House and Senate lawmakers recently unveiled legislation addressing training for federal facilities personnel -- a measure that could save a significant amount of energy in buildings, according to bill supporters.
Reps. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) and Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) and Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) recently introduced the Federal Buildings Personnel Training bill (H.B. 5112 and S. 3250). The National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), along with other organizations in the building community, worked with the bill's authors to identify the need for training and develop the bill's content.
The federal government has established what are considered stringent goals for federal agencies to achieve reductions in energy and water use and greenhouse gas emissions. Achieving these goals requires personnel engaged in the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of federal buildings to have the appropriate skills and training. The new bill is designed to provide agencies with direction on those necessary tools.
The anticipated outcomes of training federal facilities personnel include the following, according to NIBS:
Save Taxpayer Dollars on Operations and Maintenance Costs -- With the bill's oversight, taxpayers could save money through more efficient operations and management of the federal building stock. NIBS cited a recent study by the International Facilities Management Association study indicating that for every $1 spent on facility management training, organizations reported receiving an average of $3.95 in return.
- Identify Core Competencies for Personnel -- The bill directs the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), with input from the related professional societies, associations, and training providers, to identify the core competencies federal personnel need to perform building operations and maintenance, energy management, safety, and design functions to comply with federal law.
- Ensure Personnel Posses Core Competencies -- The training bill would require GSA to identify the courses, certifications, degrees, licenses, and registrations federal facilities personnel will need to demonstrate possession of core competencies, which will also be required of federal contractors. Contractor competence is especially important because 97 percent of all GSA operations and management are contracted out. Training courses will be taught by private industry, apprenticeship training providers, or institutions of higher education, not GSA.
- Require Continuing Education -- GSA would work with industry and labor groups to develop and identify comprehensive continuing education courses to ensure federal buildings keep up with industry best practices.
- Provide Certainty to Business -- With these core competencies in place, private industry and laborers would have a defined skill set required to participate in federal buildings operations and management nationwide.
The bill essentially would establish a baseline for the required education and training of federal and contract operations and maintenance personnel.
"This will be critically important as buildings become more complex to deal with increasingly stringent goals for energy and water use," NIBS stated.
The idea for the newly introduced legislation resulted from a report prepared by the High Performance Building Congressional Caucus Coalition (HPBCCC), a private-sector coalition that provides guidance and support to the congresional High-Performance Buildings Caucus. NIBS is a member of the coalition's steering committee.
Carnahan, co-chair of the caucus, asked HPBCCC to provide a report on what the needs within federal agencies would be to achieve high-performance buildings. Upon completion of the report, Carnahan asked the HPBCCC to put the recommendations into legislative language. H.B. 5112/S. 3250 was the first legislation introduced to result from the report. Other related pieces are in various stages of development.