By Stephanie McMillen
Robert Hickman currently serves as the assistant supervisor of trades and maintenance on West Campus. Prior to joining Valencia in 1995, Robert worked at The Walt Disney Company for 12 years as the inventory clerk and a recipe control clerk. While there, he was focused on finding a way to transition to the career of his dreams, which was working with HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems.
To help achieve this dream, Robert enrolled in an air conditioning course at Mid-Florida Tech and during that time also started as a part-time maintenance technician at Valencia. In March of 1996, Robert moved to a full-time position as an air conditioning technician and was promoted to assistant supervisor of trades and maintenance in 2005.
Now, when asked what he likes best about his job, Robert simply says, “It is my dream!” He is elated to work with people in troubleshooting problems and to be a part of the design process of HVAC mechanical and building automation systems at Valencia.
During his tenure at Valencia, Robert has come to be known for his innovative ideas, which have helped to save the college over $100,000. The project most “near and dear” to his heart is the work he did to initiate a new water treatment program on West Campus. “We had an excellent program in place,” Robert said, “but after the chiller plant doubled in size, our water consumption went through the roof.”
As water consumption increased, so did Robert’s drive toward efficiency. He researched and found a system that was in line with the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment Initiative, through which Valencia has pledged a commitment to help accelerate progress towards climate neutrality and sustainability.
“After looking at six different systems, we decided on the ZeroTek High Cycles system,” Robert said. When the first monthly utility bill arrived, Robert was shocked, exclaiming, “Our savings were more than four times the original projections!”
In fact, the savings were so great that, “we had OUC verify the readings to make sure it was accurate,” Robert disclosed. Since the system went online in June of 2010, the West Campus has saved approximately 16 million gallons of billed water and $190,000 in cost.
“Because of the success on West Campus, we have also implemented the Zerotek system on East and it will be in the new Lake Nona and Osceola chiller plants as well,” Robert said. “College-wide water savings projections are at 25 million gallons per year.”
“Whenever I talk to my constituents at other colleges they always ask how we can get so much done at Valencia, and I tell them ‘It’s because of the Leadership.’ The president has established a cohesive [work] environment, and is so committed to it that we actually close the school and have a ‘Learning Day’ once a year so we can get to know each other and develop our strengths.”
Robert is excited for the opportunity to continue improving the comfort levels for everyone across the college while reducing energy consumption. He was a part of the design and development teams for the Lake Nona project with Mark Hose and the Osceola Building 4 project with Lamar Powers, and is currently working on the West Campus Building 10 project with Bareaa Darkhabani.
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