Troy Woodcox is the Chief Engineer of a 290k sq. ft. commercial facility in San Francisco and recently was awarded the Blue Star Award from his building for their sustainability efforts. We caught up with Troy to learn more about his award-winning work.

Troy Blue Star Award

What is the blue star award?

Once a year the blue star award, in recognition for conserving energy and increasing building operating efficiency, is awarded to an employee in the portfolio of buildings. The award recognizes building maintenance, operations and management teams who have done exceptionally well in their management of energy consumption.

What did you do to earn the Blue Star Award?

Over the last three years, we took a closer look at our overall energy usage and identified areas where we thought there was potential for significant savings. Utilizing a combination of Enernoc and our Tridium Niagara Building Management System, we were able to benchmark our existing usage and set goals for where we wanted to be in three years.

Some of the individual items we looked at were what pieces of equipment could benefit from a variable speed drive and if there was a reasonable payback for that choice. Additionally, we made adjustments to start/stop times, duct pressure settings, occupancy prediction models and how the BAS calculation took into account outside air temp & previous days temp to determine when to start individual floor HVAC systems.

The most important question we have to ask ourselves is are tenants still comfortable? There is a balancing act between efficiency and tenant comfort. Customer service is a very important skill to have because you have to be able to communicate with tenants as to why their space’s climate may be less than ideal and what your plan is to fix it.

What started your sustainability journey?

I am an open book and I’m always looking for way to improve myself. I took a particular course at the Building Efficiency for a Sustainable Tomorrow (BEST) center at Laney college. The course detailed how to increase the overall efficiency of a high-performance building. It got me thinking about how to continually commission a building from an efficiency standpoint. There are a lot of metrics to look at and a lot of tinkering to be done. It’s good to refresh your thinking with education. People get in the habit of being comfortable but there are always improvements to do and ideas to progress a building’s performance.

What would you recommend to others that are trying to enhance their facility’s energy efficiency?

Don’t settle on the status quo. There are room for improvements and there are educational resources out there that will help inspire your thinking. I would consider myself a tinkerer and we have some really talented people on our team that are always thinking about the next project to improve our efficiency.

How did you become a Chief Engineer?

I served with the US Navy for 6 years as a jet engine mechanic or Gas Systems Electrician First Class. When I transitioned out of the Navy, I was able to take the knowledge and experience they provided to become the Plant Lead at a Geothermal Power Plant in Reno NV. I spent three years in Reno and after I was offered the role of Assistant Chief Engineer at the UCSF Central Utilities Plant I took it. After 8 years at UCSF, I moved into my current role as Chief Engineer for a San Francisco Financial District high-rise and I’ve been doing that in one form or another for over 10 years.