To borrow a phrase from the comic book genre, CSULB alumni Kent and Kevin Peterson are the dynamic duo of sustainable engineering, except their superpowers derive from innovative thinking, interdisciplinary team building and a lot of hard work.
In 1991, the twin brothers, along with CSULB alumnus John Sosoka, founded P2S Engineering, a consulting engineering and commissioning firm committed to state-of-the-art building and infrastructure designs and sustainability. Sosoka, who received an MBA in 1975 from CSULB and served as the company’s chairman/CEO, retired in 2005.
The journey to entrepreneurial success began early for the Petersons. Kent, who earned a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from CSULB in 1986, was already working in consulting engineering by his freshman year. Kevin, originally a pre-med student at UC Irvine, decided to change majors and transferred to CSULB, graduating with a B.S. degree in electrical engineering.
Kevin became an electrical engineer at SPARVAN Inc., which in 1990 bought Sosoka & Associates, the company where Kent was working as a mechanical engineer. Ten months later, the brothers decided it was time to “hang out our own shingle.”
Thus, the idea for P2S Engineering was born. Today, Kevin serves as the company’s president/CEO and Kent as its vice president/COO and chief engineer. The timing for the company’s focus on green technology was spot on.
“We come from a farming family in Kansas,” said Kent, who chaired the project committee that wrote the first high-performance green building standards for the U.S. “We had that exposure to living off the earth minimally and giving back. Engineering is all about sustainability because it’s economically designing a solution that uses the least amount of natural resources and is the most efficient system you can develop to achieve the goals.”
In 2012, Electrical Construction & Maintenance Magazine named P2S Engineering among the top 30 electrical design firms in the nation. Numerous projects with the company’s fingerprints have won awards for their energy efficiency and conservation, including the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, which won the 2012 San Diego Gas & Electric Energy Champion award.
To date, the firm has completed more than 5,000 projects, most of them in California but also branching out to other states and Puerto Rico. CSULB is the beneficiary of the Petersons’ expertise for multiple projects, including the central heating and cooling plant, the Natural Sciences Complex and the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.
To achieve sustainability goals on every assignment, the Petersons put great emphasis on creating an interdisciplinary team of engineers, architects and other infrastructure specialists to provide cost-effective innovative solutions.
“Our strength is our staff and what their capabilities are, and if we can strengthen their capabilities while at the same time having some fun, they tend to provide better service and we are a much better company,” said Kevin, who along with Kent received the 2012 Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce’s Entrepreneurs of the Year award.
“We had a strategic planning session to develop priorities,” Kevin continued. “One priority was that we provide fitness facilities for our staff to maintain good physical and mental health. We built a gym and a Zen room, with a full-body massage chair. Also, we create and encourage internal and external continuous learning as well as professional training.” P2S stands out among its peers by garnering four “Best Place to Work” honors from the Los Angeles Business Journal.
The firm counts many CSULB alumni among its employees, most recently three 2012 President’s Scholars with mechanical engineering degrees, Bryson Borzini and twins Trevor and Kellen Zeller.
“Cal State Long Beach is a phenomenal school in my opinion,” commented Kent, who chairs the College of Engineering Dean’s Advisory Council. “We want engineers that are coming out of the schools who can articulate what the problem is and use critical reasoning to provide solutions.”
For Kevin, who agrees with Kent’s assessment of CSULB alumni, the university is a family affair. His wife, Jennifer (Bakke) Peterson, and parents-in-law Glenn and Jean Bakke are alumni, while his sons, Steven and Chris, and daughter Allison are undergraduates.
True to their CSULB heritage, the Petersons volunteer their time and expertise to the local, national and international communities including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Green Business Council and the Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings Advisory Committee.
While the Petersons are determined to push the boundaries of sustainability ever forward, they insist that there are personal benefits to their crusade.
“Both Kent and I have a philosophy that since we spend much of our lives at work, we should have fun while we’re achieving success,” Kevin said.
Kent agreed and added, “There’s also the sense of satisfaction that both Kevin and I have from training young engineers and getting them to reach their potential, providing vision on where they can go in their careers and what they can actually accomplish as engineers.”