Through a partnership with GPRO at Work (our training and coaching program funded by NYSERDA), Weill Cornell Medicine’s (WCM) Engineering & Maintenance Department (E&M) has made professional development a top priority. Through supervisor-created skill shares, standardized training presentations, off-site controls trainings, and new digital resources, GPRO at Work and WCM have made great strides in just over a year.
New training initiatives are front and center in the E&M staff’s Learning Lab, an onsite training center located within the Weill Cornell Belfer Research Building. Learning complicated building systems on the job can be challenging due to difficult-to-access terminal boxes, wiring, and sensors, as well as the stress of working quickly and quietly in sensitive spaces. The new Learning Lab alleviates this pressure. “Employees can gain exposure to the type of equipment and control systems on our campus in a clean, bright, low-risk and low-stress environment,” said Angela Mu, Energy Manager.
To get staff comfortable with the complexities of Weill Cornell’s campus spaces, the Learning Lab mimics the most complicated space type—a wet lab, where chemicals and “wet” hazards are handled. “We believed that if staff could be trained on a space with complex pressurization and indoor air quality requirements, that those same skills could carry over to simpler spaces such as offices and classrooms,” said Mu.
Jared Thomas, Electrician, duplicated an advanced lighting control systems in the Learning Lab based on the Lutron Quantum system installed in the Belfer Research Building. Because it is the most sophisticated lighting system on campus, those who master it should be able to handle those of less complexity on campus. The lighting setup covers a variety of features, including occupancy sensors, daylight sensors, individually controlled shades, and multiple types of user control stations. Set up as an isolated system, the Learning Lab’s mock lighting system allows for staff in the room to work on components and programming changes without affecting or disrupting live building systems.
“The Learning Lab can be used to train people with a wide variety of skill-sets and experience levels, from entry-level employees having their first interactions with lighting systems, up to senior management staff who wish to utilize the reporting data available,” said Thomas. He plans to use the Learning Lab to train staff on programming changes to increase lighting efficiency, using software for reporting and statistical analysis, and identifying components to better troubleshoot issues.
Vincent Romano, Mechanics Supervisor, led a team of in-house controls specialists to build the Learning Lab’s HVAC system. Setting up the system was a learning opportunity in itself, as the team had to build the space from scratch, which included creating custom programs and digital system graphics.
The room’s HVAC system includes elements of a typical lab found at Weill Cornell, including a variable volume supply terminal, exhaust terminal, BMS controllers, and a fume hood. Getting the fume hood into the space turned out to be a challenge. “We had to disassemble and then reassemble it to get it up to the Learning Lab. Most are built into the lab space, so you can’t see the different mechanical parts,” Romano explained. Having a mock fume hood is already proving useful. “We actually had a fume hood that was getting jammed, and by looking at the one in the lab we could figure out what was happening downstairs.”
The entire process of creating the lab—from planning, designing, sourcing materials, and final execution and use—took about a year. And it was done on the staff’s spare time, which was hard to come by. But the dedication to making the Learning Lab a state-of-the-art training center further cements the staff’s commitment to improving operations processes and instilling a culture of learning among the E&M team.
“My vision for the Learning Lab was quite straight forward—create a space where our team can be completely comfortable in their learning of our more complex building automation controls and programming,” said Michael Murphy, Senior Director of Maintenance and Engineering. “Our new Learning Lab is a huge step in the right direction. It is a catalyst to our training program that will allow us to level up in our training technique here at Weill Cornell Medicine.”