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Nebraska Engineering gains DOE funding to train veterans for more energy efficient healthcare facilities

The UNL College of Engineering’s Construction Management program received a $405,741 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop training curriculum for veterans to gain jobs ensuring energy efficiency in buildings, with a focus on healthcare facilities.

The UNL proposal, Veterans Commissioning Training Program for Commercial Healthcare Facilities, was one of 58 earning a total of $76 million in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in a June 18 announcement by Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

The two-year project with UNL’s Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction aims to “equip returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans for immediate, long-term job opportunities as energy commissioning agents within both public and private sectors,” according to the proposal’s abstract.

Durham faculty will develop an online 40-hour curricula to include a modified version of the Association of Energy Engineers’ (AEE) Certified Building Commissioning Professional program. The training will address new buildings, but also emphasizes retro-commissioning to improve energy efficiency and indoor air quality in the vast inventory of U.S. commercial buildings that have never been commissioned.

Healthcare facilities—among the more complex, aged, and energy-use intensive buildings in the U.S.—will be a focus in this training. Many efforts to improve indoor air quality (IAQ) in commercial buildings require additional energy, but Durham faculty agree that retro-commissioning of existing buildings can result in substantial energy and IAQ improvements.

Beyond training, UNL’s partnership with AEE and the National Veterans Training Institute will provide connections in commercial building commissioning and energy management. An outreach program will be established with the U.S. DOE Hospital Energy Alliance to offer added networking and job placement opportunities for graduates in both public and private healthcare sectors.

Faculty behind the proposal—including Chuck Berryman, Zhigang Shen, and Kevin Grosskopf—were congratulated by Dr. Prem Paul, vice chancellor with UNL's Office of Research and Economic Development, who termed the achievement “very impressive as the competition for DOE grants is intense.”

"These projects will help the United States lead the world in advancing energy-efficient technologies," Secretary Chu said. "Energy-efficient commercial buildings will help our country cut its carbon emissions and energy costs while the training programs will upgrade the skills of the current workforce and attract the next generation to careers in the emerging clean-energy economy."