In the world of building design, green and sustainable promises are being made. We are building and certifying green construction but when we come back in 10 years will they still hold up to a “green standard?” Have we completed the education process of the maintenance and mechanical staff to properly maintain and operate these buildings? If you remember from the Living Building initiative, it is imperative that education of the building operators and occupants be part of the process in order to ensure sustainability over the life of a building.
Do you remember when you could work on your own car? I do. I also remember when, with a little common sense and a few simple hand tools, you could work on your home. Now we are installing very sophisticated mechanical controls in buildings that adjust the micro climate zones in a building based upon the sun’s orientation as it comes around a building. Some of the newer systems have the ability to increase the heat supply on the shady side in the winter, and increase the cooling supply on the sunny side in the summer. Maintaining the building’s efficiency with these complex systems will be challenging both in new construction and in retrofitted existing structures. It will require knowledge and skill which frankly may be beyond the scope of the historic “maintenance man.”
The maintenance staffs and building operators of the near future will need to be as technically sophisticated as the architects and engineers who design these complex systems. It is not just plug-and- play energy efficiency; the newer systems require constant tweaking and tuning to keep running as intended. Green professionals will be in demand to fill these green jobs.
Don’t get me wrong, the core mechanical competencies of building maintenance such as assisting with plumbing repairs will always be in demand. But maintenance personnel need to up their game now and increase their capabilities in the future. They need to be technically and mechanically savvy engineers to help in running green buildings to their intended performance.
Why is this important? Because building owners are going to come back in 10 years and say “you promised me a green building. I paid for a green building. I don’t have a green building.”
Then what are you going do?
Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation.