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ECE Director of Facilities Tim Newman already making a difference


Jamie Hutchinson, ECE ILLINOIS

Facilities Director Tim Newman might be relatively new to ECE ILLINOIS, but he has already made a lasting contribution to the department.

Timothy Joseph Newman
Timothy Joseph Newman
When the ECE Building’s demountable walls proved too thin for the standard outlet boxes used to house occupancy sensors and their wiring, Newman and ECE Professor Emeritus Philip T Krein brainstormed a new box design that is now installed throughout the new building. Now that the two have patented their design, its impact may soon be felt far beyond ECE.

As Newman tells it, “The invention developed from simply asking the question, ‘Why not?’”

No surprise that Newman hit the ground running when he joined the department early this year. His previous position was with University of Illinois Facilities & Services, where he oversaw construction of the ECE Building as a capital construction project manager. Now, Newman is the department’s go-to guy for ensuring that all ECE facilities — including field sites such as ECE’s Aeronomy Field Site in rural Urbana — continue meeting ECE needs and aspirations for years to come.

“I enjoyed working and developing relationships with the ECE faculty and staff during the construction of the new building,” Newman said. “When I found out that the Facilities Director position was open, I applied immediately. I’ve been looking to take my career from project management to program and personnel management.”

Among Newman’s specific duties are manging the ECE facilities staff and budget; allocating building space; overseeing repairs and safety; and creating strategy related to sustainability and energy use. What’s more, Newman is coordinating a reorganization of departmental services that will bring ECE Shipping and Receiving, the Daily Byte Café, Supply Center, and Machine Shop under his purview.

In his first few months with the department, Newman managed the renovation of six research labs and oversaw the progress of the ECE Building to “substantial completion,” a contract law term which means an owner can fully occupy a new building, with contractor obligations limited to minor work.

In the next year, he aims to renovate more labs, "work out the bugs" in the building’s electrical metering and HVAC, and finalize the documentation necessary for the building’s LEED Platinum certification—the highest energy and environmental design rating as established by the U.S. Green Building Council.

“As we look out two to five years,” Newman said, “I hope to further integrate the building systems monitoring and power management, allowing both students and faculty to use real data in their research. I think there will be many opportunities not only to improve upon the systems within our building, but also to develop products that could contribute to global energy efforts.”

That’s ambitious. But Newman takes things a step at a time, relishing what he calls “the little victories that produce big results.”

“For example,” he said, “we pushed the build-out of the Daily Byte Café within a tight three-month window, and now the cafe serves the needs of all students, faculty, and staff. Judging from the traffic, the café definitely filled a need and seems to be a positive for ECE.”

One of the big challenges of Newman’s job so far is a direct result of the new building’s stellar energy and environmental performance. The building serves as a fortress not only against weather, but also — alas — against the cellular signals coveted by occupants, especially students. Newman and others on campus are looking at how to improve service in new energy-efficient buildings by using repeaters and boosters.

Newman studied architecture in college at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, before earning master’s degrees in architecture and civil engineering (with emphasis in construction management) from Illinois. He has worked for architectural and construction firms in Champaign and Chicago, and spent five years with a firm contracted by the Chicago Public Schools and the Public Building Commission of Chicago, during which he managed construction and renovation projects for elementary, middle, and high schools.

“I actually have two careers,” Newman said. “One has been in architecture and construction, and the other in the Illinois Army National Guard.” He has served as an officer for sixteen years, notching deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait; raising border fences in California and Arizona; building roads in the Dominican Republic; renovating bases in Germany; and more.

Newman lives in nearby Fisher, Illinois, with his wife and son, in whom Newman has instilled a passion from his own boyhood: Legos. “We enjoy playing with them together,” says Newman. “I think my infatuation with Legos made me want to become an architect and pursue a career in construction.”

And, just perhaps, to ask: “Why not?”