To Meet Its CRE Green Goals, New York Recognizes That BOM Is The Bomb
Building operations and maintenance professionals could be the unsung heroes of 21st century commercial real estate. Not only do they keep the elevators moving and the AC humming, but they also will be key to CRE meeting ambitious climate and clean energy goals in the coming years.
This is evident in New York, which, in addition to having the dense skyscrapers and other commercial buildings of Manhattan and surrounding boroughs, also has some of the most aggressive built environment sustainability goals in the nation.
The state has set up funding to support training programs to help bring building operations and maintenance, or BOM, personnel up to speed on the technologies they will need to master to bring their buildings into compliance with the state’s 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.
The Climate Act calls for the use of 70% renewable energy by 2030, 100% zero-emissions electricity by 2040 and an overall 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from New York sources by 2050.
None of those goals can be met without the participation of the state’s commercial real estate sector and its BOM professionals, said Adele Ferranti, director of workforce development and training for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Buildings are a significant source of carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion.
“Our built environment is an enormous piece of the puzzle that we have to solve to address our climate goals,” Ferranti said. “That is why we are focused on making buildings more efficient.”
Ferranti said the state recognizes that its aggressive goals cannot be met without a BOM workforce that understands their buildings’ energy usage and is trained in using the newest building technologies.
“As we move to a clean energy economy, we need workers with the right skills,” she said. “Last year alone, we added 7,000 clean energy jobs in New York state. By 2030, we're anticipating another 211,000 clean energy jobs.”
To ensure that workers will have the skills to operate increasingly energy-efficient, grid-flexible and electrified building systems, NYSERDA has committed more than $170M to workforce development and training. NYSERDA has designed programs to provide a preference and higher incentives for initiatives that serve the state’s disadvantaged communities and populations that face barriers to training and employment.
To meet the particular needs of CRE, NYSERDA also launched the Building Operations and Maintenance Workforce Training Program.
Through the NYSERDA BOM initiative, New York building owners and property managers can obtain up to $500K to develop customized, hands-on training for their BOM workforce. Since its inception in 2022, the program has provided $14M in funding for approximately 60 projects. This has allowed the owners of hundreds of buildings to partner with expert training providers so their operations and maintenance workers can keep properties running as efficiently as possible while supporting their transition to all-electric systems.
“A lot of people agree that operations and maintenance are important, but BOM personnel aren’t always included in the conversation, even though they’re the ones who actually keep the buildings running,” said Michaela Boren, green programs manager for 32BJ Training Fund, a joint labor and management organization. “You can tell that NYSERDA cares about BOM because it’s usually not given this level of attention. We’re very thankful for what they do.”
Labor union 32BJ, which represents more than 175,000 property service workers mostly in the Northeast, has used NYSERDA funding to introduce members to the latest tools they will need to understand how to monitor energy usage and perform predictive maintenance.
“After the instructor teaches them how to use a tool in class, they can bring it back to their building and apply it to a particular concern,” Boren said. “They then can bring it back to the training class and share their experience with other students. And if the tool really makes a difference in their building operations, they can make the case to their property managers that the building needs to purchase it.”
The training also familiarizes BOM workers with the data they need to operate their buildings more energy-efficiently, Boren said. Although they are responsible for fulfilling the requirements for the state’s Climate Act, many of them don’t have access to basic information such as their buildings’ electricity usage and spending on fuel, and 32BJ shows them how to find it and put it to work.
AETOS Imaging, a facility management technology company, used the NYSERDA program to fund virtual training for building engineers at 11 SL Green properties. AETOS 3-D scanned critical maintenance areas of all 11 buildings to create a digital replica of those environments.
“We then built out specific training courses and modules to walk employees through training objectives in an immersive way, dropping them directly into the environments,” AETOS CEO Connor Offutt said. “We used subject matter experts from multiple fields to capture new training content and distributed it throughout the SL Green portfolio. Now, their staff has access to building-specific training that gets them prepared for their jobs and educates them on the importance of energy-saving measures and methodologies.”
Ferranti said customized efforts such as those developed by 32BJ and AETOS are crucial to support New York’s commitment to meeting its Climate Act goals.
“A lot of great work is already underway, and we're going to try to scale it up,” she said. “Meanwhile, building owners are looking for opportunities to improve the energy performance of their buildings, and we know that training their operators is key to meeting those goals.”
This article was produced in collaboration between NYSERDA and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.
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