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Meet Jeremy Piela: Bringing Data Center Design to Life with 3D Modeling

Meet Jeremy Piela, BIM Director at Aligned Energy, and learn about how he uses virtual reality in data center design.

This blog post is part of our ongoing employee profile series showcasing the people that make Aligned Energy a special place to work.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, Jeremy Piela, Aligned Energy’s Building Information Modeling (BIM) Director, relaxed back into his couch and spent the next six hours enjoying “The Deerslayer,” James Fenimore Cooper's novel about a young frontiersman in the 1740s in New York.

That was by far the least techie thing Jeremy had done in some time. But in some ways it was similar to what he does at work.

Jeremy uses 3D models and virtual reality to help build designs for data center technology. On that Sunday afternoon, he used the virtual reality created by his own mind’s eye to visualize life in Colonial America, the interface between the wilderness and civilization, the pristine life of nature and the impact being made on it by human beings.

From boom to bust to BIM

Jeremy grew up in Tolland, Connecticut, about 100 miles from where he now works at Aligned Energy in Danbury, Connecticut. After studying finance at the University of Connecticut, he began working for a small site contractor. During the housing boom, the company built a lot of houses and renovated a large number of buildings. When the boom went bust, Jeremy says, it was time to head back to school.

While studying construction management in graduate school at the University of Florida, Jeremy began learning about 3D modeling and Building Information Modeling. After receiving his master’s degree, Jeremy headed back home to work at Turner Construction, in Connecticut, and soon after, at a BIM consultancy in New York City. Before joining Aligned Energy last year, he worked in BIM on projects all over the New York area including a new commuter train station being built 15 stories underneath Grand Central Terminal. 

Using 3D modeling for data center prototypes

As BIM Director at Aligned Energy, Jeremy creates 3D parametric models of buildings and building systems. Using what Jeremy describes as one of the hottest and most interesting areas of construction, he is able to create a prototype of a building and its internal systems before committing the resources – people, materials, and high costs – needed to build it.

How does this relate to virtual reality? Very closely, says Jeremy who keeps a VR headset on his desk. With a little graphic tweaking, the models are so realistic that, once loaded into a VR device, designers and engineers can feel like they are walking around or standing inside a building that isn’t built yet.

The tool of choice to visualize a project before BIM was the blueprint. It takes a lot of skill and experience to be able to read one of those accurately, Jeremy points out, and then to generate in your mind a 3D vision of what the project looks like. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. Having a 3D model that puts you inside a project and lets you walk around is worth a million words.


Controlling the process from design through operation

After all the design and construction work he’s done, Jeremy says, hands down, Aligned Energy is a special place. It’s rare to find a company that has control over the design, construction, and operation of a building. Aligned Energy is involved with the process from start to finish. Owning the process from design through ownership is very unusual, Jeremy says, and something that gets him excited.

BIM spans the whole process too. Jeremy likes that BIM enables smart, connected technology to work at every step – from design to construction and even to ownership and operation of the building. Technology in the data centers syncs with Jeremy’s overall philosophy about technology: It works best when it’s behind the scenes, enhancing our lives, aiding communication and efficiency.

Family, reading, and lifelong learning

Jeremy and his wife, Toni, married in the summer of 2016. They enjoy living in Connecticut, not far from Jeremy’s hometown and near family, including his uncle, brother, and nephews.

Yet, Jeremy says he never gets too far away from work. He has a stack of (old-fashioned paper) books nearby and is always reading several at once, including many books on technology. He does not watch TV and instead prefers to spend time drawing his house in 3D, reading one of four daily newspapers, or working on puzzles, especially crossword puzzles.

Once Jeremy finished “The Deerslayer,” that very low-tech classic American novel, he turned back to his stack of books. Next up, a history book about WWII. He has a list of about 375 titles on his to-read list and always has three in rotation: fiction, non-fiction, and a history book.

He would never say this about himself, but Jeremy is a bit of a Renaissance man. His days are filled with exploring the mechanical workings of things; enjoying words, art, poetry, and photography; and appreciating technology for its ability to help make tasks more efficient and enjoyable.

We think he’s in the perfect job.

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