Developing a next generation community college curriculum for energy efficiency high performance building operators
The challenges of increased technological demands in today's workplace require virtually all workers to develop higher-order cognitive skills including problem solving and systems thinking in order to be productive. Such "habits of mind" are viewed as particularly critical for success in the information-based workplace, which values reduced hierarchy, greater worker independence, teamwork, communications skills, non-routine problem solving, and understanding of complex systems. The need is particularly compelling in the buildings arena. To scope the problem, this paper presents the results of interviews and focus groups—conducted by Oakland California's Peralta Community College District and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory— in which approximately 50 industry stakeholders discussed contemporary needs for building operator education at the community college level. Numerous gaps were identified between the education today received by building operators and technicians and current workplace needs. The participants concurred that many of the problems seen 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. Participants and others we interviewed affirmed that while these issues are addressed in various graduate-level and continuing education programs, they are virtually absent at the community college level. Based on that assessment of industry needs, we present a new curriculum and innovative simulation-based learning tool to provide technicians with skills necessary to commission and operate high-performance buildings, with particular emphasis on energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality in the context of HVAC&R equipment and control systems.