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Insights from a Building and Energy Expert: Kathy Cox, Part I

May 11, 2022


Q. What are some of the most challenging questions customers have right now about operating their buildings or managing their energy?
A. With the ESSER funding to improve indoor air quality, an unprecedented amount of funding has become has available in a very short amount of time. So, my customers are struggling with how to spend the money wisely to make it count. These are school systems or local governments that usually take years for fiscal planning. Given the deadline to spend the ESSER funding, they're all scrambling to do the right thing to improve indoor air quality.

  • They have a lot of questions. For example, they are asking:  
  • How do we spend the money wisely?
  • How do we make it count for the long term?
  • How do we be accountable for that funding?
  • How do we make the right decision in such a short time?

This is where Trane comes in. We help them think through the complexities involved to get the answers they need. We also help them think strategically. For example, many school systems where I live in Southwest Virginia — and also in Northeast Tennessee — used the funding to add air conditioning to spaces that had not been air conditioned before. So, while they were improving the indoor air environment, they also were adding additional expenses. Since we’re always trying to lower energy costs, we were helping them think ahead to account for additional operational and maintenance costs involved.

In addition to helping them identify how to wisely spend their ESSER funding, given the current supply chain and labor market issues, we are also helping them identify how to get the work done in a timely manner.

Q. What are some of the common misconceptions in the market today about reliability or resiliency and reducing both energy emissions and operational costs?
A. I think we're in an unknown market right now. Many are questioning whether low fuel costs will continue, especially as gas prices are rising. Natural gas rates have been low for so many years that people are questioning whether we will continue, long-term, to have access to low electrical and natural gas rates.

There’s a misconception that we can continue to sustain where we are. Those who fail to act now to optimize energy use and energy efficiency, I think, may face emergency situations later as prices increase.

Q. What do you think Trane brings to the table that nobody else can or does?
A. Our team brings to the table a comprehensive, holistic approach and supports the customer at every level, whether it's a CEO, president, superintendent, facility maintenance director, operations director or a service technician and even sometimes a custodian. We offer a breadth of experience on our team and then we connect with the customer at every level. In the education market, we also engage students with our career and technical education programs for post-secondary/higher education and our BTU Crew™ educational energy program for K-12 schools.

Since we are an OEM – we also offer controls and renewables, too. We have so many solutions and services offerings that that’s nothing we can’t do. We've helped our customers with RFQs and RFPs in spaces that we may not typically work in but that's the breadth of experience in engineering and technology that we bring.

Q. How does building and energy data drive customer outcomes?
A. As I tell my customers all the time, “Everything we do is data-driven.” I also frequently tell my customers to let the data drive their decisions. Having too much data may have been an obstacle in the past because you needed someone to analyze and interpret it. Today, our Trane intelligent services team can translate data so that our customers can understand the value.  When we analyze the data, we can know how your facility is running, and therefore we can identify the best next step for our customers.

For example, one of the greatest opportunities for potential energy savings is optimizing your control system, your building automation system. So, showing the data from when your building is occupied and unoccupied speaks volumes. If at 3 a.m. if your building is running full force, you're wasting energy and you're not helping anyone. That’s money that's being wasted.

We demonstrate this in a very clear graph that makes it easy to see what times the building is using energy. Across all stakeholders, that information resonates because they get what the graph is supposed to look like and at what times their buildings are supposed to be running. So, that is one way that energy data drives customer outcomes that is both easy to understand and well-accepted.

Q. If there's one baseline, every customer should understand about their building, what is it and why?
A. The one baseline every customer should understand about their building is how much energy they are using at any given moment. We benchmark this at the beginning of every project and then we say – at the end of our energy efficiency improvements - this is how much energy you'll be spending moving forward. It’s important to know why we’re doing energy efficiency improvements and what the outcome is going to be from an energy spend standpoint.

It's surprising how many customers don't know how much energy they're spending, or they're focused on one particular metric, whether it be electrical or natural gas. The fact is, you have to look at the whole building – the water, the usage of the building, when it's being used. Those are all things that have to be accounted for because, for example, when you change to LED lighting your heat load in the building goes down, so now you're going to have to provide more heat into the building. In other words, when you change something in the facility, you have to be aware of how it affects the entire facility.

In summary, customers should understand their energy spend before and after improvements, understand why we're doing energy efficiency improvements and what the outcome is going to be.

Q. What's your philosophy when it comes to helping customers to achieve their goals?
A. I always want to leave things better than when I found them.  I think every customer wants to do the right thing when it comes to spending money, improving indoor air quality, improving their facilities and leaving a legacy. I think every person has the same goal of making an impact and leaving things better. Personally, I absolutely can do that every day in my job with Trane. It is why I love my job -because I can’t wait to what tomorrow brings and how I can make an impact. So, my philosophy is to always leave things better than how you found them and make an impact.

Q. If there's one service, every customer should be thinking about right now, what is it and why?
A. I have to go with improved indoor air quality when it comes to the one service every customer should be thinking about right now. The pandemic brought it to light. I think it made so many people aware of the air we breathe and how important it is to be comfortable in a space. While I don't know if I would call it a service, the heart of what we do is to make people comfortable in their spaces.



Trane is a strategic business of Trane Technologies, a global climate innovator. Trane Technologies brings bold thinking to our customers to advance the conversation on sustainability and achieve more through sustainable climate solutions for buildings, homes, and transportation. We're leading the way to a better future, and we boldly go.

Kasey Boxleitner

About the author
Kathy Cox, Account Manager

Kathy Cox a Senior Comprehensive Energy Solutions Account Manager for Trane has 27 years of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning industry experience and has spent the last 10 years working for Trane. Kathy and her experienced team serve customers throughout Virginia and Tennessee.  Trane recently recognized Kathy with three awards: the Southern Atlantic Region Champion Award Winner for Innovation for Trane Customers; the Top Salesperson for 2021 award for Comprehensive Solutions in North America; and the 2021 Sales Associate of the Year for her region as voted by her peers. Kathy is a graduate of Emory & Henry College with a Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Arts degree in Management/Economics. She resides in Virginia, has two adult children, McCloud and Callee Frances, and has a very special chiweenie-breed dog named Rocket.