An initiative of the National Council for Workforce Education, the Sustainability Education and Economic Development Center (SEED) supports community colleges and their partners with curriculum and resources to transform educational programs for a sustainable future.


Energy efficiency refers to any method where less energy is consumed to attain the same amount of useful output. Energy-efficient homes and buildings use less energy to heat, cool, and run appliances and electronics, and energy-efficient manufacturing facilities use less energy to produce goods. Like renewable energy sources, energy efficient products and processes also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Building science is the technology-driven collection of knowledge to provide better indoor environmental quality, energy-efficient built environments and occupant comfort, and satisfaction. This includes the study of the relationships between the building envelope, building design and construction, heating/cooling systems, insulation, mechanical ventilation, lighting, appliances, and other systems. Building science demonstrates how these various components all interact to affect the home or building’s overall performance and energy efficiency and how this information can be applied to achieve the target benefits.

The mechanical systems used to control the temperature, humidity, pressure and other select aspects of the indoor environment are the Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC/R) systems. Creating and maintaining energy efficient buildings with improved environmental quality has led to the development of new technologies including but not limited to geothermal systems, air-sourced heat pumps, and tools designed to analyze and improve building performance.

According to the Department of Energy United States Energy and Employment Report, July 3, 2023, America must create at least 1M new clean energy workers by 2030. USEER also observed that many workers split their time between traditional and clean energy tasks noting that jobs classified as “clean” are ones in which workers spend more than half their time working in clean energy technology areas. Additionally, USEER shows that the energy workforce added almost 300,000 jobs from 2021 to 2022 (+3.8% growth), outpacing the growth rate of the overall U.S. workforce, which grew by 3.1%. Clean energy jobs increased in every state and grew 3.9% nationally.

Community Colleges and Building Sciences

Community colleges can provide community education for k-12 students, workforce development, upgrade the technical skills of current workers, help adult learners develop new skills for career changes, and provide hands-on instruction in the field of building science.

  • Incorporate building science principles to future-proof legacy programs such as construction, HVAC, and electronics.
  • Introduce students and new workers and incumbent workers to innovative building science topics such as green building, building energy analysis, energy-efficient HVAC systems, and building automation systems.
  • Utilize energy efficiency systems as living laboratories, providing students and community members with opportunities to investigate, analyze, and utilize new approaches, equipment, and technologies.
  • Improve campus energy efficiency through infrastructure retrofits, such as energy-efficient interior and exterior lighting and energy metering.
  • Implement energy efficiency measures and occupant behavior change campaigns.