Find Posts By Topic

Growing Seattle’s Building Tune-Up & Energy Efficiency Workforce

Seattle’s progressive energy efficiency policies like the City’s Building Tune-Ups Ordinance and a strong local market favoring energy efficient buildings requires a specialized workforce to tune-up buildings and keep them operating their best. Seattle Colleges is growing this workforce through its Sustainable Building Science and Technology (SBST) degree program at South Seattle College and participation in the Office of Sustainability & Environment’s (OSE) Tune-Up Accelerator Program.

With eleven Seattle Colleges buildings enrolled in the Tune-Up Accelerator, SBST students had opportunities to grow their skills beyond the classroom by supporting the tune-up process. Student teams scouted three buildings for operations and maintenance efficiency opportunities, reviewed operations and energy data, and collected details on each building’s equipment for the tune-up assessment and US Department of Energy Asset Score. Students worked under the guidance of SBST faculty Steve Abercrombie, and in coordination with Sustainability Coordinator Adam Maurer, Campus Facilities staff, and energy service provider, McKinstry.


SBST students in building operations lesson. Credit: Alison Pugh

“Using campus facilities for hands-on STEM learning is a valuable opportunity for our students,” said faculty Steve Abercrombie. “The ability to expose students to the tune-up process and have them work on a multi-quarter project directly interacting with building systems and College staff teaches essential real-world skills. Each building is unique, and while many of our students come into the program with facilities’ experience, seeing the whole picture of the building’s assets—and its occupants—operating as a system, is critical to developing the skills needed to improve building energy efficiency.”

And these skills have industry demand—South Seattle College reports that 90% of graduates are hired by firms working in energy efficiency or promoted to better jobs by their current employer. The SBST degree is one of the certifications accepted by the City for persons conducting tune-ups to meet the mandate. The time spent pursuing the degree can also contribute to the tune-up specialist qualification of seven years of experience with commercial building operations and/or energy management.

Pathways to earning an SBST degree include students with an associates degree from Seattle Colleges, Multi-occupational trades, or a new Multi-occupational Engineering Technology degree being developed at South Seattle College. The program has agreements with 13 other associate-level programs in the Puget Sound area (and even in Oregon).  Furthermore, students who complete their first two years of College free through Mayor Durkan’s Seattle Promise Program, could apply to enroll in SBST for the last two years to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Seattle Colleges plans to continue connecting students with hands-on, real-world opportunities. A new grant from National Science Foundation just awarded to South Seattle College will help the students take this experience into the community.

For more information about the SBST Program, contact Alison Pugh, Sustainable Building Science Technology Faculty Coordinator, at

The Tune-Up Accelerator Program is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) under Buildings Program Award Number DE-EE0007556.