20 to Watch: Women in HVAC - Bing Liu
P.E., FASHRAE, CEM, LEED AP, senior manager, codes, standards, and new construction, Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance
Name: Bing Liu
Title: P.E., FASHRAE, CEM, LEED AP, senior manager, codes, standards, and new construction, Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance
Educational Experience: Master’s degree in thermal energy and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in HVAC, both from Tianjin University, Tianjin, China.
Organizational Affiliations: Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA)
Achievements:Lead author of “Advanced Energy Design Guide for Small to Medium Office Buildings;” more than 20 peer-reviewed journal articles and conference papers, 50 technical reports, and 100 presentations; an internationally recognized technical expert in building energy codes and equipment standards, building energy performance measurement, energy modeling, analysis, and applications; a leader in team building and directing multidisciplinary teams across business units; an ASHRAE Fellow and Distinguished Lecturer; invited speaker to present the building energy efficiency related topics regionally, nationally, and internationally; and boasts extensive experience in project management, scope and budget development, and client relationships management.
Awards:National Leadership in Sustainability and Energy Efficiency Award, 2017; U.S. DOE-MIT Clean Energy Education and Empowerment Award, finalist, 2016; Best Project Team Award, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, 2015; ASHRAE Distinguished Service Award, 2014; DOE Women@Energy Profile, 2014; Project Manager of Year, PNNL, 2013; and Tri-Cities Engineer of Year, 2008.
What caused you to/when did you fall in love with engineering?
I always enjoyed solving math problems when I was young, and I knew I would pursue engineering when I was in middle school. One of the reasons was that most of the impactful and inspirational people in China had engineering educational backgrounds, including the president of China in the 1980s. Additionally, my father was an electrical engineer, and he served as a role model for me to follow.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in the skilled trades?
To meet and learn from so many talented and committed colleagues. I am grateful I work in the building energy efficiency arena and have a chance to contribute to the clean energy future through the building energy codes and appliance standards. The work we have achieved will continue to benefit the use of energy efficiency as a resource and provide comfort and productivity in the built environment.
Describe the proudest moment in your career.
I have a few moments I’m very proud of. Perhaps my proudest moment was when I received a letter from ASHRAE indicating that I have been elected as an ASHRAE Fellow. This prestigious award recognizes an ASHRAE member who has attained distinction and made substantial contributions in HVACR and the built environment. I am very proud of this award because my contribution and impact in advancing building energy efficiency has been recognized by the industry. I am thrilled to be a member of the prestigious ASHRAE College of Fellows.
What challenges do women face in this profession? Can you give a personal example?
HVACR is still a male-dominated profession, and it can be hard to find a female mentor or role model in this industry. I recall many occasions when I attended a meeting in a room full of men, no matter if it was a meeting at work or a technical committee meeting in the professional society. As a female engineer, you have to work extremely hard to prove your credibility before you can influence or make an impact. I attended engineering schools in China, where about one-third of graduate students in my class were women. I think the lower women in engineering are partially culturally influenced in the U.S. We need more women leaders and role models in engineering to inspire young girls to pursue engineering.
What does your day-to-day job entail?
I am a senior manager overseeing a department with a multimillion dollar annual budget that is responsible for the building energy codes, appliance standards, and above-code new construction programs. My day-to-day job covers a broad range of activities. For example, I may develop program strategy and operation plans, review project proposals, review and write technical reports and conference papers, present at professional conferences, participate in code change hearings or federal appliance standard rulemaking hearings, explore pilot projects and new ideas, or attend technical committee meetings in standards development. I also have routine meetings with my team members to discuss their performance and professional career development.
What drives/motivates you every day?
I am driven by a strong desire to achieve solutions and results. I also enjoy helping others when I am approached. I’m influenced and impacted to leave the world a better place for our next generation, which keeps me going every day.
What remains on your engineering bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?
I am committed to advancing building energy efficiency and am hopeful we can build, construct, and operate zero-energy homes and buildings as a standard practice before I retire.
What’s one thing no one knows about you?
I am a working mother with two boys and a very supportive husband. I am also a runner and have completed a full marathon and a dozen half marathons. I served as captain for a team that finished the famous 200-mile Hood to Coast race in 2019. I also perform traditional Chinese dances with a dance troupe. We regularly dance at the beautiful Lan Su Garden in Portland and at local events such as the Chinese New Year Gala.
List any mentors who’ve helped you succeed and describe exactly how they’ve shaped your success.
I am fortunate to have several mentors who’ve helped shape my career in the last 20-plus years. Here are just three to highlight.
Professor Jiuxian Ma was a graduate school advisor in Tianjin University, China. He taught me how to conduct thorough research, bordered my view on research and application engineering, and taught me how to work amongst a highly productive team.
Steve Parker was my coworker and mentor when I worked at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. I worked on a challenging research program he was leading. He taught me how to design the program and empower the team members to take ownership and lead activities to the overall success of the entire program. Steve is a great writer, which is somewhat rare in engineering. Even today, he serves as editor-in-chief of a journal, which inspires me to not only conduct great engineering work but to effectively turn my work into a report or paper to share with others.
Steve Shankle was my supervisor at PNNL. He had a confidence in me before I realized that I could do it. Without Steve’s trust, guidance, and encouragement, I would not be able to lead a group of 30 researchers at PNNL as a group leader. Serving as a supervisor was not on my original engineering bucket list, but this role has helped me tremendously to grow myself and help others at the same time.
What advice do you have for prospective female engineers considering entering the field?
Lean in when you walk into a room full of male engineers. Find mentors who inspire you and you can trust. Don’t be afraid to fail and always learn from it. Join a professional society and volunteer to the work. Just do it. You learn best by doing it. Don’t try to be perfect.