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Calling all Engineers!

Well, not quite. Calling all electrical and mechanical engineers….

If you were asked to visit a multi-unit building complex, analyze its efficiency and recommend the best energy efficiency upgrades, how confident would you be about doing so?

The building sector in Canada uses an astonishing 30% of all consumer energy, half in residential and half in commercial and institutional buildings. In Vancouver, almost half of the natural gas consumed and a third of the electricity is used in buildings. Meanwhile, the urgency of the climate crisis is making people seek ways to save energy and reduce their carbon footprints.

Most engineering degree courses do not teach modules on building efficiency, so most engineers learn as they go and hope to cover the bases. So how confident are you?


Energy Efficiency in Buildings

How confidently can you answer these questions?

Very confident: 3   Quite confident: 2  

Not very confident: 1   Not at all confident: 0


{C}{C}{C}1.      What are the energy saving and financial merits of switching from a conventional boiler to a district heat system?


{C}{C}{C}2.      What are the best ways to increase the R-values or U-values of the walls, exposed floors, roofs and windows?


{C}{C}{C}3.      What are the best ways to reduce a building’s lighting load?


{C}{C}{C}4.      If a landlord says, “I’m looking for a retrofit that will put my buildings on par with the most efficient buildings in Europe, with ten-year simple payback,” would do you know how to deliver?


{C}{C}{C}5.      Which solar hot water or heat pump system makes the most sense for heating water in a multi-unit building?


{C}{C}{C}6.      What are the best ways to get tenants or condo-owners engaged in changing their energy behaviour?


{C}{C}{C}7.      What incentives are available from BC Hydro, FortisBC and the government for energy efficiency upgrades?


{C}{C}{C}8.      Will light-dimmers or motion-sensors pay for themselves in parking areas, stairwells and exterior areas?


{C}{C}{C}9.      How much benefit can be gained by installing variable speed fans in HVAC and exhaust air ventilation systems?


{C}{C}{C}10.   What is the financial and energy-saving case for switching to triple-glazed windows?


{C}{C}{C}11.   Can RETScreen software be trusted to give reliable energy efficiency modeling?


{C}{C}{C}12.   Do NEST intelligent thermostats make sense in multi-unit buildings?


{C}{C}{C}13.   What are the best strategies to achieve a zero-carbon retrofit? What will the simple payback be with an assumed carbon price of $50/tonne?


{C}{C}{C}14.   How much difference will direct billing make for tenants or condo-owners?


{C}{C}{C}15.   How soon will it be cost-effective to install solar PV on the roof and south-facing walls?





40-45: Maybe you should be teaching other engineers!

25-39: Think how good you’d feel if you could score the full 45.

10-24: Maybe you could benefit from some professional training?

0-10:    Why didn’t they teach us this stuff during my degree course?

So what’s this all about? Many engineers could benefit from post-professional training when it comes to the complex field of building energy efficiency, but like Santa Claus with his sack, I would not be raising hopes unless I could deliver.

The Association of Energy Engineers has developed a series of courses that will enable you to answer these and many associated questions, and the Canadian Institute for Energy Training (CIET) is their authorized and exclusive training provider in Canada.  The courses range from Certified Energy Manager to Certified Building Commissioning Professional, from Energy-Efficient Lighting to ISO 50001 Standard Implementation.

CIET has been running these courses in eastern Canada for many years and offered some them in BC too, and now, in partnership with BCSEA, they are bringing more programs to western Canada. Some engineers who take the courses have been doing this kind of work for years, but lack the certification that the courses provide; others are new engineering graduates who want to learn and gain post-professional credits.

There are four CIET/BCSEA courses coming up in April, all in Vancouver:

  • Introduction to Measurement and Verification (M&V): Tuesday April 1st

  • Certified Measurement and Verification Professional (CMVP): Tuesday April 1st

  • Efficient Lighting: Wed April 23rd

  • Motors, Variable Speed Drives and Efficiency: Thur April 24th

The courses take place at Sandman Vancouver City Centre, 180 West Georgia Street. For details, see


The BCSEA shares the worries that many people have about global climate change, and the threats that it poses for our future and our children’s future. We are actively engaged in energy matters, and we know how important it is to adopt a professional, trustworthy approach. CIET is a trusted energy partner, and we see this kind of professional training as absolutely essential if we are to reduce the amount of energy we use in our buildings, and make the switch to sustainable forms of energy.



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