Fort Lewis Benefits from Building Operator Certification Training

March 31, 2005

A successful partnership between the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council, FEMP, and Fort Lewis near Tacoma, WA, was instrumental in organizing and conducting an on-site Building Operator Certification™ (BOC) training at Fort Lewis in 2003. The Fort Lewis Public Works Department hosted an on-site BOC Level I course series for 25 Maintenance and Repair (M&R) Division electrical and mechanical staff and other Public Works staff including engineers, planners, and estimators. "Expanding professional horizons was the intent of the training," explained Charles Howell, energy program coordinator for the Public Works Department's planning division. Five other Fort Lewis public works employees had completed an earlier BOC series in nearby Renton, WA, and finding it highly worthwhile, one of them encouraged a BOC "home schooling" for colleagues. Fort Lewis and FEMP split the cost of the on-base training.

Operational Challenges

Many older, energy-inefficient facilities on the base feature concrete block construction, single-pane windows, and small heat piping that requires long reheating cycles. The base has already undergone extensive energy improvements, so one of the challenges is to operate and maintain the new equipment while also continuing to upgrade older equipment—lighting, motors, boilers, HVAC and mechanical systems, and windows.

Additionally, the base's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) requirements make it necessary to push for even greater efficiencies closer to 50 percent above the ASHRAE standard. To date, they have successfully achieved a 20 to 30 percent increase in efficiency compared to the ASHRAE standard. "The efficiencies we are gaining will require a better trained and sophisticated M&R staff to maintain this level of efficiency," said Howell; "BOC has been truly helpful in that regard."

Until recently, the base also operated without an integrated controls system for monitoring the operation of HVAC, mechanical, and lighting systems. Monitoring had to be performed at each building individually across the base. With some 1,000 buildings, this posed a challenge for the public works staff. Development of an integrated controls system for 10 percent of the base's facilities is now underway with funding from an energy savings performance contract. Once completed, it will allow building managers to baseline energy consumption and optimize operation of energy intensive equipment such as lighting and heating and ventilation equipment.

Results of BOC Training

Improving energy efficiency can't be done with equipment alone. People, their practices, and the decisions they make also play an important role. Jim Flannery, Mechanical Lead, describes BOC training as part of a larger cultural evolution toward energy efficiency at Fort Lewis. He is now instituting procedures within his team that call for replacing aged circulating pumps with newer energy-efficient models that are smaller, easier to handle and help reduce utility bills.

BOC graduate John Sly, was already familiar with many aspects of building systems, but gained new insights into indoor air quality from BOC classes. For example, Sly now thinks about carpets and their fumes when developing selection criteria for work packages. This enhanced awareness enables him to be more proactive about addressing indoor air quality problems by identifying potential sources of pollutants and more closely tracking occupant complaints about air quality.

When designing, planning and estimating projects, Sly also applies concepts he learned in the BOC classes. "When involved in design/pre-construction meetings, I put more emphasis on energy conservation techniques and push for better building commissioning and re-commissioning processes," he says. One example of his attentiveness to conservation is purchasing high efficiency motors. He also has more of a knowledge base to use in reviewing the validity of vendor-proposed energy measures, such as lighting.

Even though Fort Lewis' public works employees already had considerable general building knowledge, BOC helped them to see how the systems they work on overlap with others, and howt hey tie in with energy efficiency.

For more information on the Regional BOC/FEMP activities, contact Arun Jhaveri, Regional Technology Manager at FEMP/Seattle, 206-553-2152. View more information on BOC.