Hutch News

Hutch's director of Facilities Engineering honored for vision, creating energy-efficient campus

Bob Cowan receives prestigious Wyckoff Award

Feb. 11, 2014
Image: Bob Cowan posing

Bob Cowan, director of Facilities Engineering, receives T. Evans Wyckoff Esprit de Corps Award.

Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch

Bob Cowan, director of Facilities Engineering and a man well known for his upbeat personality, was the recipient of the T. Evans Wyckoff Esprit de Corps Award presented at a reception on Feb. 11 at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Dr. Larry Corey, president and director of the Hutch, presented the award to Cowan before a crowd of his peers.

“I can’t think of anyone more deserving than Bob,” said Scott Rusch, vice president of Facilities and Operations. “He embodies the institution’s spirit of dedication … and continually goes above and beyond with enthusiasm for Fred Hutch.”

The award recognizes an employee who shows dedication to Fred Hutch and its mission through teamwork and the ability to get the job done.

For a man who is always prepared, Cowan was speechless when he received a call from Myra Tanita, chief operations officer of Fred Hutch, telling him he’d won.

“When I was told that I was the next Wyckoff Award recipient, I was in shock and disbelief,” Cowan said. "After it sank in, I was thrilled.”

Vision for energy-efficient campus
One of Cowan’s most notable attributes is his vision for an energy-efficient campus, said Chief Engineer Kenny Lind, who was one of three who nominated Cowan for the award.

He also commended him for his forward thinking, noting that Cowan currently has 50-year plans for numerous systems around the campus and has extended the operational life cycles for many of them. This has allowed the Hutch to direct the money saved to funding the important research happening in the organization.

Image: Robert Cowan on top of building

Robert Cowan stands on the balcony of the 1100 Eastlake Building, one of the nation’s cleanest and most energy-efficient lab and data center buildings.

Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch

Leading the way to a green campus

Cowan has been instrumental in collaborating with local utility companies and has positioned Fred Hutch as a poster child for green initiatives.

“We give tours to engineers from other organizations to show them successful implementation of systems that conserve energy,” said Jim Walker, a facilities engineer who works closely with Seattle City Light, Puget Sound Energy and Seattle Public Utilities. Cowan’s team pitches new ideas to the companies and even beta-tests proposals from other organizations.

Combined, Fred Hutch and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance have received more than 20 energy conservation awards. The most recent honor was the Green Washington Special Award for Cutting Edge Buildings from Seattle Business Magazine for transforming the 1100 Eastlake Building into one of the nation’s cleanest and most energy-efficient lab and data center buildings. Cowan has shared the achievement with his entire team and continues to give credit to the individuals who make a difference behind the scenes.

Currently, Cowan oversees 180 energy conservation projects that contribute to savings of more than $2.5 million a year. The installation of new boiler controls, for example, has reduced gas consumption by 26 percent.

“Not only does Bob come up with ideas, but he follows it through until it is done and functioning correctly,” said Walker.

Cowan also provides ‘underground’ tours to employees, delving deep under the surface of the Hutch into the boiler rooms to demonstrate the complexities of what it takes to run a world-leading research organization. The tour sheds light on how Facilities Engineering is critical in supporting Fred Hutch’s research.

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