Building Intelligence: How M.C. Dean is driving energy efficiency, resiliency, and security for mission-critical facilities
Business View Magazine sat down with executives representing M.C. Dean, Inc., to discuss the company’s key role with leading government and global corporations for our focus on leading companies in the Clean and Green industry including the biotechnology/ renewable energy sectors
M.C. Dean, Inc, a leading engineering and systems integration corporation headquartered in Tysons, Virginia, designs, constructs, operates, and maintains cyber-physical solutions for the nation’s most recognizable mission-critical facilities, secure environments, complex infrastructures, and global enterprises.
The company was founded in 1949 by Marion C. Dean, a WWII Navy veteran, and electrician who set up shop to take advantage of the booming postwar national economy and the plentiful supply of government contracts newly available in the Washington, D.C. area.
Over the next two decades, Dean’s company secured large-scale federal facilities contracts as its client base grew to include the Washington National Airport, Bolling Air Force Base, and the Naval Research Laboratory. By the 1970s, the company was working on complex, secure laboratory and research facilities for the Department of Defense (DOD) and major research universities. The company also designed lighting for some of the capital’s most iconic monuments, including the Washington Monument, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the United States Marine Corps Memorial.
Marion C. Dean retired in 1980 and was succeeded by his son Casey, and in 1997, his grandson, Bill, the firm’s current President and CEO. At the turn of the 21st century, M.C. Dean embarked on larger, more sophisticated projects, including environmental remediation, large-scale infrastructure construction, and digitalization implementation. According to Mark Tibbetts, the firm’s global director of capture, during those decades, M.C. Dean was becoming more than just an electrical company.
“We started to do more electronic security; more control systems,” he recounts. “And we weren’t just a design-builder of big systems – we also were a service provider. In the large design-build construction world, you work with general contractors. But in the service world, you work directly for the owner. So by diversifying, we were able to sustain our own business by servicing the jobs that we built.”
Capitalizing on its preeminence in power, security, and information systems engineering in the 1990s, the company emerged as a cyber-physical leader in the 2000s. It was the first fiber optic 100-Mbps voice, video, and data service provider in the country, and it expanded its expertise in automation for water infrastructure, electrical power monitoring systems, integrated security applications, mission-critical facility controls, and transit applications. In the 2010s, M.C. Dean established its supremacy as a designer, manufacturer, integrator, and operator of solutions, supporting the rapid expansion of mission-critical and cloud-driven infrastructure.
Today, M.C. Dean has national prominence as an industry leader with a portfolio of major projects with mission-critical government agencies and organizations. The company’s tagline is “Building Intelligence”, a clever use of the word “building” as both an active process as well as the structures in which it operates.
The company has grown to approximately 5,200 employees (over a thousand have high-level security clearances); it has over 30 offices around the country, with operations in 50 states and six continents; and it partners with more than 1,000 world-class OEM and technology partners to design, construct, and service electrical, electronic security, telecommunications, life safety, automation and controls, audio visual, and IT systems for its clients.
“Our market is big, complex, highly secure, big energy users,” says Tibbetts. “From data centers to large-scale DOD and Intel community complexes, our customers operate in some of the most exacting environments on the planet where power reliability, energy efficiency, and security are non negotiables.”
Some other M.C. Dean clients include the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) with data centers nationally and worldwide and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s Military Imaging and Surveillance Technology (MIST) program.
In order to better serve those data centers and complex facilities that require a lot of energy, the company established a focused Facilities Engineering Operations and Maintenance division, led by Director Ervin Caldera.
“All of our Facilities Engineering Operations and Maintenance programs have a 24/7/365 Buildings and Operations Center,” says Tibbetts. “We have people maintaining the systems – both preventive and corrective maintenance – and we’re actually operating their energy programs. We’re staging equipment and optimizing its use; doing everything we can to conserve water, power, gas, etc. It’s our job to optimize energy use in those facilities 24/7/365 because we can’t put the mission at risk, and at the same time, we’re there to make sure we’re very good stewards of the energy.”
“We look at the major facilities that we’re in today, like the Pentagon, for example,” Caldera explains. “Energy conservation there is a big deal. Through the way that we operate the building, we’ve been able to save a lot of money for the government through optimizing the way that we operate the facility. And we do that across the board. We look at every single kind of facility that we have; we look at the way the facility operates and fine-tune building systems and equipment to save money and conserve energy.”
As an example, Caldera cites how it operates at the Social Security Administration National Support Center, located in Urbana MD. “We use reclaimed rainwater to cool the facility,” he relates. If it doesn’t rain, we revert back to normal utilities. It’s a fine balance between the two that’s not only efficient but resilient. We are operating mission-critical facilities; we look at reliability and resiliency, while still being respectful of the environment.”
Because so many of M.C. Dean’s clients are government agencies, Tibbetts says that the company has to be on top of the energy policies and mandates emerging from congress and the executive branch and bring them back to our engineered solutions and operational environments.
“They’re coming fast and hard,” he notes. “There are mandates both from a resilience and conservation standpoint, so we focus on staying abreast, and make sure that we’re leaders in bringing these mandates back. For example, by 2030, an installation has to show that they’ve got the energy availability for a minimum of 14 days to withstand an energy disruption. That’s an executive order that came out in May 2021. So, it’s our job to make sure systems can withstand that 14-day disruption. Then there are water conservation practices in the new Inflation Reduction Act, and it’s our job to make sure our customers implement such requirements by the required date. Nobody knows our systems better than we do.”
A system that the company is currently investigating and strategizing about is that of electric vehicle charging. “Take the Pentagon, for instance,” Tibbetts shares. “They’ve got a bus system that has to be converted, eventually, to battery. Maybe two percent of employees today that use electric vehicles to go to and from work grow to ten percent tomorrow, and predicted to grow to 35 percent three years from now.. But what the military is realizing is that the reliability of its workforce seriously depends on its ability to make charging available for them,” he describes. “That’s an investment that somebody’s got to make. Then there are maintenance challenges with these chargers. Once you put them on the ground, you’ve got to maintain them. So we’re paying attention to that, as well as to the fleet that’s got to be converted.”
In the meantime, while M.C. Dean builds, operates, and maintains interconnected systems in some of the most sophisticated and complex buildings around the world, it also has as a client one of the oldest buildings in Washington, D.C. “As the stewards of a 231-year-old executive government facility, we maintain its historical integrity, while actively applying conservation and resiliency improvement programs” Tibbetts exclaims.
M.C. Dean is heavily involved in the key area of energy security and in particular, cybersecurity. As world events have unfolded in recent years, including the global pandemic, the rise in the reliance on technology, and the increasing numbers of cybersecurity risks, M.C. Dean’s solutions are designed with security in mind.
“The concept of energy security can be viewed through several different viewpoints. Instability from world events like the recent invasion of Ukraine and escalating tensions between the U.S. and China lead almost immediately to unanticipated consequences from a cost and availability standpoint in our interconnected energy supply chains,” stated Bob Link, vice president of Automation Systems. “These consequences force all mission-critical entities to carefully evaluate their external dependencies on energy supply and how sudden reductions in supply will negatively impact the delivery of their solutions and products.”
Link further illustrates that energy security must also be given high priority and carefully evaluated in the increasingly interconnected, networked world of industrial control systems (ICS) which drive the electrical, mechanical, and delivery systems of energy supplies to the use points.
“Historically somewhat isolated through “air-gaps” and “legacy” control algorithms and communications protocols, modern ICS rely more and more on standard Information Technology (IT) platforms and technology to drive Operational Technology (OT). The end result is ICS becomes exponentially more susceptible to cyber-attacks and ransomware schemes where the outcome is reduced services and availability of all kinds of infrastructure relied upon by homes, businesses, and the U.S. Government,” he outlines.
Given the importance of potential cyber vulnerabilities and the key role of energy security in the work that M.C. Dean carries out, Link further explains “It is highly unlikely that any entity can prevent 100% of these disruptions. Energy resiliency becomes key. What are your alternative or distributed physical sources of energy that can be leveraged at the point of use? Which are controlled via properly designed, adequately secured, and fully segregated multi-thread communication networks and microprocessors? Which are contained and operated in a secured, highly managed operating environment either on-premises or in the cloud?”
Moving forward, M.C. Dean will continue to focus on its leading operational and technology solutions and leverage its expertise on energy security measures as well as the direction organizations are moving to remain in the sector’s driver’s seat.
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AT A GLANCE
M.C. Dean Inc.
What: Leading engineering and systems integration corporation with top government and global enterprises among its illustrious clients
Where: Headquarters in Tysons, Virginia
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