Meet Toby Smith - Energy Advisor and Trainer

Meet Toby Smith - Energy Advisor and Trainer

Shawna HendersonSeptember 28, 2022

A summary of conversation between BHE’s Program Coordinator Carla Harder (CH) and Introduction to HOT2000 Modelling instructor, Toby Smith (TS) from Building Knowledge Canada. You can watch or read through our conversation with Toby.



CH: Toby, it's nice to chat with you again! What you were doing before you became an EA, think way back…

TS: Straight out of university, my first job, I was employed with a service organization, doing technical stuff - spreadsheets and stuff like that. In university, I studied biological engineering. I realized I was not that interested in it during second year, when my mind was opened to ideas about the planet and environmentalism. I was halfway through my degree, so I finished it off. And it really did get me my first job, because he basically said, you have no experience, but you have an engineering degree. So we know you can learn, and you can probably handle some technical stuff.

CH: That's really interesting, because whenever I get inquiries, people who have engineering backgrounds, I think, ‘Oh, this one will probably go the distance’. There’s a lot of applied learning in the EA world. Is that something that attracted you?

TS: Yeah, that applied part of it really enticed me, for sure.

CH: When did you actually get into training others? 

TS: The service organization wanted me to do the EA training so I could understand the software and the procedures, and they needed a trainer. There were other EAs who were much more experienced, but they weren’t interested. So I said, ‘Sure, I'll do it’. I wasn't in the field that much until later, when I started my own business. But it was one of those lessons, you know, when an opportunity presents itself? Go for it. 

CH: What do you think makes a good trainer in this field?

TS: A couple things come to mind, patience, and understanding different learning styles. Having a really good, fundamental background. When I first started as a trainer, I was still kind of new to the industry and had to build a good baseline knowledge level so that I could feel confident answering people's questions. Still, sometimes you can't answer every question!

CH: What sparks you the most about doing training?

TS: There's a lot to learn to become an energy adviser. You start to understand what's inside that wall, and what is that insulation doing? And what is the drywall or the vapor barrier doing? You start to look at the world a little differently. By spreading the knowledge, if someone else will go off and help people reduce their energy consumption, that's what it's all about.

CH: What do you think is the impact of having either an instructor or a mentor who can help you through HOT2000?

TS: It's really critical and beneficial. It's nice to be part of a company or a service organization that has experienced people that can help you. Sometimes being an energy advisor can get a bit isolating. I had a couple great mentors who helped me along the way. I'm a big fan of the energy advisor organization, CACEA, to bring energy advisors together. I'm on the Education Committee. We develop training materials and help support monthly webinars.

CH: Have you done HOT2000 training in house for Building Knowledge Canada?

TS: When we're bringing on new employees, we might do a couple hours during our meetings or get them started on a project. But every Wednesday morning, we have team training. Sometimes it's just for the internal office. Other times, it's for the whole group: the field techs, the field staff, administration, everybody.

CH: What do you think is the benefit of having classes of 5 to 10 people to introduce HOT2000?

TS: HOT2000 is a very detailed program, there are a lot of inputs, and it doesn't have the greatest interface.. Having a large group makes it difficult for me as the trainer to answer everybody's questions. People need more time to understand why is this and why is that? Having a small group gives everybody a chance to speak their mind. When you're in a big group, some people feel they don't feel they have time to ask their question, or they think it's a stupid question. It helps having a smaller group, for sure.

CH: What do you think about blended learning for HOT2000?

TS:I think it's great, because some people can learn from reading a manual. Other people want to see videos, but the real learning comes from actually trying it out, asking questions, and getting that live instruction.

CH: Where do you think a keen EA candidate can go with the EA career? 

TS: Once you work for a little bit as an energy advisor, you can start your own business. A lot of service organizations are hiring energy advisors. You could be an ENERGY STAR energy advisor, you could be a net zero energy advisor for CHBA’s program. There's multifamily or multi use residential buildings.You could be working on Passivhaus projects, as well. A lot of this translates into commercial applications.

CH: So are you excited about the instructor opportunity with Blue House Energy?

TS: I am, I always enjoy it. I'm excited to get out training some new eager people.

Introduction to HOT2000

Interested in finding out more? Contact us and our program coordinator, Carla, will give you a call.

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