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Engaging and Empowering Technicians for an Energy-Efficient Future: BEST Center’s 2022 in Review

December 7, 2022
Photo collage of three images, from left to right: BAS XI participants in classroom, BAS X participants posing for a picture, BAS X faculty working with laptops

Over the past decade, the Building Efficiency for a Sustainable Tomorrow (BEST) Center has worked to promote energy-efficient and healthy building operations by advancing building science and technician education. Led by Principal Investigator Peter Crabtree and Director Larry Chang, the national collaborative has been funded by National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Advanced Technological Education program. To date, BEST Center has reached over 10,400 students, 400 college faculty and administrators, and 3,700 technicians through its wide array of events and resources. As 2022 draws to a close, we look back at an exciting year of projects and achievements.

To support the transition to high-performance buildings, BEST Center assists in the development, dissemination, and adoption of certificate and degree programs in commercial HVAC, building automation, and energy management at U.S. community and technical colleges. This not only includes transforming the instructional capacity of two-year colleges but also extends to strengthening STEM education starting in high school. In addition, BEST Center leads the development of an ISO-accredited certification for High-Performance Building Operations Professionals (HPBOP) and advocates for certifications in the building automation systems (BAS) sector to create standards of excellence for technician education.

Advancing Conversations Around Building Performance at the 2022 Annual Institute

In January, BEST Center, in collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL), presented the virtual 2022 Annual Institute. Speakers and panel discussions highlighted decarbonization, sustainable and resilient cooling, innovative building technologies, BAS and data actionability, education, and workforce diversity. Of the 175 attendees, 25 states and nine foreign countries were represented, as well as 46 higher education instructors and administrators and 33 two- and four-year colleges and universities. CIEE Senior Advisor Dr. Alexandra “Sascha” von Meier and Associate Director Dr. Therese Peffer participated in the event, sharing the latest updates on the Oakland EcoBlock project. While von Meier described the technical design of the community microgrid, Peffer addressed the interdisciplinary nature of EcoBlock and the challenges of navigating diverse stakeholder interests.

Alt text: 2022 BEST Annual Institute virtual conference center featuring logos from various organizations
The 2022 Annual Institute included a virtual conference center that provided opportunities for professional networking and training. Credit: BEST Center

Fostering Hands-On Collaboration Through BAS Workshops

During the summer, BEST Center hosted two comprehensive in-person BAS workshops for advanced and introductory audiences. Engaging 20 participants representing 18 colleges, the advanced BAS X workshop was open to individuals who had previously attended BAS workshops or were teaching BAS course content. The workshop focused on high-level supervisory BAS functions as well as discussion about challenges such as licensing, platform compatibility, affordability, and accessibility. Participants were also invited to tour the CyrusOne Data Center in Council Bluffs, IA—for some, this was their first time visiting a commercial data center. On the other hand, the BAS XI workshop, co-hosted by the Association of Controls Professionals, offered introductory-level training for participants, who learned about BAS program development and engaged in hands-on exercises.

Collage of photos of Peter Crabtree, the CyrusOne Data Center, and Andy McMillan presenting a virtual workshop.
Left: Peter Crabtree presents a “Best Center Overview” for BAS X Session 2. Top right: BAS X participants took a tour of the CyrusOne Data Center in Council Bluffs, IA to learn about data center basics. Bottom right: Andy McMillan, president of BACnet International, presents the session 5 workshop on BACnet in BAS Integration. Credit: BEST Center

Supporting Building Tech Workforce Innovation with NSF

To help advance the building tech workforce of the future, NSF awarded BEST Center a three-year Resource Center grant that will be applied to upcoming faculty workshops and additional development of the HPBOP certification. NSF also distributed grants to other BEST Network institutions, leading to exciting initiatives: Milwaukee Area Technical College received a three-year project grant to educate local underserved communities about careers in advanced building technology, while Northeast Wisconsin Technical College began work on a new high school-level course aimed at attracting industry collaborators and supporting workforce development.

“We at BEST have been fortunate to receive ongoing commitment from NSF plus college and industry partners to continue our mission—to elevate building operations to save energy, money, and the planet,” said Chang. “The past ten years have provided an excellent foundation, and we look forward to doing more to transform building technician education so that all might benefit.”

Looking Ahead

Next January, BEST Center, in partnership with LBNL, will again hold its 2023 Annual Institute. Titled “Advancing Building Decarbonization: Policies, Technologies, and Workforce Education,” the free and virtual national event will feature presentations and roundtable discussions exploring the convergence of new federal initiatives, recent state and local building performance policies, research on emerging technologies, and workforce education requirements in response to building decarbonization and energy efficiency imperatives. 2022 was a year of many achievements, and BEST Center will continue its mission of advancing better building performance by empowering future technical professionals.

Nighttime scene of the Space Needle against the Seattle skyline. Text reads: Advancing Building Decarbonization: Policies, Technologies, and Workforce Education. 2023 Annual Institute. January 4th-6th, 2023. 8:00 AM - 2:00 PM PST
The Annual Institute is the premier event for college faculty, students, and technical professionals aspiring to improve their knowledge and application of high-performance building operations. Credit: BEST Center

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Feature image: College faculty attended BAS XI and BAS X workshops over the summer, learning about Building Automation System functions and fundamentals. Credit: BEST Center