Lab Design and Furnishings

Professional Profile: Brian Rener, PE, LEED AP

Lab Manager spoke with Brian Rener of SmithGroup in Chicago

MaryBeth DiDonna

Brian Rener, PE, LEED AP, is Principal, Mission Critical Leader, with SmithGroup in Chicago. Lab Manager recently spoke with Brian about his career, experience, and personal interests. 

Q: How did you get started in your career? Did you major in your field in college, get an internship, switch careers along the way, etc.?

A: In high school I had the opportunity to take vocational labs in both electronics design and electrical wiring. It was very hands-on work with benchtop circuit board assembly and common household wiring. I enjoyed the experience and my teacher often touted the career opportunities in the electrical engineering field. I later decided to attend Michigan State University and majored in electrical engineering. After graduation, I briefly worked for a firm that specialized in power plants but shifted my career to work with a firm focusing on high-tech buildings, such as supercomputer facilities, data centers, semiconductor labs, and laboratories. After spending many years in electrical engineering, I advanced into whole building planning, management and design leadership, and eventually Mission Critical.

Q: If you weren’t in this profession, what job do you think you’d be doing instead?

A: When I was younger, I wanted to be a writer. I think this carried into my design career as I have published over 23 articles on trends and topics relevant to my profession. That said, I still have a few ideas for novels in my head that I may get around to!

Q: What is your favorite building, lab-related or not?

A: My favorite building is the one I just completed—the Dwight and Dian Diercks Computational Science Hall at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The building is dedicated to a brand-new computer science major at the university. In addition to an advanced Artificial Intelligence Supercomputing center, it houses some wonderful event spaces including a 256-seat auditorium and allows access to an outdoor plaza. Most importantly, this new building is a significant addition to MSOE. It really is a leap forward for their modestly-sized urban campus that had not seen a new building in some time. The shared sense of accomplishment and pride among the client and project teams for this new building was contagious.

Q: What lab projects are you working on at the moment?

A: Currently, I am working on the Biological and Environmental Program Integration Center (BioEPIC) for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California. BioEPIC is being designed to house one-of-a-kind experimental capabilities to advance the Department of Energy’s mission objectives in energy and environmental science. The facility will help integrate existing research now being done in the Lab’s Biosciences Area (BSA) and the Earth and Environmental Sciences Area (EESA). It is rewarding to be a part of a team providing facilities for scientists that are advancing learning in energy and the environment nationally and globally. 

Q: What kinds of hobbies or interests do you have outside of work?

A: I love the small town I live in with my family. I have tried to give back to my community by serving in various city-wide positions for more than 14 years. I am proud I served for ten years as an elected member of the town board (city council). I am currently serving as an appointed co-chair and founder of the town’s Sustainability Committee. On the personal side, for the past seven years I have enjoyed training in mixed martial arts. I appreciate that martial arts training keeps both my mind and body active.