PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — In recent years, the word “green” has become synonymous with reducing human impact on the environment. Such changes can be made to everything from cleaning and driving habits to heating or construction practices.
The latter is the focus of officials at Northern Maine Community College, as plans are under way to revise the current building energy systems curriculum across the Presque Isle college’s construction trade programs. The revisions will allow for greater instruction around green building methods, energy audits and weatherizing existing structures.
The plans also call for the college to introduce a variety of new classes over the next year while revising existing courses to stress energy efficiency in construction and renovation practices.
The initiative is made possible through a $225,000 grant to NMCC from the Efficiency Maine Trust, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
“I think there is a greater demand for green buildings, green cars, basically overall energy efficiency,” Brian McDougal, chairman of NMCC’s trade and technical occupations department, said Friday. “In the construction world, there is a focus on improving building energy proficiency and that is something we need to pass on to our students.”
Over the past week, several NMCC faculty members worked to earn their building analyst certification through a course offered by the Building Performance Institute, or BPI. The course covered the basic principles of building science to assess energy efficiency in a home, while also monitoring conditions that have a direct im-pact on human health and safety.
On Wednesday, instructors were led through a series of energy efficiency and auditing exercises at a private residence in downtown Presque Isle that is currently on the housing market. Through an agreement with local realtor ReMax Central, the house served as a laboratory for exercises in home energy auditing and home en-ergy efficiency for the day.
“This was a really great opportunity for us, and this certification is going to allow us to take the training we have received this week back to the classroom,” he explained. “We can introduce these techniques into the coursework and we can also teach new courses to offer a broader education to our students.”
The new courses for the construction trade programs will include the addition of courses in energy auditing and solar domestic hot water. The energy auditing class will be required of all plumbing and heating program students, and will be offered as a technical-related elective for other construction cluster programs.
The solar domestic hot water course, the only one of its kind offered in the region, also will be added to the plumbing and heating program as a graduation requirement.
As part of an effort to heighten existing coursework, the plumbing and heating curriculum will add instruction modules in energy control and management techniques into existing heating and refrigeration courses in the program’s third and fourth semesters. The new modules will reflect the latest in energy management tech-niques.
Electrical construction and maintenance courses also will be revised with additional focus on designing and managing electrical systems, particularly energy-efficient systems, efficient motors using alternative and renewable electrical energy sources, retrofits and energy audits.
A current course, blueprint reading for the construction trades, which is required of all construction cluster students, will be strengthened with green energy elements, including isometric and orthographic drawings to show green building materials and energy systems.
Building sciences courses also will be expanded from three credit hours to four with the addition of 30 hours per semester of laboratory training.
“These efforts not only will teach students about current and future building techniques, students also will learn how to modify existing structures to make them more energy efficient,” McDougal explained Friday. “As we refocus our courses and look toward a reduction of energy consumption by shifting to the teaching of alter-native energy sources, we not only are preparing our students for a changing workforce, we are also helping to reduce our carbon footprint.”
McDougal said NMCC and other community colleges in the state already have introduced some aspects of greener construction into their coursework. He feels the newest effort by NMCC will strengthen the overall education of current students and attract additional prospective students to the campus.
“This is definitely going to have an impact on our students,” he said. “We will be introducing a significant portion of these changes into our curriculum during the coming academic year, so our students will see changes right away.”
In addition to the curriculum enhancements in the construction trade programs, a small portion of the Efficiency Maine grant will be used to purchase equipment for NMCC’s Wind Power Technology Program, the first and only program of its kind in New England.