Owners Need the Right Managers to Optimize Their Building's Energy Performance
At the recent request of the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), I was privileged to join industry peers in the Commercial Energy Manager Job/Task Analysis Workshop to answer this question: How can building owners find skilled and qualified workers to improve the operational performance of their facilities?
Not only do we want to help forward-thinking building owners who are defining energy-related manpower needs for themselves right now, but also for everyone else who will find themselves in that position very soon:
- The energy industry (with growing emphasis on clean energy, and energy management for our facilities) continues to grow as one of the biggest industries in the world.
- While energy conservation and management measures in building design and construction are increasingly more achievable and affordable, their ultimate success is dependent on everyday operations by users, and ongoing management by knowledgeable energy professionals who are in short supply.
- As of right now, there’s no clear definition of an Energy Manager role available to business owners; no consistency in educational or knowledge-base expectations for the role; and a consequent lack of people with appropriate skill sets to fulfill building owners’ needs for someone who can make sure their facilities are run as efficiently as possible.
NIBS is currently drafting a full Energy Manager job description based on our collective input from the Workshops, but I wanted to share some ideas that I’ve been personally invested in as a participant in this process.
First: owner needs. What should an Energy Manager be if we consider that role from a building owner’s perspective? Especially considering that the newness of this role means that owners will likely know little about what it should entail. During our workshop discussions, we worked hard to try and see this through owners’ eyes – but I would love to hear thoughts and ideas directly from building owners interested in having a conversation.
Second: consider water. In approaches to sustainable building, water is often treated as its own category, specifically looking at water quality and conservation. But energy and water are intertwined. Water costs energy (to source it, to clean it, to transport it, and when needed to heat it). Choices we make in our use of water directly impact energy use.
Third: user comfort. What does that really mean, and how is it actually being evaluated? We rely on existing codes and benchmarks during design to achieve established assumptions about user comfort (in temperature, light quality, air quality, etc.), but the important changes that we’re making in how we design for energy conservation in buildings could very well entail changes in the assumptions we’re making about user comfort. An Energy Manager needs to understand how to meet these needs within the target energy metrics.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these topics. There’s still time for us workshop members as well as you (facilities owners, users, managers, designers, contractors, others) to provide input and ask questions that will inform finalization of the Energy Manager role. Please leave a comment below, or contact me directly.
I’m looking forward to your insights.