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LCC and Partners Creating a New Career Pathway for 21st Century Building Scientists

NSF grant of $727,348 supports effort to meet demand for green workforce

LANSING 10/18/11 – A National Science Foundation (NSF) grant of $727,348 will support a program being launched by Lansing Community College (LCC) and its partners to develop education and training in integrated building science to help meet the demand for a skilled workforce in Michigan’s growing green building industry.

The program, Building Smart: New Career Pathways in Building Science, will identify career pathways for building science-related fields, develop curricula with input from industry partners, and will increase the number of secondary and post-secondary students receiving education in building science. A key part of the education will be project-based learning, where students get hands-on experience. A total of 60-90 students will be trained during the 3-year program.

Currently, there are very few academic programs in the nation that prepare individuals for jobs in the construction and construction-related industries that specialize in retrofitting or renovating existing buildings to make them more energy efficient, and/or who build new high performance, or green, buildings. One of the project’s goals is to create an integrated career and educational pathway that can be replicated across the country.

Green building is expected to support 7.9 million U.S. jobs and add $554 billion to the U.S. economy between 2009 and 2013. Jobs include carpenters, civil engineers, construction managers and laborers, electrical engineers, hazardous materials removal workers, and plumbers.

 “The growing focus in the U.S. on green buildings is not limited to new construction,” said George H. Berghorn, Dean of LCC’s Technical Careers Division and principal investigator of the project. “There is increasing demand by businesses and homeowners to make energy efficiency gains in existing structures.

“There has been such a singular focus on energy generating technologies that we often lose sight of how much impact we can have through energy efficiency and energy management technologies to control costs and reduce our reliance on nonrenewable energy sources."

According to Berghorn, the key to success is teamwork. High performing buildings rely on developing systems (electrical, mechanical, lighting, etc) that work together, instead of being addressed in isolation from one another which is the traditional approach.  That means each member of the team must have knowledge of building systems as well as applied knowledge in physics, chemistry, math, and technical skills.

The other co-principal investigators on the project are Ralph Hansen, Associate Superintendent for Career Education and Employment Services at the Eaton Intermediate School District and John Holmstrom, Senior Vice President at The Christman Company.  Michele Filipiak, Professor of Architecture Technology at LCC is the project manager and Sean Huberty, Lead Faculty for Alternative Energy Engineering Technology at LCC, is the project’s faculty associate.

Partners in the program include: The Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center in Bettendorf, Iowa; Central Michigan University; Eaton Intermediate School District; Laney College in Oakland, CA; Lawrence Technological University; and Michigan State University.  Industry partners include the Association of Energy Engineers, East Michigan Chapter; Clark Construction; The Christman Company; Kincaid-Henry Building Group; TH Eifert Mechanical Contractors; and the U.S. Green Building Council Heart of Michigan Branch. Outreach partners include the North American Women in Construction, Lansing Chapter, and Hard Hatted Women in Cleveland, Ohio.

 The project kicks off this fall and continues until summer 2014.

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