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Calif. IBEW Local Opens Zero Net Energy Facility

Calif. IBEW Local Opens Zero Net Energy Facility

Bristling with the latest in energy efficiency, building management and power generation technology, the center uses 75 percent less energy than similar existing commercial buildings and is the first commercial building retrofit to be recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy as “zero net energy.”

California has enacted stringent conservation requirements and renewable energy policies that call for zero net energy commercial buildings by 2030. The new Electrical Workers-National Electrical Contractors Association (IBEW-NECA) training facility—dubbed the Zero Net Energy Center—will showcase the training of technologies that will help the state reach its goal.

The new 46,000-square-foot training facility has quickly become a high-profile project for IBEW Local 595 and NECA, garnering extensive coverage in California media. 

“We wanted to build a new facility that showed more than the skills and knowledge of our IBEW members,” said Dublin, Calif., Local 595 Business Manager Victor Uno. “We wanted to demonstrate our commitment to energy conservation and sustainability. We are helping to move California’s energy policies forward.”

California Gov. Jerry Brown has been invited to deliver the keynote address to more than 500 guests and help celebrate the opening of the educational home for the 2,000 apprentice and journey-level electricians in Local 595. The event will be live-tweeted using the hashtag #ZNE.

“This remarkable facility is a shining real-world model for education and training,” said Byron Benton, training director for the Alameda County JATC (Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee). “On May 30th we will celebrate the realization of our collective vision for a more sustainable world where young men and women will be trained for good paying jobs and new economy careers.”

The new technology is part of the reason Local 595 decided to build a new training facility. Commercial construction in California is being transformed by on-site power generation, building automation and efficiency technologies that did not physically fit in the old training facility. The knowledge and practical skills to install, operate, maintain and improve upon renewable and energy efficient systems that will be taught are built into the walls of the new 46,000-square-foot facility.

“We didn’t just want a new training facility, even a really nice one,” said Victor Uno, business manager of Local 595. “We wanted to show our skills, our values and move talk about energy policy into action.”

America’s 120 million buildings use 72 percent of the nation’s electricity and more total energy than manufacturing or transportation. California’s publicly owned utilities, committed to reducing total energy consumption, have targeted new commercial buildings for most of the gains. By 2030, that goal extends to every new commercial building. Uno sees this as a fantastic opportunity for skilled electricians.

“This isn’t about powering up. We powered down,” Uno said. “This is where we need to go for energy policy, independence and to comply with California policy and with this building, it is where we are.”

Lights make up about 40 percent of an average building’s energy use. In the new training center, every office and classroom has north-facing skylights that flood the space with a bright but even light. Ambient-light sensors in the room turn on LED light fixtures if more light is needed and shades on the skylights and side windows can be controlled manually or automatically to darken the room.

The second biggest energy drain for commercial buildings is getting fresh air to each room at a comfortable temperature. The center uses multiple systems, most of them automated, to do the job as efficiently as possible.

Uno says Local 595 is sending a message to Bay Area businesses that IBEW electricians are part of the region’s embrace of next generation building technologies, but he insists it is a message that any local can use.

“We do automation and lighting control. We do renewable energy generating. The building management systems are all about automation. That is IBEW work,” Uno said.

This article originally appeared on

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