind and listen to different perspectives. Sometimes solutions come from unexpected places and in really interesting forms. I’ve also learned a lot about the new offerings in solar technology that are out there today and some new approaches to green building design.

How important are competitions like the solar decathlon in respect to the future of architecture, building technology, and construction?
BB: Events like the Solar Decathlon are critical for igniting interest in developing scientists, engineers, and architects to push the envelope in green building design and clean energy technology. Our country needs more dedicated people from many disciplines to work together to help create new ideas that will help us all live more sustainably using our available resources more efficiently. The Solar Decathlon helps put many of the challenges up in front of teams and the public to confront and begin to address, while serving as a proving ground for new green building design and energy technologies. It helps us explore creative ideas and gather more information about the best ways to implement these designs and technologies on a wider scale and make refinements to future designs.

What do you hope people will take away from WaterShed when they visit it on the Mall in September?
BB: Hopefully, WaterShed visitors will walk away from the house with the realization that solar energy and green building is available and ready for everyone today. These technologies and designs are here now, ready to be implemented on a larger scale to help homeowners reduce their energy use and save money. Wide adoption could enable America to become more secure and maintain a clean environment for generations to enjoy. I hope homeowners and business owners will get excited about the potential to implement some of Watershed’s innovative features in their own homes and offices, particularly those living in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. I also really hope visitors walk away with an appreciation for all the hard work that the team put into designing and building WaterShed as well as communicating their message to visitors.

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