Fin MacDonald

Information on me and my current projects

Energy Sustainability Engineering Technology

I am an honors graduate of the Nova Scotia Community College’s Energy Sustainability Engineering Technology (ESET) class of 2012. ESET is an innovative new technology program that covers energy efficiency, renewable energy, green building construction and operations, mechanical systems, and electrical systems. There is emphasis on sustainable practices. Because this program is so new and different often people are unsure exactly what it covers. In an effort to combat this I have included a list of the courses I have taken prior to graduating:

Introduction to WHMIS
Introduction to NS OH&S Act
Standard First Aid & CPR C 

Technical Communications I:
A basic soft skills writing and presentations class.

Renewable Energy Technologies I:
An introduction to various types of renewable energy with a focus on solar thermal and wind energy systems. Project work included doing site assessments using leading market tools and energy modelling using RET Screen software from Natural Resources Canada.

Principles of Energy Management:
Energy management best practices were explored and we were introduced to the various tools available to facilities managers. Statistical analysis of energy consumption data was performed using various trending methods and tools. Energy audits guidelines were introduced and we prepared an energy opportunity report based based on sample audit data.

Thermodynamics I:
An introduction to thermodynamics equations and problem solving techniques. Thermodynamic processes and systems were analysed.

Basic Electricity:
Basic concepts of electricity were introduced including direct current, voltage, resistance, Ohms law, magnetism, and power. Problem solving of resistive circuits was included.

Applied Mathematics I:
Designed to give a review of basic algebra, geometry, functional notation, linear equations, quadratic equations, trigonometric functions, exponents, logarithms, complex numbers, analytic geometry and systems of equations.

Energy Systems:
Explored the common types of generation, distribution and consumption systems used in industrial, commercial, and residential applications. We learned to assess the performance of the energy systems and calculate energy savings associated with improvements.

AC/DC Systems:
Topics included alternating & direct current, power systems, motors, generators, and system losses. We used mathematical formulas to calculate power and efficiency. Lab work reinforced knowledge of electric motors.

Applied Mathematics II:
This course covers limits, slope of the tangent to a curve, differentiation, derivatives of polynomials, applications involving derivatives, finding points of extrema, and using differentiation and integration.

Building Systems:
Course covered residential building system components and energy efficient strategies. Energy modelling was done using HOT2000 software from Natural Resources Canada. Emphasis was put on creating a base case for the model and determining the energy savings associated with various upgrades available.

Engineering Graphics:
An introduction to AutoCAD which is the industry standard drafting software. Architectural, piping and instrumentation, and 2D and 3D product drawings were covered.

Energy Assessments:
A hands on course involving energy assessments of different types of facilities. It included an introduction to the various tools available for energy auditors. Walkthrough audits were conducted to Natural Resources Canada audit guideline standards on three separate facilities. Opportunity reports were produced focusing on low-cost / no-cost improvements as well as capital intensive improvements. Alternative energy applications were also proposed.

Work Term I:
My first year work term was with NSCC Applied Energy Research and was one month long.  I studied the operation of data logging systems for solar thermal equipment. I designed solar monitoring systems using the Web Energy Logger (WEL) which connects to the Welserver ( to transmit data over the internet. By gathering temperature and flow data I was able to perform thermodynamic energy calculations to determine the output of the solar systems. I installed 3 WELs during my work term. Two were installed on high rise residential buildings and one was installed on the equipment on the roof of the NSCC Waterfront campus.

Thermodynamics II:
A continuation of Thermodynamics I. Heat pump and refrigeration cycles are introduced. Equations are used to solve problems relating to the entropy and exergy of various systems.

Geographic Information Systems:
Introductory course in GIS using ArcGIS software. The course is project based with several small projects to develop the skills required to create a larger scale mapping project.

Renewable Energy Technologies II:
Advanced course in renewable energy applications and modelling. Real world data collection is used to develop models for hybrid systems.

Controls I:
Introduction to building automation and controls. Various sensor types, processors and control methods for residential, industrial, and commercial systems are introduced. Largely based on theory.

Energy Efficiency and the Built Environment I :
A project based learning course involving a multidisciplinary approach to energy efficiency with an international perspective. Students from Ireland, the Netherlands, and Canada worked together on an energy audit report on a residential home. Architectural, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, construction management, and energy sustainability students were involved. This course was not part of the regular curriculum.

Sustainable Design:
An course in sustainable design from a business and manufacturing perspective. Life Cycle Analysis was explored as a method to determine the environmental impacts of the entire product life cycle. Life cycle costing was also used to example the costs associated with each stage of a products life. Students were introduced to eco-innovation and how to use the green revolution to increase revenues.

Controls II:
A continuation of Controls I. Students designed a monitoring system for a real world project. The monitoring methods complied with Measurement and Verification protocol. Students were also given hands on experience designed and programming a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) setup to control a solar hot water system.

Advanced Building Design:
An course in the green and efficient design of commercial buildings. The ASHRAE Green Guide was used extensively. Topics included LEED, ASHRAE 90.1, and Commissioning. Teams designed and built advanced wall assemblies. A “hot-box” unit was used to test the thermal resistance of the wall assemblies and compare it to calculated estimates.

Energy Efficiency and the Built Environment II (Exchange to Ireland) :
Students from Canada, Scotland, and Ireland worked together on a social housing project to develop a PassivHaus retrofit plan. The building was recently constructed and had poor solar orientation. The main component of the project was reducing the heating load of the building by insulating and tightening up the envelope. All upgrades were modeled using Irish software called DEAP. Each group had an architectural student who drew up the detailing of all of the upgrades. Our final report is available here.

 I also transferred in credits for Building Green with LEED and Project Management.

Work Term II :
My work placement was replaced with permanent employment. I was hired by Morrison Hershfield in Ottawa, Ontario as a Sustainability Analyst. My work focuses mostly around the LEED rating system but we push for green solutions over LEED. As sustainability consultants we get involved with the project early on in the design phase and push for green improvements. It is very satisfying to make a difference in the built environment.

13 responses to “Energy Sustainability Engineering Technology

  1. Matthew Boudreau October 24, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    Hey thanks for writing about this course. I’m currently very interested.
    What type of career can I expect to be qualified for in taking this course? Would you recommend any other courses about New Energies?

    • Fin MacDonald October 24, 2011 at 5:09 PM

      Recent graduates are working in renewable energy (EnCom and Dr. Solar), energy audits (Equilibrium Engineering), and government organisations (Efficiency NS). There is also the option to pursue a career in construction or building operations. I did my first work term in renewable energy doing solar hot water system monitoring. I am looking to work in the Green Building industry when I graduate. This course is an excellent well rounded education in efficiency and renewable energy and will prepare you for a wide range of jobs. Once you get out in the work force you will specialize those skills further. For more info check out

  2. Tiffany November 15, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    Hello Fin,
    I have been looking into the ESET course. You’re information was very helpful!
    Would you say that the program focuses on building/construction or more on the understanding of sustainability?

    • Fin MacDonald November 15, 2011 at 5:21 PM

      The coure focuses a lot on the understanding of sustainability in the first semester. You cover a lot of residential construction methods in the second semester. You don’t go into too much detail on commercial construction other then LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). The main focus of the course is how to integrate sustainability into the building envelope (walls and insulation etc), mechanical, electrical, and renewable energy components of a building. If your main interest is building construction you might want to consider the Construction Management Technology program NSCC offers at the Dartmouth campus.

  3. Matthew Boudreau May 29, 2012 at 6:27 PM

    Hi Fin,
    I am wondering how difficult this course is. I didn’t do too great in high school, but I do have my diploma. I did not graduate with a grade 12 math, only grade 11 fundamental math. Do you think I should take NSCC’s Academic upgrade course before applying for ESET?

    Also, you said to Tiffany it doesn’t focus on commercial construction very much. Does this mean it wouldn’t really teach me about windmills, solar energy, stuff like that? If I took this course I would be interested (career wise) in working with windmills/solar power/geothermal/etc. In other words, what type of career opportunities, in your opinion, does this course provide?

    Thanks in advance,
    Matthew Boudreau

    • Fin MacDonald May 30, 2012 at 10:09 AM

      The course can be quite challenging. You will need strong math skills because you be required to take Calculus and Thermodynamics (like Physics). You would definately want to try upgrading before you enroll. You might also want to consider a technician program if you want something more hands on and less math based. The Waterfront Campus in Dartmouth offers an electrican technician program.

      The career opportunities provided by ESET are largely around the calcualtions of energy savings and designing plans for energy management. You would learn how to determine the best solar or wind equipment to install for a project, but you wouldn’t learn how to actually put it together or install them. Some graduates are working with solar companies, but none of them are doing installations as far as I know. They are doing more engineering based work, or project management.

      • Matthew Boudreau May 30, 2012 at 2:32 PM

        Thank you Fin, after looking on the NSCC website further I discovered that Grade 12 Math, English and Physics or Chemistry are required for the course. So I will be needing to upgrade my courses anyway. Thank you for answering my questions, I think this course sounds like the doorway to my desired career. Keep updating your blog and good luck on your journey.

  4. Matthew Boudreau May 30, 2012 at 11:00 PM

    Hi Fin, sorry to bug you again but I have one last question. I am wondering if you have had difficulty finding a job in the sustainable energy field. Thanks again.

    • Fin MacDonald May 31, 2012 at 7:23 AM

      I didn’t have much trouble at all, but some of my classmates are still looking. The problem is many potential employers don’t know the program is even offered. What I did was I started reaching out to companies I wanted to work for about 8 months before I graduated. I told them about me, about the program, and when I would be graduating. The amount of available jobs are growing quite rapidly though. I imagine it will be much easier for you by the time you graduate.

  5. kristifer S March 22, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    Hey Fin, thank you for making this post about the eset program. I am currently an engineering student at Concordia but I want something more specific and hands on. Can you talk a little more about what the day to day work eperience is like for someone doing energy audit work? I dont want to be a laborer but i also dont want to be confined to a computer screen for weeks on end.

  6. John Tucker June 13, 2017 at 7:27 AM

    My name is John Tucker, I’m going to be attending the ESET program in September 2017.

    I stumbled onto your website through a google search and I found it really helpful, I was wondering if you would be able to help me further.

    I am funded through the government and in order to receive funding for next year I need to find (3) Employers, employees, or former students in this field and perform a quick survey with them.

    If you are interested in helping me fill one out, or know of anyone else who might be able too it would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks for your time.


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