Updated 7 Nov 2023
Training in building science and energy efficiency is essential to moving the house building industry forward into high performance territory and beyond. As we observed back in this 2014 blog article (updated/combines 2 articles from 2014), many people in our industry do not see the entire value chain. It’s a complicated one – easy to see in this diagram how the home building industry is a hot, fragmented mess of experts and expertise, completely at odds with itself sometimes.
While all of the industry segments have identified their own value chain and developed ways to measure performance and quality, they are also focused on their own sales funnels, and so don’t sit back and ponder the big picture value chain, looking for ways to measure performance and quality at each layer of each segment.
We’ve been talking about training needs in this area with a wide variety of organizations, many of whom have pointed to trades programs in colleges and said ‘it’s already already being done’. And it’s true. A wide range of trades programs cover building science in the curriculum, and some have more emphasis on energy efficiency measures than others. But only a small fraction of people working on building sites, in lending institutions, or for product manufacturers will go through a trades program. Training needs vary with the role that a person plays in the value chain.
The first challenge is identifying what those training needs are, and how best to deliver the right amount of training for each set of players to establish core competencies. When we look at what training/support is needed for each level, we begin to see how we can start to develop a competent workforce.
However, it doesn’t end at training. Competencies don’t stand on their own - they are part of a culture of competence that requires management support, on-the-job support, workforce readiness, as well as tool and material availability.
How do we draw up guidelines for identifying core competencies in home performance/energy efficiency/building science/green building across the many segments and sectors of the home construction and renovation industry?
Each segment or arm of the whole diagram above has it’s own list of core competencies, revolving around clusters of skillsets that could be broken out into top level categories such as Leadership, Teamwork, Change Management, Performance, Communications, Problem Solving, Technical Expertise.
There are broad divisions in terms of technical and non-technical segments. Drilling down further, within any organization, those divisions travel down through job groups and to individuals within any organization. In each case, all players have a pertinent role to play in improving the industry capacity to build, renovate, buy, sell, insure, appraise, finance the houses that will be standing and in use over the next 50, 100, 150 years.
That’s a long time…and really, once a house is built, changing it becomes an exercise in 3-dimensional haiku: there is a limited structure to work within, change and innovation are possible, but the bones are there and that’s what you’ve got to work with.
Technical training in building science and energy efficiency is there (in basic to advanced formats) for those who are in college and trades programs, or in associations or licensing programs that require skills upgrading or continuing education. But it’s missing for large swaths of site workers, who are, in many areas, the people who carry out air sealing and/or insulation work.
Non-technical training is missing in many segments, and massive gaps have been identified even within organizations that sell products, equipment and even energy efficient housing – internal sales, customer support, marketing are three critical areas where an understanding of building science is missing.
Who needs what delivered when?
We talk about the whole house approach. We certainly need a whole business approach when it comes to capacity building. And beyond that, we need a whole industry approach, where communications, goals, and targets are agreed upon. (Cue the discussion of Integrated Design Process, or IDP)