The Center for Smart Building Technology at Roxbury Community College (RCC) has recently completed its $700,000 lab to train students for careers operating and maintaining smart buildings. More than 80% of commercial construction is estimated to include some form of smart building technology, such as responsive HVAC, lighting, fire alarm, security, and other infrastructure systems.

“Buildings are computers now,” said the Center’s executive director, Frank Mruk. “But all these systems have to be integrated and work together. Otherwise, you can’t optimize the buildings. Since the Center started, we’ve had a lot of employers coming to us needing to hire people to manage their systems.”

The Center for Smart Building Technology first opened to students in January 2020 with an initial lab consisting of programming kits, controllers and building automation devices. Since then, the Center has built out more and more equipment that students can expect to see in the field. The newly installed air handling unit, for example, allows students to plug a laptop directly into the unit’s controller just as they would on the job. It also features transparent ductwork so that students can see how the individual components work together and respond to commands.

While most smart building systems are proprietary in nature, Mruk said, the Center’s lab equipment is built around open-source software and controllers, which will enable students to apply their skills to any of the major building automation systems and integrate them effectively.

The completion of the lab was made possible by a Neighborhood Jobs Trust grant, Seaport Grant, and numerous other industry in-kind donations which were critical to the early development of the program.

In the Spring 2022 semester, the Center will launch a new curriculum that has been beta tested with the facilities management departments of local employers. The Center will also add a new concentration in RCC’s engineering associate degree program to the other industry certifications it already offers.

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