Alumnus Spotlight

juan ontiveros

Juan Ontiveros
Executive Director and Assistant Vice President for Utilities, Energy, and Facilities
The University of Texas at Austin

Juan Ontiveros grew up in El Paso in a home so close to the University, he considered the UTEP campus his backyard. It was only natural that he enrolled and completed his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1974 and his master’s in mechanical engineering in 1978. He was the first in his family to go to college and served as a role model to his brother, Oscar, who followed him to college and became an educator.

Juan has fond memories of his professors, including Lionel Craver, Ph.D.; Jack Dowdy, Ph.D., and Carroll Johnson, Ph.D.

Upon graduation, Juan was hired by a Dyncorp-Calspan joint venture on a White Sands Missile Range contract. He became chief engineer before joining UTEP in 1982 as an employee in the facilities department. At UTEP, Juan became just the second Hispanic director of facilities services. At UTEP, implemented the first digital work order system to track work, make purchases, manage inventory, etc.; and developed the first Energy Services Performance Contract in UT System that resulted in the new cooling plant and 3 million gallon thermal storage facility that was connected to the main campus. The debt service on the project was retired four years ahead of schedule.

When an opportunity opened up at UT Austin in utilities and energy management, Juan applied and was selected for the job in 1997.

When asked for two attributes that he considers key to his success, Juan said he is a risk taker and he is always seeking to improve.

“I’ve never shied away from a challenge – I’ve never turned a job down,” he said. “I never rest on my laurels ... I am always pushing me and my team out of our comfort zone; a big part of my success has been to hire people smarter than me and letting them do their job and inspiring them to try new things using a collegiate, participative management approach.”

Juan’s achievements at UT Austin include overseeing $240 million in plant improvements in the power plant, chilling plants and steam plant with more savings than debt. He also converted a manually operated pneumatic utility plant with 20 energy meters in 1997 into a full digital plant, increased power generation to 134 MW and cooling capacity to 60,000 tons and 1.2 million lbs/hr of steam, and installed 1,000 campus energy and water meters and a new 100 MVA electrical substation and electrical system upgrade. In addition, he has operated the largest university utility in the U.S. at an annual average efficiency of 85 percent to 87 percent that has returned the campus to 1976 fuel use while over 10 million new square feet of space was added.

These achievements have earned him several prestigious awards, including the inaugural Robert W. Galvin Award from the United States Green Building Council for innovation, the opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors and as past chair of the International District Energy Association (IDEA), the 2012 IDEA Norman R. Taylor Award and the Global Climate Award in 2009 from the International Energy Agency.

In his current role as Executive Director and Associate Vice President for Utilities, Energy and Facilities, Juan supervises about 900 employees in utilities and facilities management. His future goals include:

  1. Use technology and techniques used in the utility operation such as optimization and modeling that can be extended into buildings to allow the campus to continue to grow without increasing plant size, and to improve buildings by renewing HVAC systems and improve maintainability.
  2. Implement smart asset management tools to protect the safe operation of major equipment in the plants, protect reliability and minimize risk.
  3. Extend the savings culture to the campus at large.

Juan said he could not have achieved all he has without the support of Maggie, his wife of 30 years. He serves as a role model to their six children, five grandchildren and a great grandchild.