When you’re an old building, it’s not easy being green − and the average Labor Department building is about 40 years old. The department’s Job Corps faces a tremendous challenge in this area, in that the program’s facilities account for 99 percent of the department’s buildings.
Executive Order 13514 requires federal agencies to meet certain standards at 15 percent or more of its buildings by 2015. Going forward, all new Job Corps buildings will meet the “Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings” by design. At these new sites, students will study and experience sustainability in real terms as part of center life. The majority of Job Corps centers, however, require significant renovation to become “green.”
To meet this challenge, Job Corps has created a certification process through its Center of Environmental Excellence, which requires centers to implement a broad range of sustainability measures in a way that is cost-effective. The process engages a center’s staff and students, regional and national Job Corp representatives, and an engineering support contractor.
The extensive work involved provides invaluable, practical learning opportunities for students enrolled in construction trades. Here are a few examples of actions taking place at Job Corps facilities that include student training elements:
• Improving energy and water conservation through the use of monitoring systems, and installing smart utility meters.
• Installing wind turbines and solar panels that will directly provide facilities with clean and renewable energy.
• Increasing the re-use and recycling of items no longer of use to Job Corps centers such as outdated office furnishings, recreational equipment and furniture, and training equipment.
• Using renewable energy beyond the renewable electricity requirements, such as thermal, mechanical, biomass and landfill methane gas.
I am proud to announce that the Alaska Job Corps Center in Palmer is the first Job Corps Center to achieve certification, which was recommended by a review panel of architects, engineers and sustainability experts. Center staff and students, with the support of the Job Corps San Francisco Region and the national Office of Job Corps, worked for more than a year to achieve the center’s transformation.
Four more centers are currently undergoing similar transformations, and dozens of centers across the country already are or will be conducting a variety of repair, rehabilitation and replacement projects over the next few years.
Ultimately, this process is not simply about meeting certain standards or even being green: It reflects a larger Job Corps goal of teaching students to work and live sustainably, and gives students the skills and knowledge necessary to compete in today’s labor market.
Robert W. Pitulej is the acting national director of Job Corps.