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Building Operator Training Program Offers Free, Hands-on Classes

Ann Farmer in Building Operations on February 11, 2019

East Village, Manhattan

Building Operator Training I

Hands-on training: instructor Mark Russo (left) teaching a Building Operator Training class.

Feb. 11, 2019

About six years ago, Diane Orr’s nine-unit co-op building in the East Village developed a major wall crack while a construction crew was preparing to build on an adjacent lot. The co-op’s roof also sustained damage. 

What Orr didn’t realize at the time, though, was that the roofers who came and repaired her co-op’s roof flashing left open-ended flaps. This can cause leaks, something Orr understood only after enrolling in the Building Operator Training (BOT) Program administered by the city’s Department of Small Business Services

“I wish I had taken the course 20 years ago,” says Orr, a documentary filmmaker and corporate trainer, adding that if she had, she would have noticed the faulty flashing immediately. Not only did the BOT instructors show her what a properly installed roof should look like, the curriculum required her to go up to her own roof and assess it. That’s when she discovered the faulty flashing. 

Now in its third year, this no-cost, 30-hour training program, is offered in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and designed by the Building Performance Lab of City University of New York’s Sustainable Building Initiative. It has provided about 400 people – building staffs, property managers, and co-op and condo board members – practical advice on preventive maintenance and energy efficiency. Tailored to buildings with 5 to 50 units, the classes can help boards cut their energy costs by up to 20 percent.

“We really want front-line managers to learn the ways that their buildings’ systems use energy,” says James Lane, the project manager of the Building Performance Lab. “Also, the way that their systems waste energy – and what to do to improve performance.” 

Taught by operations and maintenance experts (mostly mechanical engineers) at locations throughout the city, the 10-week course covers the building’s envelope, its ventilation, heating and electrical systems, plus resilience, safety, and water conservation. 

“We’ve learned to troubleshoot issues with our boiler,” says Annabelle Heckler, treasurer of her eight-unit co-op in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. “It’s been incredibly useful.” Heckler even took in photos of her building’s roof and boiler, which the instructor used to help her understand the terminology of repair and maintenance. 

“Another great piece was information about the [electrical] ballast,” adds Orr, her co-op board’s secretary, who is spearheading a hallway lighting renovation in her building. She learned that the ballast, which regulates the electric current in fluorescent fixtures, determines her lighting options. “You could end up getting the wrong lighting fixtures if you don’t know what you’re doing,” she says. 

For information about upcoming Building Operator Training courses, call 212-650-7069 or email opstraining@cunybpl.org.

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