More than 20 years ago a group of building tradesmen and weatherization program professionals had a vision for independent, third party verification of worker skills in the weatherization industry. The Building Performance Institute was born from this vision, and, together with scores of pioneering true believers volunteering hundreds of hours of their time, BPI has developed the standards and credentials that set the bar for quality in home performance contracting.
In 1993 BPI was founded to create the industry's first ever Building Performance Field Manual, as a project under New York's NYSTAR program. Within two years BPI had established a "test house" in Glen Falls, New York, to test candidates' skills and training in a real life setting. In 1996 BPI officially incorporated and issued its first certifications for Weatherization Assistance Program auditors and installation personnel. Ever since, BPI has played a pivotal role in the advancement of the weatherization and home performance industry, setting the standards not only for the diagnosis and installation of energy efficiency measures, but for the health and safety protocols critical to house-as-a-system retrofit work.
BPI's 20th anniversary this year is an extraordinary milestone. Today, BPI certified professionals hold over 42,000 active certifications working in all 50 states, U.S. territories and seven foreign countries. Nearly 600 BPI accredited contracting companies perform work according to BPI's third party Quality Assurance Program. And more than 150 energy efficiency programs nationwide specify BPI credentials to ensure quality.
These achievements are possible due to the heroic efforts of so many impassioned contractors, trainers, program managers and others, whose dedication and perseverance has made it possible to accomplish what could only have been described as a dream in the early 90s.
BPI Launches Building Science Principles Certificate for Home Performance and Energy Upgrade Industry
BPI launched its eagerly anticipated Building Science Principles (BSP) Certificate of Knowledge and companion Reference Guide this month, responding to strong demand for a method of verifying basic building science knowledge in the home performance and energy efficiency retrofit fields.
"The BSP certificate is a first step into the world of home performance," said Larry Zarker, BPI CEO. "It's for those in the residential building trades and anyone interested in a career in sustainability, who need to know how homes work but don't need the hands-on technical skills required of BPI certified professionals."
Earning the BSP certificate is based on passing a 100-question online exam that verifies a basic knowledge of building science. The BSP certificate's companion Reference Guide helps prepare candidates to understand how various systems of the home interact to maximize energy efficiency, enhance building durability, and protect occupant comfort, health and safety. The Reference Guide can be used alone or as a complement to online or classroom training, should candidates require it.
Because the BSP is a knowledge-based exam, it requires no hands on field testing with diagnostic equipment. For those considering a career in home performance contracting, it serves as an introduction to BPI's technical certifications. The BSP certificate is not a BPI professional certification, and certificate holders are not 'BPI certified'.
BPI certified professionals will earn three Continuing Education Units (CEUs) by taking this exam and achieving a passing score.
For more information on the certificate, to purchase the Reference Guide or to register to take the exam, go to www.bpi.org/certificate.
BPI Issues Open Call for Volunteers to Serve on its Whole House HVAC Quality Maintenance Certification Scheme Committee
BPI seeks volunteers to serve on a scheme committee for its Whole House HVAC Quality Maintenance certification program. All committee members will earn up to 12 BPI CEUs for their participation on the scheme committee. The committee will prepare a certification scheme that will guide the development of test questions for the Whole House HVAC Quality Maintenance Certification.
This certification is designed to ensure that a candidate involved in an HVAC clean and tune or a whole house energy retrofit has successfully demonstrated the minimum tasks to be performed for identifying energy, health and safety, and durability issues in the home. This includes inspecting, testing, and measuring electrical components, controls, mechanical, venting, air distribution, and piping systems of residential HVAC systems in accordance with the Air Conditioning Contractors of America ANSI/ACCA Standard 4: Maintenance of Residential HVAC Systems.
Click here for complete information on this certification scheme committee.
Click here to fill out the Application for Membership for the Certification Scheme Committee for Whole House HVAC Quality Maintenance. Please submit this form no later than February 15, 2013 COB.
Tell Your Customers: Consumer Tax Credit Extended
We know home performance can be a tough sell. But thanks to Congress' last-minute deal to avert the "fiscal cliff," a $500 tax credit for your customers will make it just a bit easier for you to make your own deal. Take a moment to educate your customers on the importance of these upgrades, and the limited time in which they have to redeem the tax credit. This is an opportunity for you to grow your relationship with your customers, and for your customers to save money on improvements that will make their homes safer and more comfortable places to live.
The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 passed by Congress on January 3, 2013, provides extensions of energy tax credit provisions that benefit homeowners seeking energy-efficiency improvements. Under section 25C, homeowners can claim a $500 maximum tax credit to cover material costs of energy-efficient upgrades to existing homes for all taxable years. The credit is only redeemable if the upgrades are in place by the end of 2013.
The legislation also reinstates and extends the business tax credit of up to $2,000 for contractors that construct or significantly renovate homes and other "dwelling units" that meet certain energy-efficiency standards.
Click here for more information.
For an overview of these and other credits, visit http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=US43F.
Resurgence in remodeling
Homeowner spending on residential remodeling will achieve double digit growth in 2013, and could reach $300 billion by the end of the year according to the Center’s recently released report entitled U.S. Housing Stock: Ready for Renewal.
A nudge for weatherization
We reported last month on efforts to shore up the beleaguered federal Weatherization Assistance Program, which faces severe funding cutbacks. In one inadvertent benefit of the fiscal cliff negotiations, the final agreement temporarily spares WAP and other programs by delaying $110 billion in automatic cuts that were scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
In more promising news, lawmakers are lining up in support of the program. In November, 37 senators signed a letter to President Obama calling for no less than $210 million for WAP in fy 2014, according to Advocates for the Other America. As recently as last week, legislators including New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand continue to press this cause independently. Current 2014 funding proposals range from $55 million to $145 million.
The president is expected to submit his 2014 budget in March, later than usual because of the uncertain fiscal climate.
Beyond savings, let's talk health
Home-performance contractors have long known that energy retrofits can improve indoor air quality and prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, among other health and safety benefits. The general public is beginning to understand this also. In a study reported on SmartPlanet, the low-income residents of 31 homes that had been weatherized and received appliance upgrades reduced their emergency-room visits by 67 percent.
The pilot project, a joint effort of WegoWise, a startup that analyzes utility data and a nonprofit called the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, focused on homes that had been identified as being in the greatest need of health and energy upgrades. Cases of acute asthma fell dramatically in these homes, the article reports.
- 5 New Years Marketing Resolutions for Home Energy Pros (Energy Circle Pro)
- Making Healthier, Greener Foam Insulation (Green Building Advisor)
- The 7 Biggest Mistakes That HVAC Contractors Make (Energy Vanguard)
- As Green Codes Press Forward, Existing Housing Pulls Back (ecohome magazine)
- Home Non-Energy: Preparing Homes for Future Blackouts (Home energy magazine)
As we enter the new year, the most valuable enterprise in the world is Apple Computer. That's right. The company of must-have computers, phones and gadgets is worth more than long time stalwarts like Exxon Mobil, General Electric and IBM. Apple's success, in my view, holds many lessons for the home performance industry.
Why? Because home performance is to Apple as standard building practices are to the generic PC industry. We, the adherents to the whole house, high quality approach to assessing and managing the performance of homes, are Apple. The standard, old school, business-as-usual approach to building and renovating homes is the rest of the computer industry.
The story of Apple's triumphant approach to hardware design over the grey boxes of Microsoft and Compaq has many parallels to the current state of the home performance concept.
Stay with me. It holds together.
For years, Apple toiled in the backwaters of small niches of the computer industry, with tiny market share. The massive growth of personal computers took place in the early 90's, and in those days Compaq, Dell and Gateway dominated the market. Doesn't that feel exactly analogous to the birth of the home performance concept in the 80's? We were building slowly, tuning our approach and methodologies, mainstreaming the whole house concept through BPI standards. Yet, relative to the impact of the massive housing boom that took place during those years, home performance remains what Apple was back then--an interesting niche with loyal, passionate fans but toiling in relative obscurity compared to the housing market as a whole.
But then, of course, the you-know-what hit the fan. "Veal grey" plastic computer boxes, as Tom Wolfe called them, became commodities and big clumsy companies built too many of them. They raced each other to the bottom to win on price, and in doing so, neglected quality, design, customer experience, and value. In computers, we overbuilt a pile of commoditized crap and today those companies are a wreck. Compaq, bought by HP for $25 billion less than 10 years ago, is now a distant memory.
Any part of that sound like what's happened in housing? Low quality boxes? Overbuilding? Race to the bottom pricing? Uh huh.
For computers, Steve Jobs held to a vision of something better. Brilliantly, he was able to foresee just how intimate our relationship with our digital devices would become. While Bill Gates dismissed hardware as unimportant, Jobs drove exacting standards for design, usability, beauty, function, quality, and excellence.
Doesn't it make equal sense that in the new economic world of today that our relationship with the biggest asset in most of our lives will become equally intimate? When our homes are no longer 3 year way stations on the road to real estate uber wealth, won't all of us focus inwardly? I know my family is.
And when that happens, the quality of that experience becomes paramount. Just as Jobs obsessed over 2 pixels of spacing on the placement of a button, we home performance people should (and do) obsess over the fine details that translate to comfort, health, safety, quality, durability, and efficiency. Did Apple justify one particular feature on whether it, in isolation, produced a positive return on investment? No. Apple products won, and are great, because in aggregate they work so well. Every detail of the device and how it works makes it spectacular.
None of us who now own multiple iPods, iPads and Macs knew we needed them, just as so few homeowners know they need home performance.
Let's not forget that Apple's trajectory had some rough spots. Before the second coming of Steve Jobs, the company lost its way. I'm sure many home performance elders will equate this to the drought years between oil price shocks. But I would argue that the home performance industry is in the place Apple was before its resurgence.
As long as we stay the course, hold to quality standards in our work that Steve Jobs would approve of, and resist the tendency to mope about the current state of our market penetration, we will get there. Just as the first iPods were a tipping point for Apple, ours is on the horizon.
Congratulations to Bob Frechette, Owner of HeatMizer Home Energy Audits in Sanford, Maine for unlocking the secret to last month's stump the chump.
Last month, Rick Anzalone of Town Insulation in Sanborn, NY told us about a frustrated homeowner who was dealing with two basic problems: sweating in the attic and temperature inconsistencies in a second-floor living room. The homeowner, whom we affectionately dubbed "Harry," knew that such issues could cause him major financial, health, and safety burdens in the long run – so he took action and consulted Rick, who solved the problem.
Bob explains that "a lack of continuous air barrier and a minimal amount of air-permeable insulation, in addition to inadequate attic ventilation led to the issues in the home." He also determines that "the attic hatch is the main cause of the flaws in the home's performance." Rick adds that "the location of the attic hatch in the middle of the second-floor room caused a stack effect, pushing and pulling air into and out of the attic – causing inconsistencies in room temperatures."
Bob also adds that the two problems are related, and the issues Harry was having are addressed in the 2012 IECC. (For all of you code wonks, Rick says the issue exemplifies the building science behind the requirements set forth in the 2009 IECC in sections 402.2.3 and 402.4.1) Bob's solution is to "air seal penetrations and the attic hatch by adding cellulose to bring the attic to code." He also suggests that "a blower door test would confirm that there are no other areas of the home lacking appropriate insulation." And that's just what Rick did.
Rick installed The Energy Guardian® Attic Access Cover. He reports that it's made of very dense insulation board with an air seal gained by frictionally engaged components, meeting the insulating and durable air sealing requirements. It also provides the necessary protective baffle as the unit consists of separate frame and lid components. The easy to install pre-fab kit met all of the above requirements and solved Harry's problem.
Thanks to everyone who submitted an answer to last month's Stump the Chump!
This Month's Stumper
This month's head scratcher comes from Ken Tohinaka of the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation in Burlington, Vermont.
Ken explains that recently, the owners of adjacent condo units in a Vermont condominium association banded together to address energy performance and building maintenance issues. Their problems were evidenced by excessive snow melt and dangling icicles. The condo owners employed an experienced Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® contractor to develop a suitable work scope, and to perform a retrofit to solve the problem. The work scope consisted of extensive air sealing in the attic, in addition to adding another six inches of insulation. Both projects were completed successfully.
While it is too soon to determine the extent of the energy savings, the owners realize that they can still see excessive snow melt and icicles. Ken asks, "why is there still excessive heat loss?"