Training Program Development for Commercial Building Equipment Technicians
Currently, most commissioning and maintenance oversight is performed at a degreed engineer level, which makes it expensive and inefficient. The challenge is to find mechanical, electrical, and plumbing trades to properly commission and maintain buildings. For this purpose, the Texas Engineering Extension Service and the Texas Center for Applied Technology have teamed up to develop curricula, certification requirements, and accreditation standards for training on energy efficient practices and technologies, targeted for commercial building equipment technicians, to advance industry expertise toward the Department of Energy’s net-zero energy commercial building goals. Completing the objectives develops a workforce to bring existing commercial buildings up to their energy performance potential and ensure that new buildings do not fall below the optimal level of performance.
TCAT is providing guidance in the development of appropriate material and methods for incorporation in to the curriculum. The basis for selection of specific material and methods is governed by two overarching criteria. First, the use of equipment, components, techniques, systems, and alternative technologies which have proven to be effective at reducing energy consumption and raising facilities to optimum performance levels are being given primary consideration. As the subject matter experts, research conducted by TCAT will be used to continually improve and update course content with new, more effective solutions if they become available and which are also considered viable, best practices. The second consideration is based on relevant regional climate conditions encountered by course participants in the area. For the state of Texas, DOE has classified specific climate zones as relevant energy design guidelines. These zones represent four of seven for the continental United States. Due to variations in equipment selection and operation within these zones, emphasis is placed on three climate zones which afford some similarities in selection, design, and operation of building systems and components. Target climates are hot and dry, hot and humid, and temperate and humid. Every effort is being made to provide relevant case studies and problem solving exercises from each of these climate regions.
Commercial building equipment technicians participating in these training programs will learn how to operate commercial buildings efficiently. Training will be a combination of classroom, online, and on-site lessons. The specific target audience will be commercial building equipment technicians who are essential to achieve sustained performances after building owners make the initial investment in infrastructure. Curricula shall be developed to meet certification requirements and accreditation standards for training these technicians and the project will meet the needs, specialized expertise, and perspectives of commercial building equipment technicians in a specific climate zone.
As part of the integration plan six modules are being targeted. At the start of the project, the modules were to be as follows; however, they may change over the life of the project according to sponsor demand. Module 1—Introduction to Energy Efficient Buildings describes state and federal codes and guidance documents for energy-efficient buildings. Reducing energy use by understanding the interactions between lighting, mechanical (including equipment and controls), and domestic hot water systems are discussed.
Module 2—Measuring Benchmarking and Energy Performance explains differences between measurements and benchmarking in relation to short- and long-term data. Discussion includes various protocols used to examine energy usage and the development of trends from measurements and energy management and controls systems as a tool for benchmarking systems and components.
Module 3—Introduction to Advance Technology Systems exposes participants to HVAC/R advanced technology systems and components. Applications in renewable energy for primary comfort control as well as energy generation are explained. Indoor air quality as related to moisture control and ventilation and the impact on energy consumption based on facility and equipment operation are covered. Mock-ups, simulators, or actual equipment are used where possible to allow participants to grasp the concepts and sequence of operation. Facility lighting and building envelope technologies are demonstrated, along with existing and emerging energy management and controls systems.
Module 4—No-Cost/Low-Cost Adjustments to Improve Energy Systems demonstrates how optimization improves energy efficiency and reduces consumption by highlighting benefits of scheduling, operational control, and sensor-based savings. It also emphasizes locating and implementing solutions and understanding expected outcomes from an optimization and energy savings perspective.
Module 5—Improving Integration of Building Systems identifies potential building system synergies in new and existing buildings. It also incorporates new technologies and/or optimizes existing components to maximize the efficiency of energy-reduction strategies. Potential benefits and pertinent case studies are discussed in detail. Proper installation, operation, and maintenance of these technologies are discussed.
Module 6—Best Practices for Maintenance of Building Systems prepares participants in fault detection, proper maintenance procedures, and correct uses of sensors and energy management systems. It also emphasizes prevention maintenance (PM) programs and the impact of degraded maintenance on system components.