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Certifying retrofit professionals

Written by  01 September 2014
Published in Retrofit News DISQUS_COMMENTS
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The Energy Efficiency Certification Scheme provides certification for the professionals that lead and manage comprehensive energy retrofits of commercial buildings in Australia. The Scheme is managed and administered by the Energy Efficiency Council, and its design and operation are overseen by an independent steering committee that includes representatives from industry, governments and the property sector.

The Scheme identifies Australia’s leading experts in energy retrofits, helping building owners and managers to find professionals that they can trust to refurbish their buildings for energy efficiency purposes. It also provides a benchmark for energy efficiency professionals, allowing them to develop their knowledge and skills over time.

The Energy Efficiency Council has announced the names of the first candidates awarded certification under the Scheme. Certificates conferring the status of Certified Energy Efficiency Specialist (CEES), which indicates a professional with the knowledge but limited experience, and Certified Energy Efficiency Leader (CEEL), which denotes a highly experienced and knowledgeable retrofit professional, were awarded at certification ceremonies in Sydney and Melbourne in June this year.

‘The Energy Efficiency Certification Scheme is now fully operational, recognising genuine professionals in the energy efficiency sector and helping building owners and managers find quality providers,’ says Luke Menzel, Manager, Sector Development at the Energy Efficiency Council.

‘By being certified, this first group of successful candidates has demonstrated that they are on the leading edge of professionalism in the delivery of commercial building retrofits in Australia.’

The Energy Efficiency Council has also launched a new Scheme website. The website includes a directory of certified professionals, and information on comprehensive retrofits for building owners and managers.

‘Certified professionals are listed on the Scheme website. This means that building owners and managers now have a straightforward way to find and contact a project leader with the knowledge and skills to manage a comprehensive energy retrofit of their building from start to finish,’ says Menzel.

The Energy Efficiency Council is now preparing for the second round of assessments and certifications. Interested professionals can register their interest in round two by visiting the Scheme website at www.efficiencycertification.org.au.

Retrofit Australia spoke with three certified professionals about the Scheme.



Caoimhin Ardren, Manager, Project Implementation and Operations, Energy Action, Projects and Advisory Services (incorporating Exergy)

RA: How important is retrofitting commercial premises when it comes to Australia’s energy efficiency?

CA: Retrofitting of existing commercial properties is crucial to energy efficiency in Australia, in that it not only addresses consumption in buildings and facilities that will still be with us for a long time to come (something like 95 per cent of the existing commercial buildings will be in operation 30 years from now), but it also is a great way to communicate with a large portion of the population about energy efficiency and its associated benefits. Correctly implemented energy efficiency retrofit projects result in buildings that are cheaper to run, and have lower emissions and improved health and indoor environment quality. It’s a win-win for all concerned.

RA: Can you tell us a bit about what you do on a day-to-day basis?

CA: A lot of what I do every day is about asking questions. With a team of colleagues that identify energy savings opportunities, develop the measures and then go about implementing these savings, as well as verifying that the measures have been correctly implemented and commissioned, my job is about interrogating my colleagues and the designers and contractors. For example, why is the proposed solution the right one? Will that change impact the energy-saving outcome? What did we promise the client, and will this design/ installation deliver the promised savings and operational benefits?

RA: Prior to the Energy Efficiency Certification Scheme, there has been no real recognition of professionals with the specific skill sets to lead and manage retrofits. What does this certification represent?

CA: As the industry expands and matures, we should no longer be in a stage where clients need to take a risk with investing in energy efficiency upgrade works. They should be able to trust us as professionals to deliver the project outcomes in terms of energy savings and not simply focus on time and cost. Unfortunately, as with any growing industry, there are businesses that are in for the ‘fast buck’ that will provide substandard solutions to clients, significantly impacting the reputation of the industry.

This certification is an opportunity to demonstrate to property owners and managers that there are professionals available who are able to lead these projects to a successful conclusion without putting the energy outcomes at risk. These professionals have been tested and accredited by their peers against a stringent set of criteria that are specifically tailored to address the needs of an energy retrofit project. These are the professionals who are able to define the energy targets and outcomes right from commencement, and be the ‘champion’ through all project stages, to the point where the savings can be objectively measured and verified.

RA: How will the EECS benefit building owners and managers looking to retrofit?

CA: Many clients, not recognising the difference in complexity of an energy retrofit, have in the past engaged non-specialist project managers – often with poor outcomes in terms of energy reduction or impacts to thermal conditions.

The benefit to owners and managers is the increased level of certainty that the project outcomes will be achieved through engaging a project manager that has accredited expertise in leading these types of projects. The client will know that the CEEL or CEES has successfully run projects of a similar nature in the past, and has the necessary knowledge and understanding to deal with the issues that arise on complex retrofit projects.

RA: What are the vital skills that someone hoping to attain certification should have?

CA: A CEEL or CEES needs to have strong understanding and knowledge in the areas of project management of whole-of-building retrofit projects, energy management and auditing, as well as energy efficiency engineering. This needs to be complemented with comprehensive stakeholder management and communication, as well as with the application of proactive risk management. Comprehensive understanding and expertise in commissioning and tuning of building systems is also essential.

RA: How will certification affect you, professionally?

CA: In the past, we have provided services pretty much in line with the EECS guidelines and accepted procedures, so the certification process does not require my company to make many changes. However, with the certification scheme in place, this makes it easier to describe to clients how we are different to the generic project manager services on offer in the market, and to support this by being able to show that we have been certified as an expert in this area.

RA: What do you see happening in the existing built environment in Australia with regard to energy efficiency over the next five to 10 years?

CA: Over the past 10 years, the majority of take up of energy efficiency retrofits has occurred across premium office buildings, specifically in the larger property portfolios. This is changing to the point where we will see more and more Grade A, B and C buildings undergo retrofits for energy efficiency purposes, and also for end-of-life replacements. This takeup should also spread across to non-commercial facilities and the industrial/manufacturing area.

In addition, many owners are now investing in detailed energy sub-metering, and this provides substantial benefit to the auditing and assessment process to allow auditors to identify savings opportunities at a much improved level of granularity. This also opens up better opportunities in the area of building control initiatives, and less of a reliance on replacing old technologies with new.



Rob Lord, Managing Director, SEED Hugh Butcher, Greenhouse Programs Leader, City of Yarra

RA: How important is retrofitting commercial premises when it comes to Australia’s energy efficiency?

RL: Retrofitting commercial premises is extremely important because it is where the best bang-for-buck carbon reductions can be made. These premises also affect how people work; they operate for long periods, so there’s a heap of opportunity to not just reduce energy but also improve performance.

HB: Within this sector, time and time again I am staggered to discover how poorly many commercial buildings perform. Therefore, avoiding and reducing our energy usage, especially in existing commercial buildings, are extremely important actions to take. While we can improve the performance of new builds, the vast majority of energy use over the short to medium term will come from existing buildings.

RA: Can you tell us a bit about what you do on a day-to-day basis?

RL: On a day-to-day basis we compare theoretical results with actual results, and then give advice to building owners where necessary. Some of our work is commissioning and inspection of plant (looking at actual results), and some of it is computer modelling (looking at theoretical results).

HB: My role is Greenhouse Programs Leader at Yarra City Council – a small inner urban local government just outside Melbourne’s CBD. I coordinate Council’s organisational carbon management programs, which span from aligning our building retrofit programs with our strategic environmental targets, through to ensuring that Council is a certified carbon neutral entity under the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS).

RA: Prior to the Energy Efficiency Certification Scheme, there has been no real recognition of professionals with the specific skill sets to lead and manage retrofits. What does this certification represent?

RL: I believe it means acknowledgement that there is a professional discipline to managing retrofits. Retrofits have a heap of diverse considerations – tenants, facilities management, plant performance and economics, as well as being able to adapt to a future climate.

HB: For someone like me who doesn’t have a formal qualification or trade in, say, engineering or electrical work, having my skill set independently recognised at a national level is incredibly valuable. It demonstrates that delivering successful integrated building retrofits goes beyond the academic classroom, and requires a range of skills like project management and business case development. It also highlights that the skill set lies with the individual, and not with the company under which they are employed. That way, the certification travels with you wherever your career takes you. The certification also represents a need for professionals who perform to a higher standard to be recognised in the crowd.

RA: How will the EECS benefit building owners and managers looking to retrofit?

RL: I get nervous just lending my mate my car. Imagine a building owner ‘lending’ an engineer a $100-million building to testdrive. That is why an accreditation scheme is necessary – it gives owners some confidence, and it gives the engineers involved credibility.

HB: Like other certification schemes, the CEES and CEEL certifications provide an extra level of confidence in individuals and companies about their abilities to apply their energy efficiency knowledge in real work situations. In a practical application, it provides an opportunity for clients to stipulate these certifications for projects, knowing that doing so will provide a certain level of professionalism.

RA: What are the vital skills that someone hoping to attain certification should have?

RL: A series of base skills are essential; namely, risk management, communication, building services knowledge and experience with tradespeople. In my view, however, the most essential skill is to understand why and how tenants need energy. For example, we know people need stairwell lighting so they can safely traverse stairs. But the building only needs to provide light when people are actually on the stairs, not when the building is empty. Appreciating how people use energy in the building is the key skill.

HB: The certification scheme isn’t about the intricacies of how a complex mechanical system works, but rather how to develop, manage, and measure a project from start to finish. Therefore, the certification requires individuals to have a holistic understanding of the entire process; from of the motivations of customers to invest in energy efficiency and building retrofits, through to how one conservation measure may impact on how other plant and equipment operates.

RA: How will certification affect you, professionally?

RL: Our industry, like many others, is very competitive. Certification will hopefully!assist with convincing owners that we are responsible providers of service, and they will then appreciate the experience we are offering.

HB: Having the CEES accreditation is a professional recognition of a skill set that I cannot necessarily demonstrate from my academic studies. It also adds to the credibility of the work that I perform on a day-to-day basis, and gives me an understanding of what to expect from others who have the same certifications.

RA: What do you see happening in the existing built environment in Australia with regard to energy efficiency over the next five to 10 years?

RL: Energy efficiency will always be important, but I believe that this focus will be translated into staying within available energy infrastructure. Tenants are starting to cotton on to the fact that there is more value to their business case if buildings are more comfortable and have better air quality. NABERS IEQ and Green Star Performance are two reemerging schemes that underline the tension between productivity and energy consumption.

As buildings strive to be ‘more productive’ for tenants, energy consumption may rise, but [hopefully] greenhouse gas emissions per productive bit of work will decrease.

HB: I think the significant move we will see is in the space of renewables, and a shift away from fossil fuels over the next 10 years. Regardless of the impacts of the removal of the carbon tax and any potential changes to the Renewable Energy Target, the cost of solar is constantly heading south, making it more and more affordable – to the point where we are already at parity with grid prices. I think the tipping point is near, and we’ll soon see a sudden influx of commercial solar installations dotted all over our cities. Also, the uncertainty of natural gas in Australia is making people cautious regarding installing fuel-hungry infrastructure that will be with us for 10 to 20, or more, years. As a result, I’m expecting the mechanical solutions in the future to be quite different to the ones we’re seeing now.

RA: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

RL: Retrofitting buildings is not a set of standard procedures that you always follow. Each building has a unique set of constraints and opportunities, and the work that the EECS-accredited people do is in unearthing the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats. I think that working in this field is a very fulfilling career path and an interesting job. I hope that the various private and public building owners get behind EECS and support this fledgling movement.

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