Berkeley Lab To Develop Energy-Efficient Building Operation Curriculum for Community Colleges

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff December 30, 2004

Scientists at the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are teaming with educators at the Peralta Community College District in Oakland, Calif. to train community college students in the latest techniques of managing buildings for maximum energy efficiency.

One element of the curriculum will be a “flight simulator” for buildings.

The program will be for students in community college two-year programs who want to be HVAC/R technicians, as well as those in building facilities management programs. The work is funded by a three-year, $900,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Peralta is the prime contractor in this effort—its Laney College has offered a training program in this field for three decades.

“There are numerous gaps between the education received by building operators and technicians and current workplace needs,” says Evan Mills, a scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD). “To scope out the problem, we and our colleagues at Peralta conducted a focus group and follow-on interviews with about 40 industry stakeholders last year. They concurred that many of the problems we see today in achieving and maintaining energy savings in buildings can be traced to inadequacies in building operation and lack of awareness and knowledge about how existing systems are to be used, monitored, and maintained.”

The innovative simulation-based learning tool that the team is developing will provide students with skills they need to commission and operate high-performance buildings, with emphasis on energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality for HVAC/R equipment and control systems.

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The new curriculum uses a computerized simulator for interactively solving problems in building energy efficiency.