Building an Industry With No Capacity

Shawna HendersonMay 20, 20161 comment

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.

Then there's the whole value chain thing.

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?

Comments (1)

Nate Adams on May 27, 2016

We tend to see things from where we make our living. I would argue that measurement has to happen first, THEN trainers will be sought out. You are very high on my list when that happens.

Contractors don’t get paid for quality. There has to be a driver for quality, and quality needs to be recognized. Until then best liar wins. I want to make it a drag race for pink slips. Let’s compete and show who does the best job. THEN we can build an industry.

Thanks for the shout out, BTW.

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