Jason Bernstein is 2023 Staff Employee of the Year for innovation

Jason Berstein is this year’s Staff Employee of the Year in the category of innovation for many reasons. Some he calls luck, but taking a deeper dive, it’s clear it’s more than chance.

In order to win in this category, the employee has initiated research or has successfully established new and outstanding methods, practices, plans or designs. All are up Berstein’s alley.

Bernstein, a member of facilities management, is the campus energy manager. His main goals are to reduce energy consumption and cost for the University through energy efficiency measures, rate negotiations and supporting capital project design efforts.

It’s a dream role for a problem solver like Bernstein.

“I like understanding how things work,” he said. “That starts by learning to question everything and asking yourself, ‘Does that make sense to you?’”

It’s this mindset that Bernstein used to save the University $1.1 million. After noticing discrepancies related to utility charges for campus stormwater, Bernstein started investigating.

Don Janus, FM’s director of engineering nominated Bernstein. In explaining the significance of this find, he said, “Jason’s work resulted in over a $350,000 annual saving for the campus and a billing refund of over $1,100,000,” wrote Janus. “This is most likely the largest utility-related cost reduction in campus history, and Jason was recognized across campus for this accomplishment.”

This is far from luck, but instead the result of an innovative mindset. Bernstein saved a projected $1.2 million by working with the campus materials management team and other campus units to find an alternative source for purchasing natural gas.

Berstein also leads the building energy audit program, which works to identify energy control measures within existing buildings’ HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems. Together with FM members and EPIC campus partners, they identified $558,353 in estimated annual utility costs savings and reductions of 2% electrical and 5% natural gas usage to date for fiscal year 2023.

Every day is different for Bernstein. He handles managerial responsibilities, supporting capital project design efforts, looks for energy opportunities, has days out in the field checking buildings and the list goes on.

“We’re currently making pushes to update design and construction standards,” said Bernstein. “There’s never a boring day.”

When he learned of his nomination, he was excited that this important work was being recognized.

“It shows me that my work is appreciated and gives me more drive to continue the effort,” he said. “I’m always looking for the next mountain to climb.”

When he’s not busy saving the University millions of dollars, he likes to problem solve through house projects, as well as hiking, walking trails and exploring Charlotte with his wife and their dog.

Since UNC Charlotte is a large contributor to the amount of energy and carbon used in Charlotte, Bernstein believes there’s a responsibility to be good stewards in sustainability. He likes making a difference and brings this mentality into his job.

“I am very fortunate to work with Jason on a daily basis and I am often surprised by his abilities, which extend far beyond expectations,” wrote Janus. “Jason’s engineering skills are formidable, and his drive is unbreakable.”

All winners will be recognized at UNC Charlotte’s Staff Employee of the Year event held Thursday, May 4.