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Reading, Writing, and Conserving

Color your super green. That’s the philosophy behind “One Year, One Thousand Green Supers,” an ambitious program to train one thousand superintendents and resident managers in the latest energy-efficient practices. The program, which is approved by the U.S. Green Building Council and the Building Performance Institute, is a 40-hour class that provides building service workers with the latest, state-of-the-art practices in energy-efficient operations.

“With 77 percent of our city’s greenhouse gas emissions generated by buildings,” says Mike Fishman, president of Local 32BJ, the union representing many of those participating. “owners, managers, and workers must together take the lead in efforts to protect the environment. Making the Big Apple green starts with recognizing the vital role of building service workers.”

“This labor-management partnership is uniquely positioned to give tens of thousands of workers the skills they need to cut waste and costs at buildings across the city,” adds James Berg, president of the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, which represents building owners and managers in New York City.

The curriculum trains workers to identify and address wasted energy, create a green operating plan, and perform cost-benefit analysis for building owners and managers. It combines classes and field exercises with elective courses, including such topics as renewable technologies, green roofs, and water reuse. As of early December, supers and resident managers from 40 different buildings had completed the pilot program. A spokesman for the project reports that “One Year” expects to train, test, and certify some 300 building service workers by the end of the year.

“We have enrolled 12 of our superintendents,” says Michael Wolfe, president of Midboro Management. Wolfe also enrolled himself, the first management company representative to take the course. “Although eight hours in a classroom can be a little draining,” he notes, “we all came away with options to save money for our buildings, reduce energy consumption, and reduce our carbon footprint.”

Energy savings from buildings is the lowest-cost method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. In addition, greener buildings could save the New York real estate industry as much as $230 million a year in operating expenses. With a growing demand for greener buildings, smarter management practices could reduce energy use in buildings by 20 to 40 percent, according to a report from the Department of Energy.

The program is tailored to the needs of particular properties, says Noreen McKenna, vice president/managing director at Brown Harris Stevens, which is enrolling between 30 and 40 supers and resident managers. “Since so many of our buildings are prewar, they will be focusing on the special needs of prewar construction. We’re also trying to group the supers we enroll based on numbers of units they handle. We probably won’t mix guys with 400-unit buildings in with those who have 16-unit ones. They have very different requirements.”

“One Year” is a program of the Thomas Shortman Training Fund, a labor-management partnership that offers training to more than 80,000 Local 32BJ union members working in the property services industry. The fund’s programs provide 150,000 hours of industry, academic, and computer courses at over 20 locations in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

“By learning how to air-seal a building, improve heating and air conditioning performance, and reduce overall energy use in a building’s common areas, graduates can achieve substantial savings at their buildings,” observes Linda Nelson, director of the Thomas Shortman Training Fund.

“This sort of training is important for the general health of our environment,” concludes McKenna. “The carbon footprint given off by buildings is enormous. Anyone who has ever been in a prewar building can see how inefficient some of the systems are – the heating systems in particular – and anything that can be done to reduce the energy usage will be helpful. There are so few ways that buildings can conserve energy and dollars, so anything that can be done is really a help to everyone.”

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