Founded in 2006, the mission of the CUNY Institute for Urban Systems Building Performance Lab is to advance high-performance building operations and practices in existing commercial and public buildings. We focus on improving efficiency and optimizing building operations through continuing education programs for facility managers, building operators, and energy professionals, internships for CUNY students, and building systems research and development.
The CUNY Building Performance Lab (CUNY BPL) was generated out of two years of university-wide research and collaboration with workforce representatives undertaken by the CUNY Sustainable Building Initiative (CUNY-SBI), which began in 2004. At the end of this period, a NYSERDA seed grant made the creation of CUNY BPL possible.
CUNY-SBI’s intent was to explore existing CUNY resources. Objectives included:
- Identify expert CUNY faculty in the field
- Survey existing courses, training opportunities and programs
- Cultivate relationships between industries
- Develop structures to enable ongoing collaboration between CUNY and Industry
- Survey business and industry’s education and training needs in the field
- Identify credit and non-credit educational programs, training workshops, and professional development
- Form new programs, workshops and other development vehicles
CUNY-SBI received assistance from Urban Agenda, located at the Queens College Labor Resource Center, to identify opportunities to collaborate with labor unions. The Initiative’s collaboration with Local 94, the Operating Engineers’ Union, enabled their programs to become accredited by CUNY and to explore the co-development of programming on retro-commissioning. Over time, the mission of CUNY-SBI was developed and focused into what is now the CUNY BPL.
CUNY BPL’s parent organization is the CUNY Institute for Urban Systems (CIUS), a university-wide institute led by Dr. Robert “Buz” Paaswell, distinguished professor of civil engineering in the Grove School of Engineering at The City College of New York and a nationally-recognized infrastructure expert. Michael Bobker, an energy engineer with three decades of experience, was appointed BPL Director.
BPL received a two-year seed grant from NYSERDA, which was followed by additional NYSERDA support for specific initiatives, and significant leveraged funding from local, regional, and federal sources.
The initial two-year proposal for CUNY BPL outlined a pathway to create a “permanent institutional base for the study and promotion of building performance and enhanced operations within New York City.” In that endeavor, as well as in all sub-goals laid out in the proposal, CUNY BPL has been successful. We have built a specialized training and research institute that not only has played a part in reducing the energy use in NYC buildings and educating more than a thousand building professionals in NYC, but has an increasingly national impact as we leverage additional federal funding for curriculum development and research.
With a grant from NYSERDA and in partnership with City of New York agencies, we developed and launched the CUNY Benchmarking Help Center, which offered free, live assistance to building owners and managers benchmarking their buildings under NYC’s first benchmarking law. The Center was staffed by CUNY students trained in EPA Portfolio Manager, an internship/service model we’ve replicated and built on with the Energy Data Lab.
The program was relaunched in 2017 as the Sustainability Help Center and has evolved to include seminars and workshops covering a full suite of NYC’s local building laws.
The Open Collaborative Lab, led by Honey Berk, launched in partnership with the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services, “with the goal of demonstrating how students of the City’s public university could play a useful role in the city’s energy management efforts.” The program, renamed the Energy Data Lab in 2015, continues to this day – and Honey is now CUNY BPL’s Director.
CUNY BPL’s original office was located in the Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch College; in summer 2014, we moved to two offices: one at our home campus, The City College of New York (CCNY), and the other at the CUNY School of Professional Studies (SPS).
Also in 2014, we launched the Field Equipment Lending Library, as part of a wide-ranging energy-efficiency training program for City agency facility personnel run in partnership with CUNY SPS. Now known as NYC Energy Tools, the program provides free equipment training, lending, and other services to City building operators working to reduce carbon emissions in their facilities.
We outgrew our space at CUNY SPS and our training and fieldwork teams moved up to CCNY, while our Energy Data Lab team moved downtown to be closer to their program sponsor, the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services Division of Energy Management (DEM).
In March 2020, CUNY BPL staff pivoted, along with the rest of the world, to remote work. Adapting training programs for the new setting was probably the most challenging aspect, but our program managers and instructors were up to the task, and most courses continue to be offered in a hybrid or all-online format to this day.
We’re a group of a dozen full time staff and extraordinary interns
We are an institutional platform for research and promotion of high-performance building practices.
We are the go-to training provider for real estate owners, building operators, and managers who want to maximize their buildings’ performance and lower operating costs.
We collaborate with several organizations within and outside of CUNY
We are looking for talented individuals to work with us range of areas related to building systems, operations and data, and the design and construction process.
We offer paid internships that give students front-line experience with a variety of interrelated topics, including energy data collection and analysis, building operator behavior, and building performance protocols.
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