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October 7, 2019
There are as many paths to becoming an energy advisor as there are Energy Advisors (EAs) out there. There are also as many paths to becoming an energy efficiency renovator as there are…
That’s true, but it doesn’t mean that any path will do, and many paths are full of obstacles and work-arounds. In the residential construction and renovation industry, we are stalled out in a place where we don’t have adequate building science training and best practices for energy efficiency upgrades. We don’t have clearly recognizable training paths for those who are doing the work, overseeing the work, specifying the work. Not only that, but we don’t have enough people in place in any sector of the industry. Code changes that require blower door tests and/or energy modelling are in place already, and more changes will be instituted with upcoming code cycles.
We need more EAs to carry out performance testing and energy modelling for houses. We need a professionalization of that role, so that EAs can guide homebuilders and renovators to cost-effective, code-compliant, high performance building envelope packages, and the results of those packages are trusted by building officials.
We need Building Officials with a deeper understanding of building science. The Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) needs to know, for example, how each of these typical high-performance/Net Zero wall assemblies is compliant:
Split Insulated Wall: Vapour-Permeable exterior, Airtight Sheathing Membrane
Split Insulated Wall: Low-Perm Exterior Insulation
Split Insulated Wall: Low-Perm Exterior Insulation, Airtight Sheathing Membrane
Interior Insulated Double Stud Wall: Int + Ext Air Barrier, Optional service wall
Likewise, we need builders who understand the “why” behind what they are being required to build under these new codes, because a checklist of prescriptive measures is not going to be the way of the future. We’ll be focussed on performance-based compliance. We need site crews that understand the crucial role their work plays in making a safe, healthy high-performance house.
The train is leaving the station!
All of this takes training.
For some people, the training will be a full-on college program and path to Red Seal accreditation or other certification. For others, the training will be a series of online training courses, workshops or on-the-the-job demonstrations, or a combination of all three. And in between, there’s going to be a mix of Instructor Led Training (ILT) and online, blended learning and, in the near future, augmented reality (AR).
The thing is: we need to be doing this NOW, in anticipation of code changes. Step Energy Codes, like the one in BC, are being investigated by other Code officials, and this is our best opportunity to get ahead of a sea-change in our industry.
We’re not just looking down the barrel of a trade shortage. It’s already here - there are simply not enough bodies engaged in the trades to cover all the work. This puts our industry in a double bind - nobody can take time to get training, because they are run off their feet with demand for work. We’re losing seasoned, experienced building officials to retirement.
There’s a lot to accomplish in a short time. The National Building Code will require Net Zero-ready construction by 2030. And a Renovation Energy Code is slated for 2023.
Solutions Needed - We’re Supplying!
While there’s a lot of focus on college-level programming, Blue House Energy is keenly aware of all those who work in the industry already, who have finished their school-level education, or who have on-the-job training and experience instead of a college-based education. Not everyone needs that level of education to be successful in their role. But what they do need is continuing education opportunities to keep up with code changes. At Blue House Energy, we’re working hard to find ways to make quality training with a good fit for busy schedules, and offers enough background for differing roles and responsibilities.
We’re offering a different approach, blending the convenience of online learning practices with the benefits of instructor-led training.
We’re taking advantage of the benefits of online training to supply the technical background information.
We’re making sure there’s hands-on/face-to-face time with an expert so that theory can be put into practice.
For example, our Energy Advisor training is not a 3 or 5 day crash course. It’s a 6 to 10 week long program where you get time with a mentor every week. There are realistic milestones for completing different sections, lots of quizzes and practice exam questions, four practice files for energy modelling (two new houses and two existing houses), and there’s two days of field training with your mentor (a day of site visits and blower door testing, and a day of energy modelling and file submission/QA work). From an adult education perspective, this is how we learn best: with gaps, with repetition, with life experience, with mentoring.
The mentoring role allows those with experience to shine, and it helps to create stronger connections between people.
And, here’s the coolest thing: we can use this model for any training opportunity, from a full-on program like Energy Advisor training to a best practices update for wall assemblies to a specific installation standard, like CSA 440 (Windows).
We have a solution and we’re not afraid to use it!