This paper outlines the result of an innovative program to develop a competency-based curriculum and a work process to engage students in energy assessment of small commercial buildings in their community. Throughout the resulting course, “Leadership in Building Energy Efficiency (LBEE),” students were trained to gather buildings’ energy-related data and make recommendations for potential courses of action. The program facilitated energy assessment for 45 commercial buildings and supported the development of a retrofit plan with financing in place for nearly 30 of these projects. The purpose of this collaborative program was to advance building energy efficiency through the introduction of new methods and processes leading to financially viable energy retrofits of small commercial buildings. The program focused on assisting small restaurants, grocery stores and other food sales/services that are low-profit- margin and usually lack the ability to manage and finance energy efficiency improvements.
As a result of this program, students got engaged in making long-term improvements in their communities. Additionally, they gained the real-world skills necessary to develop and execute energy retrofit projects for other customer segments as part of their careers. The program is broadening and scaling up to include other building use types and aims to be part of the development pipeline for energy retrofit projects in a way that develops students’ capabilities, increases the knowledge of building owners and operators, and reduces the development costs of energy service firms and third-party financers.