As we discussed in Step 6: Focus on High Impact & High Value Efficiency, building owners can save 5-20% annually on their energy bills by implementing operations and maintenance (O&M) best practices. Well-developed operations and maintenance programs help ensure equipment is functioning as efficiently as possible and can identify performance issues before they become equipment failures. But buildings can only be operated effectively if the building operator is properly trained.

Benefits of Training Building Operators

Energy Cost Saving: Efficient building operation and maintenance (O&M) measures cost about 20 times less and achieve roughly the same energy savings as energy efficiency upgrades. Investing in training of building operators can return similar results. It can be challenging to quantify energy savings resulting from behavior change resulting from training. A 2012 study from the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy developed a methodology for quantifying impacts of Building Operator Certification training. Six independent studies using this methodology found BOC-certified operators save their organizations $5,000 to $15,000 annually on electricity and fossil fuel costs.

Smart Operators for Smart Buildings: There is little doubt that smart building technologies will be a significant part of the future of building operation. Automated controls and sensors are low-cost and effective tools to optimize building equipment performance. Yet poorly managed building technologies can be counter-productive to efficiency efforts. Building automation systems can malfunction or fall out of calibration, adding up to 15% to energy costs by one estimation. Properly and frequently trained building operators are better prepared to catch malfunctioning equipment and resolve issues quickly. Training also prepares building operators for emerging building system concerns like cyber-security. Further, training can help break entrenched and outdated practices by alerting operators to new skills required of modern building systems.

Boost Employee Engagement and Morale: In addition to helping break entrenched habits and enhancing skills, training is a great employee engagement strategy. Training helps break up the doldrums of the day-to-day work routine, offering a new challenge and change of pace. Furthermore, it helps operators build a network of fellow building operators, encouraging sharing of resources and experience.

X-Factor Benefit: Not all benefits of training are immediately apparent or quantifiable. Training may result in the building operator making new and organic connections in their work. It can provide a more holistic perspective on the building, systems, and organization. As one BOC instructor notes “we also stress the importance of not just understanding the control system as installed by the contractor but the control strategy as outlined by the design engineer.” Training can teach hard skills while also cultivating the soft skills of leadership and critical thinking.

Building Operator Certification

Building Operator Certification® (BOC) is a training program developed by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council designed to train building operators, technicians, and maintenance staff on the latest technologies and strategies for maintaining equipment, increasing occupant comfort, improving energy efficiency and reducing energy costs in their buildings. This nationally recognized certification program gives building operators the skills and knowledge to reduce energy operating costs by more than 2% in their buildings. BOC training results in average estimated $10,500 in energy savings and 113,660 gallons of water per credentialed operator.

SPEER operates BOC training in Texas and Oklahoma. Training is available in person and online. Contact SPEER for more information.

Other Training Resources

There are a number of training opportunities for building and equipment operators:

1. Manufacturer Training: Building equipment manufacturers offer training for their specific equipment as well as courses in a broad range of energy efficiency and building operation topics. Manufacturers will typically include training in the purchase of equipment and also provide on-going training to building operators. Energy services companies, contractors, and local distributor of equipment may help subsidize the cost of training for their customers. Manufacturer trainings are likely available for every type of equipment in your facility including major manufacturers Trane, Carrier, Daikin, Honeywell, Johnson Controls, and others.

2. Community College and Technical Schools: Community colleges and technical schools are an excellent resource for comprehensive vocational training of building operators and technicians. Aspiring building operators can pursue an associate degree or a certificate program to learn a specific trade. Facility owners can hire building operators out of these programs knowing they have receive specialized training in building operation. Certificate programs are available in a wide array of applicable skills including heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC+R) programs, energy efficiency specialist, electrical power & controls, and facilities management technology. Technical training programs in Texas include Texas State Technical College, Alamo Colleges District, Austin Community College District, Dallas County Community College District, Lonestar College, and others.

3. Department of Energy Training: The Department of Energy is a treasure trove of resources for training in all aspects of energy management including building operation. The Federal Energy Management Program Training Catalog is a repository for free, recorded trainings including a full curriculum specific to operations and maintenance. DOE’s Better Buildings program also includes resources including training. The Better Plants arm of Better Buildings offers on-site training for facility staff participating in the Better Plants challenge.