Training the Coming Generation of Grid-Interactive Efficient Building Operators

Michael Kane, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, received a $750,000 award from the US Department of Energy to develop a training program for vocational technology high schools and community colleges that improves entry-level building operators’ literacy in grid-interactive efficient buildings. Kane is joined on the project by partners from the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council (NEEC), the Washington State University (WSU) Integrated Design+Construction Lab (ID+CL), and Boston Public Schools.

The NEEC is a business association of the energy efficiency and building decarbonization industry. NEEC is the administrator for the Building Operator Certification (BOC) program, a national training and credential program that educates those who operate and maintain buildings on energy efficient and smart building practices. The ID+CL is an organization that aims to transform design, construction, and building operational practices through sponsored research activities to advance high-performance buildings, enhancing occupants’ health and productivity, while requiring less carbon and energy to construct and maintain.

The training program, BOGO (Building Operators: Grid and Occupant Training), is designed to educate building operators on grid-interactive efficient buildings (GEB). Such an approach balances energy demand on the grid with low-carbon, available, and affordable energy supply not just by reducing how much energy a building consumes, but by optimizing when energy is consumed. GEB technologies like smart building automation can dynamically adjust energy consumption, for example by adjusting thermostat setpoint temperatures. However, they can also introduce barriers to maintaining occupant comfort, satisfaction, and health. The BOGO program aims to provide a humanics approach to training the next generation of building operators using GEB technologies and concepts.

The program supplements the BOC Fundamentals program, that provides basic principles of energy efficiency awareness and practices in commercial buildings. A core component of the BOGO training is a “gamified” whole-building control simulator that models building physics, grid interactions, and occupants, allowing trainees to test how their decisions affect building energy dynamics. The training will be continuously improved through a three-year, 100-student trial before rolling out nationwide as a professional credential.

By taking a humanics approach, the BOGO project invests in sustainable cities of the future with a focus on occupant health, comfort, and satisfaction. The program equips entry-level building operators with the skillset to implement sustainable energy technologies and provides valuable skills for career advancement. Additionally, the program will speed the rollout of these technologies, decreasing stress on the electric grid and lowering building carbon emissions.

Related Faculty: Michael Kane

Related Departments:Civil & Environmental Engineering