After reading many reports and white papers on energy efficiency and the housing industry in North America, I am continuously stunned at how many times references to need for comprehensive trades training in energy efficiency comes up, yet there is little more indicated than it should be considered.
Reducing energy usage at the building envelope is the KEY to energy security and a sustainable future. Increasing industry capacity is KEY to making sure that it happens, and that it is done correctly.
More attention is paid to lightbulb change out programs (I understand: low-hanging fruit, easy to quantify savings under 'total resource cost' programs). But there's more to the world than an unbalanced equation of all resource costs vs. energy savings. I love the One Knob Program. Nate Adams and Ted Kidd are challenging some very big issues in the home performance industry in the US: measured performance and contractor training and how to make it better.
There is more action-oriented stuff happening for the trades state-side for sure, with the more mature national weatherization industry driving the need for improvements. Canada is relying on top-down, builder-centric training, mainly focussed on new construction (like R-2000, Energy Star for New Houses, and BuiltGreen).
Tradespeople -- especially those who carry out the insulation and air sealing work -- are left dangling in the wind. Subcontractors can't afford to take time off work to get training, if it's even available to them. Builders can't afford to take their in-house or hired crews offsite and pay for registration, accommodation, travel.
But who gets left holding the bag when there's a callback or warranty claim due to a damaged air barrier or inadequate insulation?
It's sure as heck not the drywaller or electrician who slashed the air barrier to do their job. And it's not the designer whose complex roofline leads to inadequate insulation at the junctions of all that framing.
It's the insulator or the air sealing contractor. Who might have actually done their job properly in the first place, or not. And many of those guys and gals are real and valid experts in their fields. Many are not, and are just in it for the short-term job. It's grubby, nasty, hot and itchy work. Who can blame them?
The thing is, these are the folks upon whom the whole high-performance/Net Zero Energy builders and the next generation of homeowners are relying for great results. And we have no way to confirm or qualify their knowledge and skillsets.
This. Is. A. Problem.
Right now, we're fending off disaster. Net Zero Energy can't scale - and shouldn't scale - if there's no corresponding way for insulators and air sealing contractors to level up. We're building an industry without capacity.
After 25 years in this industry, I'm really bored with the same issues.
Dontcha think it's time to get some proper certification and training in place?
This blog article first appeared on Shawna's Bfreehomes blog in April 2016. Please reblog as you want!
Keeping track of what's going on in the world of low-impact, sustainable housing is, and was, a challenge. It's something that our CEO, Shawna Henderson, has been passionate about since the early 1990s. We did a study for CMHC back in the early 00's looking for great examples for a series of case studies that required collecting a ton of info on many projects. CMHC published only 3 of 24 case studies, but we had hundreds of submissions to a survey that we sent out to over 7,000 design professionals in 2004 and 2005.
We chose the term 'low impact housing' to describe the database because we were looking at the gamut of housing projects affiliated with so many different programs and standards:
The common theme is that the programs, and the projects themselves, went far beyond being energy efficient. They all address a broad range of concerns about environmental impacts throughout the lifecycle of a house – from site selection through design and materials choices, construction, operation, maintenance and demolition.
We have a small section on sustainability in our Construction Technology course, with plans to expand the section into a multi-module course that would look at energy efficiency, resource efficiency and environmental responsibility throughout the lifecycle of a building.
Info about donations, contacting evacuees, check in on FB, etc. #ymm fire
I cut & pasted this from a Greenpeace email. Helpful Info.
Donate: The Red Cross has set up an emergency ‘Alberta Fires’ appeal. Click here to donate. Supplies: Here’s a crowdsourced Facebook page to connect Fort McMurray residents needing items with volunteers providing them. People in Edmonton can drop off donations at Edmonton Emergency Services (10255 104 street). Biggest donation needs are diapers, baby wipes, NEW toiletries (such as soap, shampoo, tampons, toothpaste etc.) and NEW socks and underwear. Volunteer: Those interested in volunteering through the regional municipality can apply here. Those in Edmonton are asked to volunteer with Edmonton Emergency Services - Please call 780-428-4422. To help keep track of evacuees and where they are located, anyone forced from their homes is asked to email email@example.com with their name, location and confirmation they are safe.
If you need more information:
If you’re trying to find a loved one or need evacuation information, you can call the regional municipality at 780-762-3636 or the Red Cross at 1-888-350-6070. Facebook has also activated its safety-check feature for the Fort McMurray fire, an option for those who want to reassure their family and friends that they’re okay. If you need a place to stay: Northlands Expo Centre (7515 118 Ave., 780-471-7210) has housing for up to 1,300 evacuees at this point. Many Alberta businesses are offering many different kinds of support. Check here for on-going details. On social media follow #ymmhelp to offer or ask for help. Families and communities are being devastated by this tragedy. Our thoughts are with all of them and we hope you as a supporter can do whatever you can to help.
Shawna wrote about the value of continuing education. The article was featured in Tarion's latest 'Breaking Ground newsletter. Posted here for all to read!
Competency training and continuing education/professional development are the things that fulfill Blue House Energy's mission to help build industry capacity. Gaps in training and knowledge have been identified for years. And while some parts of the industry are hep to building science and house-as-a-system, the bulk of the players who make up the value chain invested in the homebuilding industry are not.
Many other industries don't blink an eye at competency training, licensing and continuing education -- think about it: hairdressers are required to be licensed, but air sealers and insulators are not.
Rick notes that there are some changes and improvements -- most sound positive, clarification and simplification of procedures and protocols. There's a nice set of definitions to take the guesswork out of your day.
Also a recommendation to take the standard with you in your toolkit. When I was doing blower door tests as my main gig, I had the Canadian version of this with me. Helpful for those goofy challenges.
If you are a new builder/vendor who registered with Tarion after September 2015, your registration renewal is based on proving you have completed competency training in 7 areas. If you haven't started on this educational process, your time is running out! The competencies must be achieved by their annual renewal date.
For anyone contemplating becoming a new builder/vendor, you need to know that, as of September 1, 2016, achieving these competencies will be a pre-requisite for registration. The educational requirements are based on the Canadian Home Builders’ Association’s National Education Benchmarks for residential construction.
If you are required to prove the competencies, here are Tarion's recognized training providers:
There are limited times and seats for OHBA and BuildABILITY courses, so check out their schedules today so you can get registered. TrainingOntario offers on-demand online training that fits into your schedule, with an in-person exam hosted by Algonquin College that you can schedule at several locations.
All of the courses offered will take you between 3 and 5 days of time/effort to complete, whether you're in class or learning on line. If you are required to complete all seven educational competencies, that adds up to 21 to 35 days!!!
Builders need to be good on the tools. But they also need to know about construction technology and building science, building codes, have a certain level of business savvy, know about project management, the legal issues that affect their business, and they also need to cultivate mad customer service skillz.
Training Ontario offers a suite of 7 courses that cover all of these areas. Blue House Energy and PHBI provide the content for these courses, which qualify for Tarion's competency training requirements, and Algonquin College provides the assessment (final exam).
As of October 2015, the HPO beefed up the licensing process for builders. New applicants must meet certain competency requirements and existing builders will have to hit a level of continuing professional development (CPD) credits to maintain their good standing. The new requirements are being phased in over a 15 month period.
CHBA has created a Net Zero Energy (NZE) label for builders and renovators who are stepping up their game to NZE levels.
To make it happen, you need training, right? But training costs $$ to develop and deliver. So 3 of the CHBA NZE Housing Council sponsor members (Owens Corning, Dettson and Jeld-Wen) provided funding for the delivery of a number one-day NZE Builder Training sessions.
The CHBA NZE Builder Training is mandatory for participation in the CHBA NZE Labelling Program and can only be delivered through the CHBA NZE Qualified Service Organizations by CHBA NZE Qualified Trainers. Builders must also complete NRCan R-2000 Builder Training.
So here's the schedule:
Vancouver, April 5 Kelowna, April 8 Toronto, April 12 Fredericton, April 18 Halifax, April 22
For those that need it, R2000 training is provided the day before the NZE training.
Job Task Analysis can be a formidable challenge. It’s about breaking down a job into tasks and then analyzing them. How do you best say what a job does? There needs to be method, or it ends up in madness.
Here’s a simplified version of the process for ‘just in time’ or ‘on the job’ training
One of the best ways to methodically say what the job does is to use a process called Job Task Analysis (JTA). Job Task Analysis (JTA) is not only used to create a training program, but it is also used to create accurate and valid job descriptions. Because JTA defines the required knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) for job performance, it is often the basis of a checklist of mandatory demonstrated requirements for recruiting.
Competency-based training is learner‑focused, and lends itself to independent study, allowing learners to study at their own pace, reviewing or practising challenging learning outcomes as they need, and moving quickly through the competencies in which they are more adept. In an earlier post, the four levels of complexity were outlined. These levels measure the student’s depth of knowledge.
Competency-Based Training is a way to teach concrete skills. Every individual skill or learning outcome (the competency), while part of a larger educational or training goal, is a single learning unit, to be worked on one at a time. The level of competency is determined by the organization requiring the training, and the learner is evaluated on each competency. Learning modules can be skipped if the learner can prove -- through prior learning assessment (PLAR) or challenging a test -- that they have already mastered the competency level required.
Competency-based training is learner‑focused, and lends itself to independent study, allowing learners to study at their own pace, reviewing or practising challenging learning outcomes as they need, and moving quickly through the competencies in which they are more adept.
As competency-based training requires mastery of each learning outcome or skill, it is well suited to business and corporate training, where many skills and abilities need to be assessed separately. Most other learning methods use ‘summative’ testing – meaning that a student who has 80% in an evaluation that covers many subjects may have an 80% mastery of all learning outcomes or may have no mastery at all of 20% of the learning outcomes. Summative testing allows the student to move on to higher learning while missing some abilities that will be crucial to that higher learning.
‘Mastery’ of a competency depends on the depth of knowledge required of the learner. In the model followed by Blue House Energy and PHBI for the trainingOntario program developed for Tarion, the depth of knowledge is broken out into four distinct levels:
Level 1: Recall/Reproduction
The learner can recall a fact, information or procedure, process information on a basic level. (Key terms = know/remember, comprehend/understand)
Level 2: Skill/Concept
The learner can use information or conceptual knowledge to execute and implement procedures to complete a task. (Key terms = apply)
Level 3: Strategic Thinking
The learner can use reasoning to develop a plan or sequence of steps with some complexity. (Key terms = analyze, evaluate)
Level 4: Extended Thinking
The learner can investigate, think through and process multiple conditions of the problem. (Key terms: synthesize, evaluate)
Meet trainingOntario: a recognized provider of training for Tarion, Ontario’s New Home Warranty administrator.
trainingOntario is a collaboration between Blue House Energy, and the Professional Home Builders Institute (PHBI). We have pooled our expertise and know-how to deliver a full suite of on-demand courses for Tarion registrants.
As of September 2015, Tarion registrants -- anyone who wants to build or sell a new house in Ontario -- must complete a series of educational competencies. The goal is to improve the industry capacity (Yay! Our favourite thing!) and in doing so, reduce Warranty claims.
Blue House Energy and PHBI were recognized by Tarion separately as eligible training providers, but we realized quickly that by working together and pooling our subject matter experts, educational design expertise and online learning smarts, we could create a fantastic package that includes online training in all of Tarion's mandatory competencies. So that's what we've done.
The Suite of Courses for Builders
The Suite of Courses for Vendors
Legal Issues in Housing
Legal Issues in Housing
Like all of our training, the courses in the trainingOntario suite are easy to access and fit into a busy schedule.
Once a course is complete, a proctored assessment (final exam) is booked through Algonquin College at one of their testing locations throughout the province.
Here's an article that was just published in Home Energy Magazine (July/August 2015). To read the whole article, you must have an online subscription. It's about a very cool project that our colleagues Jennifer Corson and Keith Robertson at Solterre Design designed and built to test drive a range of assemblies, design principles and mechanical system options for very low-energy, off-grid housing in Lunenburg County. The LEED Platinum, Passive House certified final product is a success on all fronts. Check out Solterre's impressive body of work.
Jennifer and Keith (and their two kids) also just returned from a 3-month stay in Ghana, where they worked on a rammed earth library. Very cool story, and very cool people. Here's a local news story about their Ghana adventures.
Spring Training won this year. Last year, I went to ACI National in Detroit (I know, I know, Detroit yes, NOLA no?). This year, I went to Spring Training with the Canadian Building Science crew outside Huntsville, ON (I know, I know rural Ontario vs. NOLA in Spring? What?). The fact of the matter being I have not had chance to connect with my people for years. And there we were, 120 of the most intense B.S. wonks, nerds, and geeks. Hosted by Tex McLeod, Gord Cooke, and John Straube, with pithy interjections from Oliver Drerup, the mainly Ontario crowd was infiltrated by a small East Coast contingent, as well as some folks from the West. It was a great two and a half days, jammed with good sessions and no opportunity to get away from the crowd. The first day's sessions were focussed on Net Zero Energy homes, with Sam Rashkin doing the honours as keynote speaker, and a panel of builders from across the country talking about their experience in building and selling NZE homes. Second day's sessions were all about tall wood buildings -- not so much relevance to what we do at BHE or through Bfreehomes, but still interesting and definitely cutting edge stuff. I mean, 10 and 18 storey wood structures? Come on -- that's impressive.
Gail Lawlor (Energy Matters) and I did a quick presentation on BPI Canada -- a site-based quality assurance program that we are aiming to launch after several years of it being a Good Idea. More on that project and the Spring Training Sessions in upcoming articles.
Still, I'll be missing all my US cronies and pals who ramp up ACI -- or HPC as it is now known -- in NOLA today.
Shout out to the Zymurgologists on both sides of the border.
There's a lot of times when face-to-face training is the only thing that will do. Especially in the home performance industry: hands-on is the only way you can really learn to identify and diagnose energy-sucking and moisture-growing situations in a house. But to understand what you need to identify and diagnose, you need to have a good grasp of background concepts and physics, and how they impact the performance of the house.
Everything that happens in a house is caused by things you can't see and you can't hold: heat flow, air flow, moisture flow, neutral pressure plane. It can be a challenge to teach these concepts, especially to folks who are hands-on learners. Which, not surprisingly, is a high percentage of people who work with their hands.
Blended learning has been a staple of this industry's training: classroom time is mixed with field time in almost all programs. But classroom time is very expensive, to both the provider and the participant. And participants come to a course with a wide range of experience and existing understanding, not to mention differences in learning styles. Adding an online component to that blended learning package can help reduce stress in several ways.
Check out our white paper on blended learning here.
If you work in home construction and renovation, you know about energy efficiency measures. But do you really know it?
If you’re trying to figure out if you need this course or not, take a shot at answering these questions:
What happens to the neutral pressure plane when you air seal the basement headers but don’t do anything else to the house? And why should you care?
What about combustion spillage? How do you tell when it’s an issue in a house, and how do you solve it?
What's important about knowing where the dewpoint is?
If you don't know how to answer them, then you need some training.
It’s costly to take courses.
If you take a day off work, it’ll cost you.
If you register for a day-long workshop, it’ll cost you.
If you have to travel to get that training, it’ll cost you.
And face it, if you are out somewhere, you’re likely to buy lunch if it’s not supplied, and then after, maybe you and your workshop compatriots are off for a beer. It’ll cost you.
And you’ll be stuck in a classroom. All. Day.
Online training doesn’t take the place of hands-on learning. It builds on your experience so that you can do a better job.
So check BHE training out. There’s still a little pain, because we need to make some money and you need to give up some time. But it’s not so bad. Promise.
We give you the animated goods on house-as-a-system, indoor air quality and ventilation requirements, and you learn at your own pace in your sweats.
In a marathon 3 to 4 hour session or in 10 to 15 minute chunks. Totally digestible while snacking.
This is basic training for any energy efficient building program or certification, so you’ll have a good solid start on any future training you do. It's also good for continuing education units (ask us about this, some of our resellers have better regional CEU options than we do).
In the end, you pass a test (no trick questions, all multiple choice or T/F answers) and we give you a certificate of knowledge, which you can use as a proof of learning, that you understand how you’re affecting a house when you carry out air sealing work or add insulation.
And then you can treat yourself to lunch and that beer. ‘Cause you earned it, buckaroo.
We’re very excited about the interest in our Training Partner program that we launched in January 2015!
We’re now supplying online training in building science to two very different organizations: a non-profit green building certification organization in Michigan and a home performance training center in California. We’re also talking with face-to-face trainers who supply training to remote communities with no internet connection (delivered via iPad and local LAN), and several more regional trainers who want to streamline their offering. They all have very different training programs and approaches, but we’re mighty flexible.
GreenHome Institute, based in Michigan, was formerly The Alliance for Environmental Sustainability (AES). GHI’s mission is to empower people to make healthier and more sustainable choices in renovation and construction. Building Science Basics is now the starting point for the GreenHome Professional certification, which gives people a way to further distinguish themselves as a residential green building experts.
The comments from the first person through the training with GHI gave us serious permagrin:
“I have passed the Blue House Energy course, that was really cool. I think everyone should go through that training. More importantly I would like to bring my employee, that way EVERY SINGLE person in my company will be qualified.”
BHE courses, when taken through GHI, are eligible for continuing education units (CEU) from organizations including: BPI, GBCI, & AIA (HSW). NARI Green is expected soon, and we’re working on NATE credits too.
Building Performance Center Inc. (BPCi), is one of the premier training resources for the clean energy workforce in California, offering a wide range of industry certifications and credentials. The BPCi runs a full-service training, test and mentoring facility that offers a real-house environment for hands-on practice to build confidence and skills ability, gain experience in diagnostics, testing, and remediation, and prepare for examination.
This is our first partnership with a training organization that blends online, classroom, hands-on labs, and field house learning and testing. Starting in March 2015, BHE online training is the first component of BPCi’s BPI Building Analyst Training and HERS rater training, underpinning the solid classroom training provided by BPCi’s seasoned instructors, Andy Wahl and Laura Seidman.
We’re finalizing the range of CEUs that will be offered through BPCi, because California’s special that way, you know.
Having our courses as the starting point of online training for the GreenHome certification programs, and as the foundation for BPCi’s face-to-face training fulfills one of our top goals: improving the capacity of our industry by collaborating with other training organizations.