Elara Engineering Celebrates 20 Years of Collective Passion Delivering Sustainable, Energy Efficient MEPFP Designs

Today, on June 1st, 2021, Elara Engineering attained the milestone of being in business for 20 years.  Throughout the last two decades, Elara has continuously evolved and grown to meet the needs of the industry and the many clients that it proudly serves. From its humble beginning derived from the common passion of the firm’s founders to its current leadership team and dedicated and talented staff, Elara has not wavered from its mission to achieve sustainable energy efficiencies through constructible designs that minimize the carbon footprint of the environment, save money, and increase asset value.   This passion will – without question – continue to carry Elara Engineering forward for the next 20 years.

As with any milestone, it presents an opportunity to reminisce and reflect on how far one has come, what has changed, and what it all means for the future.  In this context, Elara’s founders and partners offer the following thoughts.

Don McLauchlan – Founder, Principal

20 years ago, with our collective passion for making buildings more energy efficient and for creating value for clients; Steve Maze, Doug Smith, and I formed Elara Engineering. With our previous experience of design build contracting, we saw a need for a pragmatic engineering firm that thought outside the 9 dots to find cost effective and innovative solutions to save energy and improve comfort and indoor air quality in the indoor environment. Our firm quickly grew with the early addition of Caitlin Levitsky, Iole Cappiello, David Lavan, and Adam Sanders; followed by Jay Parikh, Brian Malone, and Matt Swanson. We have now grown to almost 50 employees serving a wide spectrum of clients including major Universities, Health Care, K-12, Hospitality, Pharmaceutical, and High-Rise Residential markets in multiple states. We also grew our services to include full Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, and Fire Protection design for both new and existing buildings. Through all these changes, and as we brought in new engineers that began their careers at Elara, we have maintained the hands-on culture of our beginning. We want to thank our clients for their confidence and support over these last 20 years.


Steve Maze – Founder, Principal

We knew we could make a difference. Don McLauchlan, Doug Smith, and I each with a unique skill set, but with one singular goal; provide a quality consulting experience. “Quality”… a focus we encountered in the 1990s while we owned a contracting company (Arrowhead Environmental Control) included taking full responsibility for the design, construction, and performance of our projects. That identical philosophy was the foundation for the 2001 formation of Elara. 20 years later Don and I along with partners Jay Parikh, Caitlin Levitsky, Brian Malone, Matt Swanson, Dustin Langille, and Bhupendra Tailor remain committed to that foundation. We teach it in different ways each day to our employees. 20 years from our beginning and again each partner with a unique skill, set but with one singular goal; provide a quality consulting experience. I know we are poised for another successful 20+ years.


Jay Parikh – Partner, Principal

After ten exciting years at Abbott Labs, I joined Elara as a Partner in July 2006 to fulfill a long-awaited dream of ownership. Elara started out as a small, close-knit family of 10 and has now expanded to nearly 50 employees because of its culture and platform of opportunities. The past 15 years have been an incalculable journey that has enhanced my professional development as a successful business partner and contributed to the growth of Elara. We have secured numerous ASHRAE awards, submitted articles for various publications, and conducted speaking engagements. We have helped clients secure energy rebates totaling over $6.5M over the last 10 years and continually work to reduce buildings’ environmental carbon footprint through innovative, cutting-edge designs.

Our culture, commitment, and dedication make the pillars of our foundation stronger, allowing us to groom and offer partnership to our young aspiring employees for the growth of this company. We may have started out in a small satellite rental office, but now Elara’s growth has allowed us to cater to clients throughout the country. We work to pave the path for our successors in hopes to lead Elara to an elite position in the engineering world.


Caitlin Levitsky – Partner, Associate Principal

Brian Malone – Partner, Associate Principal

Matt Swanson – Partner, Associate Principal

Dustin Langille – Partner, Associate Principal

Bhupendra Tailor – Partner, Associate Principal

For all of us, we have individually and collectively strived to ensure our firm’s passion for saving energy, advocating for our clients, creating cutting edge designs, and cultivating a fun learning environment for all our employees.  As stewards for what has been achieved over last 20 years, we hope to see Elara continue to build and expand on these foundations as we grow in the future, adopt and advance new technologies, and implement new ways to empower our employees at all levels. Elara is continuously evolving and adapting to new challenges and we are excited to see how we can continue to contribute to our industry and our local and global communities through our work.

The Principals and Associate Principals of Elara Engineering wish to express our gratitude and appreciation to the many clients, vendors, suppliers, and former employees that have been part of our amazing and successful 20 years.  We are excited, energized, and ever passionate about what we do, and we eagerly look forward to our next 20 years.


Elara Wins 5 ASHRAE Excellence-in-Engineering Awards

On January 4, 2021, Elara Engineering was recognized by the Illinois Chapter of ASHRAE with five 2020 Excellence-in-Engineering Awards.  Cumulatively, Elara has earned a total number of 29 ASHRAE awards, several of which also represent projects that have secured awards at ASHRAE’s regional and international levels.

Taken together, the five awards exemplify Elara’s passion and ongoing commitment to the sustainable design of energy efficient building infrastructure systems.  The five awards also showcase the breadth and depth of our team’s experience and expertise to deliver practical solutions and designs for a wide variety of project types (new construction, retrofits), building types (high-rise residential, hospitality, higher education), and innovative applications of existing and new technologies.

We congratulate our dedicated and talented project teams on their achievement and recognition by their peers in the Illinois Chapter of ASHRAE. We also extend our thanks to the owners, managers, and staff of these award-winning buildings for their vision and commitment to sustainable, energy efficiency projects.

The Elm at Clark (1122 N. Clark) Makeup Air Unit Replacement

  • $82,539 in utility incentives
  • New chiller plant, condensing boiler plant and MAU for operational flexibility, comfort, performance, reliability, and efficiency
  • New BAS system and dual temperature changeover
  • Project implementation prioritization plan reduced overall project cost
  • Full project details can be found here.




3383 North Broadway Urban Geothermal New Construction

  • New construction 8-story mixed-use building with 134 residential units, an indoor heated parking, retail spaces, and shared amenity areas
  • Geothermal heating and cooling, solar PV, exhaust air heat recovery, shower drain heat recovery, sidewalk snowmelt and demand control strategies
  • Actual EUI: 21 kbtu/ft²
  • Full project details can be found here.



Hilton Washington, DC Hotel High Pressure Boiler Plant Conversion/Upgrade

  • $56,000 in utility incentives
  • Energy opportunities identified by Elara Energy Audit and Engineering Analysis
  • Boiler conversion from medium to low pressure, burner upgrades, and DA tank modifications in lieu of replacement due to space constraints
  • Required collaboration with local authorities to gain required project approvals
  • Significant energy savings and reduced operating costs due to elimination of stationary engineers required for high-pressure steam plants
  • Full project details can be found here.


Loyola University Chicago Francis Hall MEPFP New Construction

  • New Construction 8-Story, 133,400 sq. ft. residence hall
  • LEED Silver
  • Heat recovery VRF units and DOAS system with CO2 controls, energy recovery exhaust air, high-efficiency boilers, and variable speed VRF compressors
  • Natural ventilation design includes a motorized façade that opens to outdoors
  • Ultra-low flow toilets, low-flow showers, and separate irrigation/non-potable water loop
  • LED lighting/automatic light controls, automatic plug load control, and continuous power monitoring
  • Full project details can be found here.


The Legacy at Millennium Park Electric to Gas Makeup Air Heating Conversion

  • 73-story, existing mixed-use building
  • Elara ventilation study identified opportunity to convert makeup air system from electric to natural gas heating
  • New hot water heating and re-heat coils sized to maximize efficiency, with negligible fan energy penalty and minimum boiler efficiencies of 94%
  • Parallel ECM pumps reduced pump energy usage
  • Phased implementation to minimize interruption
  • $330,000 in annual energy cost savings
  • Full project details can be found here.


Additional Recognitions

University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Academic and Residential Complex New Construction

  • Multifamily Pillars of the Industry Award for Best On-Campus Student Housing Community from the National Association of Home Builders
  • 2020 Architizer A+ Awards: Popular Choice Award for Higher Education and Research Facilities from Architizer
  • Full project details can be found here.

Fields Lofts Renovation and Adaptive Use (Chicago, IL)

  • 2020 Metamorphosis Award, First Place Winner in the Multi-Family Residential Category by Retrofit Magazine, a national journal covering renovations and adaptive use projects
  • The link to the official announcement and article can be found here.

29 North Wacker (Sun Life Assurance Building; Chicago, IL)

  • Featured in Building Energy Exchange Report High-Rise/Low Carbon – Office Deep Retrofit Profiles
  • The link to a PDF of the report can be found here.

2020 – A Different Year, but with Continued Success for Elara Engineering

We are pleased to announce that 2020 was another successful year for Elara Engineering as we quickly modified the way we do our work to keep our employees, clients, and vendors safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continuing to build from our increase in staff, project locations in more states, greater involvement in K-12 schools, and philanthropic involvement from our dedicated employees, we eagerly look forward to providing our clients in 2021 with constructible, energy efficient designs that help the environment, save money, and increase asset value.


Associate Principals Matt Swanson and Caitlin Levitsky Co-Author: “Planning for MEP Infrastructure Projects in High-Rise Buildings”

Elara Engineering Associate Principal Matt Swanson, LEED AP, CEM and Associate Principal Caitlin Levitsky, LEED AP BD+C recently co-authored the above titled article placed as a featured story in the Spring 2020 issue of Chicagoland Buildings & Environments.

The heart of any building is its major mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems that allow the building to successfully operate and provide comfort to its occupants. However, when one or more MEP systems require repair or replacement, significant cost and inconvenience to building owners and occupants can occur. Mr. Swanson’s and Ms. Levitsky’s article provides a practical, proactive approach to plan and implement a large-scale MEP repair or replacement project in a high-rise building to minimize costs and disruptions.

Because of the many alternatives that exist for MEP system replacements, the potential for significant disruption and inconvenience to building occupants, and the associated high capital cost incurred to undertake these projects in high-rise buildings, the article recommends a variety of key elements to ensure that a project delivers the intended result and best value.

A reprint of Mr. Swanson’s and Ms. Levitsky’s article can be found here.


2018 – A Year of Continued Success for Elara Engineering

Elara Engineering is pleased to announce to its valued clients, employees, and vendors that – in 2018 — we have continued to build upon our previous successes.

From the continued design of new technologies such as Variable Flow Refrigerant to Riser Pipe Replacement Projects to the design of large Emergency Backup Power Systems, our dedicated and talented team continues to achieve energy efficiencies through constructible designs that minimize the carbon footprint on the environment, save money, and increase asset value.



Elara Earns 23rd and 24th Excellence in Engineering Awards

On December 4, 2018, Elara Engineering received two 2018 Illinois Chapter ASHRAE Excellence in Engineering Awards.

The first award recognizes Elara’s sustainable design of energy efficient mechanical systems and infrastructure at the Indian Trails Public Library in Wheeling, Illinois while the second recognizes our team’s innovative design that improved energy efficiency at Loyola University Chicago’s (LUC) Quinlan Life Sciences Building; a continuously operated, energy intensive laboratory building.

 Indian Trails Public Library

  • Renovated building with new addition uses approximately 40-50% less energy than typical library building.
  • New energy efficient mechanical systems and infrastructure incorporate a geothermal heating and cooling system that utilizes water source heat pumps.
  • $100,000 EBSCO grant awarded for solar array installation costs – selected from 90 grant submissions from 15 countries.
  • Additional details about this project can be found here.

LUC Quinlan Life Sciences Building

  • Practical design that generates approximately $62,000 in annual energy cost savings with a quick ROI.
  • Design integrated two heat recovery systems to enable year-round heat energy recovery and eliminated heat rejection equipment to reduce implementation costs.
  • Reduced load of campus’ central chilled water plant to provide additional capacity for future buildings.
  • Additional details about this project can be found here.

Elara congratulates its dedicated and talented project teams on their achievement and recognition by their peers in the Illinois ASHRAE Chapter.


Elara’s Don McLauchlan Receives UIC Engineering 2018 Outstanding Achievement Award

Elara Engineering is pleased to announce that on November 7, 2018 at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) College of Engineering’s Alumni Awards Dinner, Don McLauchlan was awarded a 2018 UIC Engineering Outstanding Achievement Award.  Don holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from UIC and is a founder and principal of Elara Engineering, Inc.

As described by UIC for the awards event, Don has over 35 years of experience in MEP design, construction, and commissioning and focuses on energy efficient design in the building environment; including, new construction, major renovations, problem-solving, green buildings, and fully integrated sustainable systems.  He has led engineering teams on projects for large commercial buildings, schools, universities, and hospitals; among others that have earned 21 first-place Illinois ASHRAE Excellence in Engineering Awards, three first-place Midwest Regional ASHRAE Technology Awards, two International Society ASHRAE Technology Awards, a Green Design Award from the Institute of Real Estate Management, and a Green Innovation Emerald Award from the United States Green Building Council.

As a licensed professional engineer in several states, Don is a certified energy manager and LEED-Accredited Professional. He has authored several technical articles for the ASHRAE Journal and other trade journals and has been a speaker at numerous industry conferences.

Elara Engineering is proud to congratulate Don for his 2018 UIC Outstanding Achievement Award and for his infectious passion, guiding leadership, industry involvement, commitment to client service, and a career devoted to energy conservation and innovative design.


Loyola University Chicago Ranked 5th Most Eco-Friendly College in U.S.

Elara Engineering is pleased to announce that Loyola University Chicago (LUC) has been ranked by College Magazine as the 5th most eco-friendly college campus in the United States.  Congratulations!

According to College Magazine’s article (found at, the ranked schools and their students work to reduce their carbon footprint on a campus-scale.  For example, the top ten schools make the most of their resources by providing easy access to recycling, using renewable energy, committing to zero waste at events, having great Environmental Science programs and student run eco-clubs, and holding high standards for environmental sustainability.

The article specifically cites LUC’s zero waste biodiesel production process, rainwater utilization, multipurpose soap, and successful student-lead campaigns to ban water bottles, the use of plastic bags, and to get the University’s administration to take a stand in support of a price on carbon.  Students have also created clubs such as the Student Environmental Alliance and the Growers Guild.  Additionally, the University offers six majors within its Environmental Department: Environmental Science, Environmental Policy, Environmental Public Health, Environmental Studies, Conservation and Restoration Ecology, and Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture.

Elara is honored for the many opportunities it has had during its ongoing partnership with Loyola University Chicago to advance the school’s commitment to an energy efficient infrastructure.  Completed projects to date have earned an Energy Star Award, a LEED Gold or Silver Designation, a USGBC Emerald Green Innovation Award, and numerous ASHRAE awards at the Chapter, Regional and International level.

Congratulations again to Loyola University Chicago on its recognition as one of the most eco-friendly college campuses in the country.


Elara Earns 22nd Excellence in Engineering Award

In December of 2017, Elara Engineering received an Illinois Chapter ASHRAE Excellence in Engineering Award for its energy retrofit project at The Residence at Water Tower Place in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood (180 East Pearson Street).  This latest recognition represents Elara’s 22nd Chapter-Level ASHRAE award since the company’s inception in 2001.

The innovative project, further highlighted in the Autumn Issue of Chicagoland Buildings & Environment (access the article) and led by Don McLauchlan and Ryan Hoff, reduced energy costs by 50% and improved occupant comfort through a design approach that re-established centralized humidification and improved building pressurization.  Additional details about the project can be found here.