Preparing the Facility Workforce for Zero Net Energy
While cost-effective technology is not quite there yet to scale zero net results, there still are many activities and efforts that could be conducted in preparation for the time where technology is cost-effective for reaching zero net energy targets. These efforts can be called “zero-net-ready preparedness,” and they include steps to prepare the facility workforce for the new technology.
“Zero-net-ready preparedness” is a little different than net-zero energy, as defined in a recent Building Operating Management article. Greg Zimmerman, executive editor, writes, “As the name suggests, a net-zero energy ready building is one that is designed to be ultra-efficient, with the goal of being net-zero energy at some point in the future. For one reason or another, the building owner isn't able to afford the final steps, like a photovoltaic power plant, that would bring it all the way to official net-zero energy. So designing the building to be very energy efficient with the appropriate infrastructure to handle an onsite ‘power plant’ is a good intermediate step.”
The concept of “zero-net-ready preparedness” requires a workforce that is prepared from a skills, knowledge, and abilities perspective. Both incumbent and new facility staff need to be educated about existing, new, and emerging technologies and concepts that prepare these workers and their buildings for that next wave of cost-effective equipment and technologies to be integrated and built upon a solid foundation of zero-net-ready preparedness. This foundation should incorporate basic fundamental knowledge such as energy analytics, just to name one example.
So what does this mean for the commercial real estate industry, as well as the built environment in general? From a regional, statewide, and national perspective, what is being done to address this skills gap in our facility workforce?
There is and has been for the last several years an awareness and ongoing effort by the Department of Energy (DOE) Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) as well as from the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) to address the skills gap.