HABITAT

BRICKS & BUCKS

New Free Course Helps Boards Save Energy and Money

Ron Egatz in Bricks & Bucks

New York City

Staff Training

Brooklyn super Pablo Chamorro, one of the first graduates of the NYC Building Operator Training Program (picture courtesy Pablo Chamorro)

Building Operator Training Program aims to cut waste, improve efficiency.

Bushwick building superintendent Pablo Chamorro is one of the pioneers. He’s among the first 15 graduates of the fledgling NYC Building Operator Training Program, part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s OneNYC effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. Supers, property managers, building owners, even board members in small to mid-sized co-ops and condos are eligible for the free program, which focuses on maintaining electrical, heating and water systems, with an emphasis on eliminating waste and increasing energy efficiency.

Chamorro, 41, a native of Honduras who emigrated to the U.S. as a teenager and is now a naturalized citizen, completed the 35-hour training course on January 19, and already he’s seeing benefits at his Brooklyn building, one of more than 100 overseen by the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council.

“Preventing water loss is one of the major lessons, and I started that right away,” says Chamorro. “I learned how to compare meter readings to find indications of water loss. Prior to this, I would have to go to each apartment and inspect all aspects of the plumbing in each one. This is much more efficient. I’ve also installed aerators, which cut down on water usage dramatically.”

On a more technical side, Chamorro was trained to fine-tune control systems, such as the building’s boiler and small solar array. “We use solar energy to heat water before it reaches the boiler, saving fossil fuels,” he explains. “I also now control how much fuel the boiler is using.” 

Since his graduation from the program, monitoring and evaluating building systems have moved to the forefront of Chamorro’s duties. Where he previously became aware of maintenance issues only when equipment failed, he’s now monitoring proactively, initiating repairs before problems arise at 297 Wilson Avenue, where Chamorro has been super for the past four years.

Eliminating waste is another major component of the program’s training. “It’s essential to make sure the building is properly weatherized,” says Chamorro. “We learned how to make sure the doors have weatherstripping properly sealed, and the bottoms of doors need door sweeps installed correctly to prevent energy loss. I’m always looking for ways to reduce air leakage, which saves energy.” To this end, he carefully attends to the building’s air-conditioning units, many of which were causing energy loss year round.

The most valuable lesson of the program? “It’s all about inspection,” Chamorro replies. “Inspection and awareness. I loved this program. It was very educational. The book they gave us is a bible to superintendents. If you use what’s in the book, you can save management a lot of money.”

The “book” is the course curriculum, which was put together by Asit Patel, president of ANP Energy Consulting Services, who taught the initial class of 15 and also trained nine instructors to teach future classes. The goal of the NYC Building Operator Training Program – an initiative of the city's Small Business Services and its Office of Sustainability, in partnership with City University of New York – is to train more than 300 operators annually for a total of 3,000 in 10 years. Co-op and condo boards can learn more about the program and how start the application process by clicking here.

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