The Real Secret to Energy-Efficient Buildings? Operations & Maintenance Training

Over the lifespan of a building, operations and maintenance staff arguably have the biggest impact on system performance and energy efficiency. With the right training, staff can keep a building running as it was designed to run and “create the change” to reduce energy usage, reduce repairs, and upgrade vs. replace equipment.

So how do project teams create O&M training programs that achieve all this?

In this episode, producer and guest host Dylan Martello chats with Luis Aragon and Heather Nolen—two O&M training experts at SWA—about balancing in-person and digital education, accounting for every learning style, breaking down language barriers, sustaining the training for the long term, and much more.


Answering the Tough Questions About Energy Codes

What happens when you put four sustainable building experts involved in energy code development in a room and ask them to bring their favorite—and sometimes, most controversial—topics for discussion? You end up with more questions than answers!

In this roundtable episode hosted by Robb Aldrich, our guests ask each other these tough questions related to our nation’s energy codes:

  • Performance Metrics: How can energy codes be simplified? Is energy use intensity (EUI) a viable alternate metric?
  • Gas Bans: If jurisdictions cannot ban gas, how can we put electrification in the energy code?
  • Embodied Carbon: How should embodied carbon accounting be incorporated into energy codes?
  • Robb’s Bonus Question #1: How are building inspectors dealing with complicated energy codes?
  • Robb’s Bonus Question #2: Should there be electric vehicle (EV) charging requirements in energy codes?


Cost vs. Conservation vs. Comfort – Roundtable, Part 2

The ideal building is cost-efficient, energy-efficient, and comfortable for its occupants. But executing all three of these elements to perfection can be complex and costly. Can there ever be a win-win-win across all three?

In part two of our roundtable episode with Michelle DeCarlo, Saeideh Kirby, Erin McElwee, and Buildings + Beyond host Kelly Westby, our guests discuss how to find a balance between meeting project objectives and creating sustainable and healthy buildings. They also share how they’ve seen the COVID-19 pandemic change project priorities and building operations.

Did you miss part one of this roundtable? Go to the previous episode to hear our guests’ moving discussion on gender equity in the building industry.


Take Action: How Everyone Can Help Advance Gender Equity in the Building Industry – Roundtable, Part 1

To mark Women’s History Month, we wanted to get firsthand perspectives from women in the building industry. We invited Michelle DeCarlo of JB&B and Saeideh Kirby of JLL to join SWA’s Erin McElwee and Kelly Westby for a two-part episode tackling different topics—starting with gender equity.

In part one of their discussion, the group explores gender equity in male-dominated fields such as construction, HVAC, and engineering. They cover a range of topics, including microaggressions, implicit bias, authenticity in the workplace, and mentorship and sponsorship, and offer actionable takeaways for people of all gender identities to help advance gender equity across our industry.

We thank our guests for sharing their personal experiences!

Look out for part two of their discussion on balancing cost, conservation, and comfort in sustainable buildings.


ENERGY STAR NextGen: 5 Requirements for Climate-Friendly Homes

Building on the 25-year foundation of the ENERGY STAR Residential New Construction program, the EPA is gearing up to launch a new certification program for efficient single-family and multifamily homes: ENERGY STAR NextGen™ Certified Homes and Apartments. Based on initial energy and emissions modeling, ENERGY STAR NextGen certified homes will achieve an average of 47% greater carbon savings than homes built according to 2021 residential energy code.

In this episode, Robb chats with two members of EPA’s ENERGY STAR Residential Branch, Asa Foss and Elliot Seibert, about what home builders, raters, and buyers can expect from ENERGY STAR NextGen and its electric-forward—not all-electric—focus. They discuss each of the program’s requirements and the rationale and goals behind them.


How Can We Convince More Homeowners to Make Energy-Efficiency Upgrades?

The average homeowner is aware that energy efficiency is important in the fight against climate change. The people who are most passionate about energy conservation are making upgrades to their homes and setting a good example for their neighbors. But how can we get more homeowners excited about doing the work (and navigating the cost) to improve their home’s performance?

On this episode, Robb chats with Adam Stenftenagel and Christine Liaukus (a SWA alum!), two experts on improving existing buildings, about what it’ll take to reduce the energy consumption and carbon emissions of single-family homes on a much larger scale than we are today. They discuss data, strategies, technologies, and of course, financing that can help get millions of homeowners on the path to net zero energy.


Designing for Equity in the Built Environment with Victoria Lanteigne

There is a lot of work ahead of us to advance equity in the built environment. As more project teams aim to impact equity, there are overarching questions that need to be answered: What design strategies will advance equity in the built environment? And how do we make equity part of building performance?

In this episode, Alex chats with Victoria Lanteigne, Principal of Research at Steven Winter Associates (SWA), about her expertise in equity, health, and inclusive design. Victoria shares how, through her research, she hopes to build on the way we measure building performance—from outcomes focused on energy and resource efficiency to those that include aspects of human experiences, such as the health, wellbeing, and sense of belonging of all building occupants.


Construction Diaries Part 2: Tips for Young Professionals


As a continuation of our last episode, Construction Diaries: Lessons Learned From SWA’s Inspection & Verification Experts, Dylan gears his questions toward young professionals – specifically, those just starting out in the field or those aspiring to work in the field as a construction inspector or verifier.

Throughout the episode, the group provides some words of wisdom, including how to handle intimidation and animosity in the field, how to maximize time spent traveling from site to site, and more. Lastly, each guest ends the episode by sharing a piece of advice that they wish they had when they started their careers.


Construction Diaries: Lessons Learned From SWA’s Inspection & Verification Experts


One of the main drivers behind a successful building project is third-party inspection and verification. This critical, yet often overlooked, step in the construction process is designed to help buildings achieve a desired quality of performance and can also help save project teams substantial time and money along the way.

That being said, the role of an inspector or verifier is not for the faint of heart. They are often scrutinized and even blamed for “slowing progress” following a construction intervention. In reality, these dedicated professionals are actually looking out for the project’s best interest and save time in the long-run by preventing costly repairs. Without them, building performance and occupant health and comfort could be compromised.

In this episode, we invited three inspection and verification professionals from Steven Winter Associates to shed light on the challenges they face while inspecting construction projects. We learn what they look for when they are on site and how they reach solutions with project teams when standards are not being met. This engaging roundtable discussion is a great reminder of just how valuable a third-party inspector can be.


Practicing What We Preach: Everyday Solutions for Living a Sustainable Lifestyle


We talk a lot about sustainability at a large scale; this typically includes large building projects or grid-level issues, like energy affordability and access to renewables. But how about the small-scale? What type of sustainability initiatives are people passionate about in their everyday lives?

To answer this question, Robb assembled a group of sustainability professionals from Steven Winter Associates and asked them to share some best practices for living a more sustainable lifestyle. Each guest responds with one topic they are passionate about and explains how they turned a common challenge into a sustainable solution.

Here’s the breakdown of topics by guest: