About the Session

In this presentation, learn about the eleven topic areas outlined in BOMA’s Energy Training, which are integral to identifying and implementing energy-saving opportunities in buildings, how maximizing the efficiency of building operations provides an opportunity to save energy, money, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

Prism Engineering and BOMA BC presented an overview of the training, and case studies for many of the topic areas, demonstrating how increasing building operator, engineer and facility managers’ skills and knowledge can result in increased energy efficiency in buildings.

  • Robert Greenwald, Principal and President, Prism Engineering
  • Christine Obee, Sustainability Engagement Specialist,Prism Engineering
  • Damian Stathonikos, President, BOMA BC
  • Emilie Grenier, Engagement Manager, Efficiency Canada


Emilie Grenier:  Today we have Robert and Christine from Prism Engineering, as well as Damian from BOMA, the Building Owners and Managers Association of British Columbia. So in this presentation, they are going to discuss the 11 topic areas outlined in BOMA’s eEnergy training, which are integral to identifying and implementing energy saving opportunities in buildings.

Damian Stathonikos: Thanks very much Emily.

If we look at considering why this training is important. A lot of buildings are designed, built, and occupied before they’re properly commissioned and before there’s a plan in place for their operation and maintenance.

Often commissioning is the easy thing to cut from the budget when cost overruns are there. And so we noticed many years ago that, this was happening and I’ll talk a little bit about why we decided to do eEnergy training from BOMA’s perspective.

Our members are everything from large international property owners to smaller, regional based building owners and managers. So why eEnergy? It’s no secret that building operators play a crucial role in energy management, and we identified a need for building operators to have that deeper understanding of the role they play in helping reduce a building’s emissions.

They are key to ensuring that building equipment operates efficiently and as intended. And so looking at this key audience, we really identified that not only are there opportunities for operational efficiencies, so the kind of the low hanging fruit that, the building operator sees on a day to day basis, but also their role in being involved in larger capital projects.

Training for building operators also increases the buy-in. They’re the people operating the equipment on a daily basis, and so if a building operator understands their role in a retrofit investment, The likelihood of success is much, much higher. We did a program a few years ago looking at building tuneups, and the number one piece of feedback that we heard from the consulting firm that we hired was, the operators were overriding the systems.

They got a tenant complaint from the eighth floor. The HVAC system wasn’t to their liking, so they overrode the control system or they put a shim in one of the vents because it wasn’t working a few years ago and they’ve just never bothered to go back. So empowering operators with education is really crucial in making sure that you get not only those operational efficiencies, but a deeper understanding of their role in capital retrofit projects. So we heard from our members that they wanted flexible options to train their building staff. Building operations staff can’t take extended time away from a building for training. Those of you who are in operations know that even when you’re away from a building, you’re getting calls, you’re being asked questions.

It’s really challenging. So we wanted to create a program that also matched the needs of contemporary adult learners, so that this was something that could be accessible online. It was able to be stop and start. You didn’t need to, spend a whole day doing something you could dip in and dip out.

And also we wanted to make it relevant across lots of different sectors where the fundamental skills and knowledge would be the same, whether that’s education, healthcare, parks, and recreation, any kind of facilities management. And the other element here is that, there is a desperate need for trained building operators.

In British Columbia, like many other provinces, we have a shortage, and the province of BC in fact, has identified facility operation and maintenance managers as a high opportunity occupation, and in their latest labor market outlook, they identified the need for almost 5,500 jobs in this category by 2031. So this is also a reason why providing additional training for those who are already in the industry is a way of recruiting, retaining, keeping those people, upskilling them to ensure that we can meet this need and ensure that buildings are able to benefit from their knowledge and their expertise.

So I’m gonna hand over to Christine now and she’ll talk about the course overview and what it looks like.

Christine Obee: Thanks Damian.

So what does the course look like, in terms of an overall sort of sense of what it is? Energy management – our approach here is really to recognize that it’s more than just technical. It’s more than just systems. To successfully implement energy management and energy saving initiatives in an organization and in a building you need to also consider people, and the organizational concepts and tools. So the training covers those pieces as well.

However, the focus really has been on high rise commercial buildings and you can see a number of different Commercial property management groups that have taken part in the training, but absolutely relevant to other areas as well. So in terms of the structure and the content, there are 11 modules. We’ve also provided some additional flexibility recently in the course in terms of being able to sign up for just one module, or more than one, you can pick and choose or you can sign up for the entire course. So we heard from folks that they were interested in some areas, but maybe not others.

So that’s something that the course has recently been adapted to accommodate. Another piece is recognizing that building operators and those in operations, in maintenance sometimes have to step away. So being able to stop and start the module. In your own time and be able to come back to it was really a key feature that we wanted to make sure was included in the course.

And then in terms of following best practices for adult learning, there are some quizzes in there to make sure that the key concepts have really been learned before moving on to the next step as well as an overall final exam For those participants that are completing the entire set of module.

So for those of you that are interested or may have the question around how long does it take to complete the course: approximately 30 hours. So what exactly is included in the course? What are those 11 modules? We actually have a module zero that we’ve included as well because it really is just an introduction to the training to give you a little bit more information on it.

And then we dive into energy management overview, what is it? Some energy basics. Definitely talking about metering and building the importance of measurements and then a deep dive into a lot of the different building systems that are gonna be relevant for building operators to be knowing about and looking for savings related to lighting, electrical, HVAC, building controls, and then heating and cooling systems.

And as mentioned, we don’t wanna forget the people in the organizational aspects. So we have a couple of modules that really focus in on those pieces as well. And behavioral opportunities as well as how do you get buy in as an operator or maybe as someone else. It doesn’t have to just be an operator that is looking to sell the project.

We recognize that normally that is actually outside of scope for that role, but not impossible. We’ll tell you a little bit more about that later. So in terms of the overall sort of structure of each of the modules, it generally follows this flow where we have an introduction to the topic. There’s some technical basics that are covered.

There’s then the specifics of how can you measure that particular topic. And then it dives into operations and maintenance or low cost best practices. So looking at things that are easier wins and then also looking at things that might be bigger picture projects, might be involved a little bit more with some financial input those retro opportunities. And then, as we mentioned, definitely a module quiz to make sure that the key concepts of the course are being learned by the participants. So we’re not gonna go through the details of every single course, but we did wanna provide a few examples for you just to get a bit of a sense of what the modules actually cover and look like.

So the energy management overview is really learning about what it is, why it’s important, and who the main players are. And it really sets the foundation for the course in terms of, ” why are you wanting to learn about this and how is it gonna be helpful?” A deep dive into lighting systems as with all of our more technical building systems topics, is really looking at the fundamentals of it as well as the operations. This one in particular looks at measuring, using a light meter. But then all of our other building systems topics will look at identifying the operational and technical opportunities as well as potential savings from each.

So heating systems follows a similar structure. And then on more of the sort of people side of things, Module 10 dives into energy saving areas that are related to actions and behaviors.

So things where you can look at how to engage your occupants. As well as your operators to just understand a little bit more about energy efficiency, learn how to engage them in an overall culture perspective, as well as then looking at some specific opportunities, whether it’s turning off lights or other kind of visible things within a building.

And then lastly in terms of project examples that we wanted to share with you is around selling the project. So I love this statement here. It says, Great energy saving ideas often get stalled due to a lack of buy-in. So I think that’s probably relevant and people can relate to that.

So this is just a way to get a bit of a sense of looking at project costs and benefits, building a business case and then being able to successfully move that project forward within your organization. So I will pause there as I pass it over to Robert to get a brief intro from him and he’ll take us into some course experience.

Robert Greenwald: Thanks Christine and Damian. In terms of my background. I’ve been practicing energy management since the days of a co-op student and I mentioned that because one of my first projects was when I was working in Toronto for an engineering firm called Energy Engineering Interface, one of the early day firms of Energy Management.

And we had a performance contract with the Waterloo County Board of Education and they had a control. They were, had a, audits and retrofits that were going on and We went into interview building operators and we started to go in and see that there was schedules for everything, but it was programmed from 0000 to 2359.

Everything was running essentially flat out all the time. And opened my eyes in early days to the potential for getting operators involved and we focus on building operator manuals and training and interactions and competitions and ways of really harnessing the power and the knowledge of the building operators.

And that’s what we’re trying to do here with this online course. So the method that we use is to try to engage them as best you can in an online environment. We prepared this course many years before Covid, and so you’ll see some screenshots coming up just to show you how we navigate that online experience.

So first of all, obviously the normal tracking of progress and seeing where you’re at and what your percent completion is. You also notice that we have the availability for other materials. There’s spreadsheets, there’s figures and charts that we’ll able to add as materials to the course.

And so we try to use different ways of animating that and showing what lagging and leading power factor could look like. Things that I did in a classroom for years. But it was wonderful to be able to have the resources of putting it online. And I’m a big proponent of in person learning and classroom learning.

Some of the feedback that we’ve heard is just give you a couple of quotes here, at least come directly from participants.

“I found the BOMA EER Energy training course to be very comprehensive.” “I love the pictures and videos used in explaining concepts” and “a good course of building operators”.

So we start with the basics. We talk about what they can do now, and we look at how they. Identify retrofit potential or understand retrofits that their engineering consultants or others are proposing for their building. And then it’s about how they can really synthesize all the above.

This works. That’s the message. It really matters. It makes a big impact. And if we’re trying to reduce carbon, reduce energy and save money we need to think about the people. And we need to think about the operators and what they do to contribute to that.

Emilie Grenier: Thank you. That was a really impressive presentation, but also a very impressive training program. Very technical. I’m definitely impressed.

So the first question that came up was “how is this course different from Ashrae’s High Performance Building Operator certification?”

Robert Greenwald: I can say that the fact that we bring in the behavioral aspects the selling the people side is a big part of it.

And we’ve incorporated what I feel is some of the best in Canada. We do have Canadian utility examples. Ashrae is obviously North American and World. We have the rates and the units that are from Canada.

And this is a Canadian course for Canadian audience. And it’s practical and hands on as opposed to maybe a bit more theoretical.

Emilie Grenier: Thanks Robert. So three people want to know, “what are the requirements to enroll?”

Damian Stathonikos: Yeah, it’s really open to anyone. There is a certain level of technical knowledge, but I feel that the course material I’m not a technical person and I’ve done several of the modules and I didn’t find it to be too complicated.

And as Robert said, because there’s also elements of making the business case, getting behavioral change. Those are accessible really to anyone. And also a reason why we have those different modules. You don’t need to take every single module. And that’s a great element as well. If you’ve been in a role, let’s say for a few years, but you just want to refresh something on lighting or hvac, you can just take that module.

You don’t need to take all of them. Maybe your organization is going to be looking at analyzing potential capital investment projects. You can just take the module on getting buy in or building the business case. So it’s really meant to be accessible for anyone.

Emilie Grenier: Thanks Damian. Jesse Rowe is in Alberta and is wondering, “how do companies and operators gain access to the training? How is it promoted in the marketplace and what can be done to increase the use of this tool?”

Robert Greenwald: I’ll mention that we had partnerships and still do with the BOMA Associations across Canada and in Alberta. There’s both the Calgary and Edmonton Branches. Then we do track registration separately for Alberta North and Alberta South. And look at what’s coming from each of the chapters. And so they’re promoting it to their own membership through newsletters and so on.

Damian Stathonikos: And just to build on what Robert said, this is literally open to anyone. If you go to the link, you click on it, you can sign up. All you need is a credit card. We can also do invoicing if you’ve got several people who want to register at once and a company wants to just pay one invoice, we can make that happen as well.

And so ultimately it’s not limited geographically. Anyone across North America can take a part of this.

Robert Greenwald: Utility funding governments and utilities are both in Ontario and BC and the federal government and provincial government in BC helped to fund this course initially and updates to it.

And so we’re able to provide the course at a very reasonable prices, heavily subsidized. So you’re looking at each module typically being at the hundred dollars range. Some of them are shorter and a bit are a little bit less, but typically they’re a hundred dollars. If you sign up for all of them together, it’s $750.

Because of that funding, we gotta keep it alive. You gotta host it and do something. So there’s cost to it. But it’s quite a reasonable price for what you’re getting.

Emilie Grenier: I guess related to that as well, Mike has a question, “after registration, can you keep accessing the modules and reference them after you’re done the program?”

Robert Greenwald: So we toyed around with the idea of an alumni where you can keep accessing it. I know that there’s at least a six month access.

Damian Stathonikos: If people do want to go back and take a look at something afterwards, you can always just drop a note to the tech support and I’m sure we can make that possible.

Emilie Grenier: Would you recommend this course for professionals working in the residential housing sector, including detached homes or multi-unit residential building?

Damian Stathonikos: Absolutely. I think because the goal was to make something that appeals across sectors. An office building is very similar to a multi-unit residential building just with more bathrooms.

There’s a lot of similarities there. There are some fundamental differences between systems for a single family home or a duplex compared to a larger, more complex facility, but certainly some of the components could be interesting.

Robert Greenwald: I think that each module builds on some basics and goes more advanced.

And the language of energy management certainly is key there for practitioners. So I think you’re gonna gain a lot, but you’re gonna find some stuff that probably doesn’t apply to that building type.

Emilie Grenier: And have you committed to any partnerships with energy conservation organizations across Canada who actively work with building operators and small businesses?

Damian Stathonikos: We work with my counterparts all across the country to promote all sorts of energy conservation training, of which eEnergy training is one.

BOMA members across the country take this training all the time. The small business angle is a bit different. We’ve not really promoted this actively with, let’s say a retail tenant or, someone who’s controlling their own energy systems. It’s certainly an interesting idea and when we could definitely take a look at.

Emilie Grenier: Great. Thank you. There’s one last question here. Is there a hard copy version that you could get or a PDF of some kind to keep referencing back to the content?

Robert Greenwald: There are some references that are downloaded. Some key references in the course that we provide spreadsheets and some tools that we download. But the content’s so rich that we didn’t want to simplify it to PDF and we’re trying to get away from paper too.

This is one of the benefits of being online. And so I think either using the alumni approach or as Damian said, contacting us for an extension if you wanted to have longer access, those are all feasible. We’re customer friendly.

Damian Stathonikos: I think David makes a good comment in the chat about teaching a building operator course and not a lot of the students have knowledge of building systems. That’s absolutely one of the pieces of feedback we heard, and why we started to look at developing this course several years ago is really teaching some of those fundamental components of building systems. I’m always amazed at how often I talk to building operators and a lot of them fall into the role. They start off in a particular maintenance role and they’re good at their job and all of a sudden someone recognizes that and they get pulled into more and more stuff, but they don’t always necessarily have a deep understanding of the entire building system. So the course was designed on purpose to give people that kind of basic understanding. For sure.

Robert Greenwald: And it’s amazing how many people not just building operators, other people involved in the industry, they don’t really understand the differences or haven’t really learned the difference between, a fan call system and a VV system, induction units versus vrf.

These are fundamental, system types and they operate differently. And an operator needs to, if they move from one building to the next, they need to understand the subtleties of how they operate. And, going from an older building that has constant volume read systems, to a newer building that has VRF is night and day.

And we really focused on making sure that we didn’t just jump in with ideas. Here’s what you need to do and here’s the retrofit opportunities. Instead, as we really spent almost a third of the content on, Hey, what are the systems? How does it work? Because I think if you don’t have that and you can’t make it better, you can’t look for those opportunities for sustainability.

So let’s get that out there first. Let’s understand that in a friendly way, and then let’s build on it.

Damian Stathonikos: And I think so many property managers rely on the consultants they hire to provide advice.

And especially when we’re talking about retrofitting building systems, these courses are also a great way to educate someone at that level who doesn’t necessarily need to have a really deep understanding, but needs to know enough so that they can have a meaningful conversation with their contractor when they’re looking at different systems and you wanna know what you’re talking about so that you can evaluate properly the RFPs you’re getting so that you can really make good decisions.

And so that’s another area where just equipping people with the tools they need to be able to make good decisions.

Robert Greenwald: When we look at abilities for weather, like operational measures around weather stripping and installation and actions that operators can take, We have to remember our audience in this case, and we’re like, Okay, we’re probably not gonna be dealing with, deep retrofits and envelope upgrades with this audience.

As we progress and go deeper with how much we have to do as an industry probably would be a good idea to add a module of the importance of the envelope and things to look at and thermography and even drone thermography, which is what we’re doing now, and being able to assess those and how an operator that gets their hands on a drone thermography report can understand what to do and what the weaknesses are in the images around the roof and where you see puddling and what that does to heat loss. It’s touched on, but I think you can go further and the, the real issue is how far do you go and what is the market asking for and willing to to sign up for.

Transcript courtesy of Efficiency Canada.