Building Operator Certification Training Helps Federal Agencies Implement Energy Saving Strategies

August 28, 2007

Variables affecting a building's energy use are often complex and interdependent. Understanding facility operation as a whole is key to determining how to achieve optimum operating efficiency. This is where the Building Operator Certification (BOC) program comes in. This nationally-recognized program presents a comprehensive series of energy-use training sessions for building operators, from lighting fundamentals to indoor air quality to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and more.

Both private sector companies and governmental agencies have found BOC training to be invaluable as a means to trim energy costs. It also benefits employees as a standard of professional certification. Evaluation research conducted by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) and the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP) found that BOC certified operators are saving money for their companies to the tune of $20,000 annually per participant. Annual energy savings for participating facilities were, per square foot, .50 kWh for electricity and .74 MMBtu for natural gas.

Recent federal agency graduates of the BOC program in the Pacific Northwest region all agree that the training is a plus for facilities managers at any level of experience. An electronics technician by training, Dale Brigham was part of a project to develop an HVAC controls system at the Fort Lewis Army Base near Tacoma, Washington. The project integrated control systems in individual buildings into a networked system for monitoring operations across the base.

At the Public Works Department, teams composed of electrical, plumbing, and HVAC specialists maintain the base facilities. Brigham decided to attend BOC as a way to "get out of the tunnel vision mode" of his own trade, and found that BOC training gave him "the competence and confidence to step out of [his] boundaries" to operate effectively within the team framework to explore energy efficiency opportunities. "BOC helps you see how the systems you work on overlap with others, and how it ties in with energy efficiency," said Brigham.

Brigham was one of five Public Works Department staff to attend BOC training. Upon completion he and his supervisor, John Timmers, lobbied base command to bring BOC training to Fort Lewis. With financial help from FEMP, the Public Works Department hosted a Level I course series on site for 25 federal public works employees.

Even with 24 years experience in facilities management, Darcy Sullivan thought she could learn something from BOC training. Since earning her certification, she has had many opportunities to apply lessons from training to real work on the job at the Public Works Department at Whidbey Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island, Washington.

Working with their Resource Energy Manager, Kevin Evans, to fulfill the energy efficiency mandates of Executive Order 13123, Sullivan's multi-faceted BOC training became a major asset to the project. Her primary responsibility is to oversee work performed by the base's maintenance contractors. "Darcy is my go-to person for resolving energy efficiency issues with contractors," said Evans. Her understanding of the big picture now allows her to act effectively as a liaison among disparate groups.

In addition to supporting Evans' resource efficiency initiatives, Sullivan continues to look at other projects through the efficiency lens. "We have a continuous maintenance inspection program that includes cyclical and planned maintenance activities, and the energy component is important," said Sullivan.

Veteran building operator Chuck Eddington found the BOC series valuable from a professional perspective and as a helpful review. "To persons that are entering the operation or building engineering field, it covers a broad base of information," said Eddington, a General Services Administration building operation manager at the new Seattle Federal Courthouse in downtown Seattle.

Eddington gained some specific benefits from BOC training. One assignment required him to complete a schematic drawing of the facility, giving him a clearer understanding of the building's electrical system. Eddington stated that a project on power load calculations "forced me to become more familiar with the building," and he gained "a different perspective" on such HVAC issues as filter changes. BOC certification also gives him a professional advantage. "I won't say it has a tangible value as far as salary, but it does have a tangible value as far as potential promotions," he said. "Credentials and experience—that's what it's all about."

Eddington also gave the following advice. "If you are entering this field or entering in a position, take [BOC] just to get acquainted with what is involved in running a building. There's a lot...it's a good course to take for somebody who is contemplating entering the field or somebody who is looking at a promotion for entering that position, or for a good refresher course."

In other words, BOC training will provide great benefits to just about anybody who operates a building.

For more information on BOC training topics and class schedules, please visit www.theboc.info/.