Duncan Crump

If you’re looking for an endorsement of the Building Operator Certification (BOC) program, look no further than Duncan Crump. He’s jazzed on the program and believes facility professionals need to take serious looks at completing the seven-month program curriculum.

“The program is the best thing that has happened to public facilities maintenance people in years,” said Crump, a senior facilities planner for Washington state’s general Administration. He participated in a BOC course series sponsored by Puget Sound Energy in Olympia, WA. “Whether you are an experienced journeyman or, as in my case, have limited trades skills, the BOC has tremendous value. On the surface, you would think that having one- or two-day classes in a technical area such as electricity might not be very useful to those with no background in the area. For the experts in that area, you might think the instruction is going to be too simplified, and too much of an overview. Well, you will be wrong on both counts!”

Crump says the expert tradesperson gets the chance to ask very specific questions on unique issues not covered in the trades’ manuals. She gets to learn about the latest code changes and how Labor and Industries or your respective state or provincial regulators are interpreting the rules. Students of the course also get contacts and websites that are tremendous assets for the future.

Building Operator Certification (BOC) is a professional development program for operations and maintenance staff working in institutional and commercial buildings. It certifies individuals in energy and resource efficient operation of building systems at two levels: Level I – Building System Maintenance and Level II – Equipment Troubleshooting and Maintenance. Operators earn certification by attending training sessions and completing tests and project assignments in their facilities. The certification provides a credential for their professional development while also offering employers a way to identify skilled operators.

BOC was developed in the Northwest with funding from a consortium of states and electric utilities called the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. It is growing nationally where it now operates in sixteen states. In 2002, the program received a national award from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy as an “exemplary program.” It is recognized by major employers and accrediting institutions regionally and nationally.

In New England, John Petersen, Facility Manager with Sears Regional Credit Card Operations saved money for his company by reducing energy costs. “As a result of the Energy Conservation class and homework, and the measures implemented through the course, we reduced annual energy consumption in our 125,000 square foot facility by roughly a 15%. The PM (preventive maintenance) program developed as course homework is still being used today.”

Cynthia Putnam is the project director for BOC. She’s based in Seattle, but travels the Northwest and other locales managing the various tasks of running such a complex program.

“We’re gratified that our post-course evaluations indicate the course is genuinely and positively affecting student’s expansion of their current skills to overall facility maintenance and operations,” Putnam said. “We learned that BOC-trained operators are 30 percent more likely than non-trained operators to engage energy efficiency and preventive maintenance practices in their facility””

The cost for Level I and Level II ranges from $950 to $1,400 for each full course series, depending on the state where it is offered. The fee includes 56 hours of training, a full set of handbooks, and certification recognition materials. There is no charge for make up classes if students have already registered for a full course series. Most employers pay the fees for their employees – others share fees with their employees.

“For everyone, we get an appreciation of the other trades’ problems and how those other areas interface with our own,” Crump said. “We meet great teachers and establish great contacts among the other students. Best of all, when you finish the BOC you know that there are lots of other folks out there struggling with many of the same facility issues that are stumping you. You are not alone! If you are stumped, so are a lot of other people. And, there are people you can call for help and that can call you for help.”

Prepared by Bob MacKenzie, Plant Operations Support Consortium with Washington State General Administration, and Cynthia Putnam, Project Director, BOC Program, Northwest Energy Efficiency Council.