Electrical engineering practitioner joins architectural engineering


By Mariah Chuprinski

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Dave Stabler, a 1978 Penn State architectural engineering alumnus and former senior electrical engineer for Facility Dynamics Engineering, joined the Penn State Department of Architectural Engineering (AE) on Jan. 2 as assistant teaching professor.

Stabler is the latest addition to the department’s lighting and electrical engineering option area group.

With nearly 40 years of experience in building commissioning and electrical design, Stabler brings an advanced skillset and applied knowledge to his courses.

This semester, Stabler is teaching AE 467 Advanced Building Electrical System Design, and is assisting with AE 311 Fundamentals of Electrical and Illumination Systems for Buildings. In the future, he plans to develop AE 468, which will be a continuation of Advanced Building Electrical System Design with a focus on low-voltage design.

“I’m looking forward to passing on to students the practical industry applications of the field,” Stabler said. “I want to make sure that when they get their first job, the material is not new to them; they’ve already seen it before in a classroom setting and can hit the ground running.”

After graduating from the AE program in 1978, Stabler went to work for Barton Associates as an electrical designer. He also took several other jobs during his 30 years in electrical design, including starting a new firm with two other engineers in 1988.

In 2006, Stabler transitioned to Facility Dynamics Engineering (FDE), where he participated in commissioning electrical systems in a wide variety of building projects.

Often an overlooked aspect within building engineering, commissioning requires the skill of an experienced engineer who is an expert in building systems and how they work, according to Stabler.

Building owners hire a commissioning team to test the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems in a construction project before building occupants move in, Stabler explained. Detailed documentation is integral to a commissioning project, and commissioning agents develop custom startup processes and testing for key equipment to expose potential issues and track resulting issue resolution processes.

Stabler helped to maintain a custom digital documentation database used to perform commissioning at FDE, using software developing skills he learned from studying information systems and technology (IST) from Penn State York. He earned an associate degree in IST in 2005.

Often, commissioners work alongside construction teams, Stabler explained. As soon as a construction team finishes a part of a building, commissioners move in to test it. That way, if they detect any issues, the construction team can resolve the problems efficiently since they are still on site.

“In essence, commissioners prove that a building’s functions and automation work, as described in a design engineer’s plans,” Stabler said. “We test all forms of systems in a building, whether they are temperature sensors, interfaces with an air delivery box, lighting sensors or time-of-day control sensors.”

Stabler and his team at FDE commissioned a wide variety of building projects in various sectors, including health care facilities, data facilities and biosafety research facilities. Stabler, who still works part time with FDE, is passionate about commissioning, saying his experience in the AE program prepared him for the role.

“As an AE student, I learned what every team and subcontractor does in a building project due to the wide breadth of the program,” he said. “That’s exactly the type of skillset you need to be a commissioner: a broad understanding of how systems operate in a building and the teams that build them.”

Though Stabler has no formal teaching experience, he taught and mentored younger engineers throughout his career.

“In commissioning, you’re constantly teaching younger members of your team, as well as the mechanical and construction teams that work on a certain building project if problems arise,” he said. “I have always been passionate about sharing my experience with my colleagues and am excited to expand on that passion here at Penn State.”

Sez Atamturktur, Harry and Arlene Schell Professor and head of the AE department, welcomed Stabler back to the University.

“Students will vastly benefit from Professor Stabler’s experience and knowledge formed during his 40 years in the industry,” said Atamturktur. “We are grateful to have him as part of our department.”


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Dave Stabler headshot

Dave Stabler joined the Department of Architectural Engineering as assistant teaching professor on Jan. 2. IMAGE: TYLER HENDERSON