Sign up for our enewsletter
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) As the country waited to see if the federal government would shut down last week, one Magic Valley nonprofit director watched as well. After all Ken Robinette’s ticket to D.C. wasn’t refundable.
When an extension was penned, that confirmed one thing for Robinette, he would get a chance to tell members of congress about his programs.
Rep. Mike Simpson invited Robinette to talk about the Weatherization Assistance Program, or WAP, to the House Energy and Water Subcommittee. Simpson chairs the committee.
By Jeffrey Granger
After the madcap years of ARRA training, New Mexico EnergySmart Academy (NMESA), like many other training entities, has settled in and been able to spend some time refining our trainings to truly fit the needs of our network, as well as provide the required Tier One IREC accredited trainings.
While we do live in a beautiful part of our country (breathless, high-elevation headaches for some, not-withstanding), travel, room & board, and time away from the office is not always an ideal mix for success (or production!).
Enter hybrid approaches. Why not combine eLearning and webinars with in-person training? Our Director pushed for change and oversaw curriculum development. The result? Students now had a self-paced, eLearning environment with a weekly webinar run by the course instructor. The ability to knowledge test on-line and the option to include student assignment submittals – written & videos – was followed by a much shorter stay in Santa Fe with much more available time for hands-on field based learning.
We made it to the mountain top. Time to sit back, have some New Mexico green (or red) chile, and wait for the phone to ring, right? Well, it did and fortunately, still does.
But, what’s next?
Road trips for the NMESA instructors to bring new, focused training to our customers.
One of the newest classes, Materials & Documentation, is focused on two main questions.
The schedule allows time to discuss materials typically used by agencies and also some affordable tools or gadgets unfamiliar to them that just might assist them in the field.
The photo to the left shows a simple 2×6 prop that simulates a band joist. The ‘straw’ foam can be applied in controlled passes. Is it a better solution? Maybe or maybe not. The main point is to present another installation option to consider in the field.
Sample foam can attachments samples are given to crew leaders so they can decide if the device is a viable option or just a gimmick to be tried once and discarded.
An activity was added to this class that helps to gauge student understanding of material selection and heat loss. We purchased the Insul-learner™ from EnergyWright.
Four cavities, three with insulation materials, all contain a thermometer. With an incandescent light bulb as the central heat source, students are asked to predict the temperature, over time, for each type of material and the air-space. Actual temperatures are recorded every 15 minutes. At some point in the discovery and data recording process, condensation can form in a cavity. The result is another opportunity discuss building science, moisture, etc. In a recent class, a graphing activity was included to help students visualize the results.
Do you ever find information missing from a client folder? Or, maybe there is a work order that somehow doesn’t quite seem to fit the assessment or audit? The cascading importance of documentation is stressed all throughout the class. A mixed group consisting of crew leaders and auditors can reveal potential communication barriers and discussion time for solutions. A win-win for the client and the agency.
Class topics can be modified to meet specific findings or issues that have been observed through agency quality control activities. Do you have blower door targets that are not being met? This class provides an opportunity to review appropriate material properties, installation techniques, and the blower door testing process.
Whenever possible, the Materials & Documentation class coincides with an audit. Opportunities exist to ‘build’ a work order for the home, with appropriate discussion of materials, quantities, and installation considerations. The importance of taking photos and documenting work is an integral part of the class, with students taking and discussing their own photos along the way.
I must say how gratifying it is to see how many students, many who are ‘graduates’ of our in-person and online classes, enjoy discussing the merits of applying what they previously have learned in class and what modifications to acceptable techniques work in the field.
The future will undoubtedly bring more challenges, opportunities, and successes. We will continue to share our lessons learned with EOW participants so all can benefit.
Now, time for some chile….
Energy OutWest employs social media to increase awareness of weatherization, home performance, energy efficiency, healthy homes, heating ventilation and air conditioning and to promote our conference. The use of social media should expand and engage EOW’s target audiences at conferences, be a valuable source for energy-related information, increase EOW membership and participation, and attract sponsors.
EOW seeks a Vendor to provide social media services from November 14, 2016 to November 30, 2021. The Vendor will be responsible for maintaining and keeping the EOW website current and for developing and issuing a quarterly EOW newsletter. At minimum, the Vendor is expected to post content every weekday through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube and other relevant social media mediums as needed. EOW estimates that the Vendor will spend on average approximately 10 hours per week to accomplish the above stated goal. The Vendor needs to be aware that during the run up to the EOW conference (the next conference is scheduled for May 2018), during the conference, and immediately after, hours dedicated to timely social media will be significantly increased. EOW is open to hear from Vendors that have alternative proposals regarding time allocations to accomplish the above tasks. It is imperative that the Vendor is knowledgeable in the areas of weatherization and energy efficiency and has an understanding of the weatherization network. After the initial contract period has been fulfilled, EOW may offer an extension on the contract depending on deliverables and an assessment of EOW’s future social media requirements.
Release Date: October 3, 2016
Question Submission End Date: October 10, 201
Question Responses: October 14, 2016
Proposal Deadline for submittal: October 17, 2016
Proposal Interviews: October 24, 2016
Proposal Award: November 7, 2016
BPI has been working with the Green and Healthy Homes Institute, National Center for Healthy Housing, IREC and others in the Healthy Home industry to develop what is called a “micro credential” for a Healthy Home Evaluator, this credential is not a stand alone credential but rather a credential that builds on existing BPI certifications and recognizes all that a building analyst, auditor or QCI already knows about building science, building tightness, ventilation, combustion safety, mold etc..
To get the credential you must pass a 50 question written exam…. questions are centered around toxins and hazards found in the home including: CO, Radon,Asbestos, Lead, Mold, pesticides, herbicides, Dust, VOCs, environmental tobacco smoke, slips trips and falls, fire, etc.Successful you will need to know action levels and proper referral information, governing body for environmental and consumer protection.
This credential is designed for people with a strong back ground in housing who are also aware of the known and potential health impacts associated with hazards and toxics listed above.
One of the recommendations to prepare for this exam is a two day course, based on the 7 principles of a healthy home that the National Center for Healthy Homes (NCHH) developed into a curriculum called Healthy Home Essentials for Practitioners. Also recommended, are all the EPA publications around indoor health and HUD indoor environment Intervention strategies chapter that can be found by clicking here.
We are offering the NCHH Healthy Home Essentials course as a two day tutorial at EOW this year.
In other Exciting News! Every year NASCSP takes time to recognize select members that go above and beyond the call of duty to make outstanding contributions to the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and the low-income people they serve. They honor this recognition by providing the recipient with the James Gardner Service Award.
The James “Jim” Gardner Service Award was established to recognize achievement at the national, State, or local level that makes a positive impact on the WAP community through either policy, technological, or programmatic contributions.
Recipients of the award have each played a key role in the planning and design of new initiatives, and have demonstrated dedication and commitment to their constituency as leaders and advocates for WAP. During his years at the Department of Energy (DOE), Jim Gardner’s openness and approachability, honesty and integrity, quiet strength, vast knowledge, and grace under pressure embodied the best that government can be.
This year EOW’s very own John Davies from The Opportunity Council located in the state of Washington graciously accepted the award for being a pioneer of the Weatherization Plus Health Initiative. He has been working with federal funds from EPA and HUD since the mid-1990s and early 2000s to create one of the first Healthy Homes Pilots in the State of Washington.
John Davies is a senior trainer for and Director of the Building Performance Center a Department of The Opportunity Council. John’s career in building weatherization began in 1986; since then, he has held positions of energy education coordinator, project coordinator and production manager for low-income weatherization programs in Minnesota and Washington. To find out more about John Davies and The Building Performance Center please visit the following link: Building Performance Center – John Davies.
You may have attended some of John’s sessions at past conferences. If not be sure to catch him this year teaching a Monday and Tuesday Tutorial: Healthy Homes Essentials Part 1 and 2 as well as a Friday session on Healthy Homes.
Renowned for its natural beauty and diverse ecological resources, about 60% of the state is considered Great Plains Prairie and the other 40% is rolling foothills and mountains. Grizzly bears, bison, wolves, elk, moose, mountain lions, and wolves still roam the wilds between Yellowstone National Park in the South and Glacier National Park in the far North. It is a large, rural state with few people and lots of open space. We just surpassed one million inhabitants in 2015.
The Montana Weatherization Assistance Program
The Montana WAP program began in Montana in 1980 and is headquartered in Helena at the Department of Health and Human Services in the Human and Community Services Division in the Intergovernmental Human Services Bureau (IHSB). Key personnel from the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs, the local utility company Northwestern Energy, the Human Resource Development Council, and the Montana Public Service Commission also serve as key advisors and organizers of the program.
The Weatherization network for the State of Montana consists of 11 offices and one training center. The offices are located at local Human Resource Development (HRDC) offices in major municipalities. Weatherization offices are found in: Glendive, Havre, Bozeman, Lewistown, Billings, Missoula, Butte, Kalispell, Great Falls, Helena, and the local Housing Authority for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Pablo, Montana. In total, including full time, part time, and administrative staff, the Montana Weatherization Program employs an estimated 120 people statewide with at least that many contractors. Many of our most dedicated personnel have been serving the program since 1986—that is 30 years of service and commitment! Like so many other states, our leaders are reaching retirement and Montana is looking to fill these positions with new and qualified workers to continue this critical work for the next 30 years!
The majority of the offices in Montana utilize full time crews, but there are several contractor-based offices as well. A few offices have full time furnace techs on staff, although, the majority of the state offices outsource furnace, plumbing, and electrical work to qualified local contractors.
Montana Weatherization Training Center
Since 1991, the Montana Weatherization Training Center (MTWTC) has supported the Montana Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) with training and technical assistance for installers, crew leaders, energy auditors, inspectors, furnace technicians, and program leaders. The Montana Weatherization Training Center began as a regional hub for DOE training covering 14 states. Currently, our operation area is more localized encompassing North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.
The Montana Weatherization Training Center has been an Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) Accredited training facility since May of 2014. In February of 2015, the training center was approved as a Building Performance Institute (BPI) Certified Testing Center. There is a comprehensive pressure house and model home onsite as well as a state of the art furnace lab. The center also provides comprehensive health and safety training such as: First Aid/CPR/AED training, OSHA 10 and 30, EPA Lead courses (Renovator/RRP, Dust Sampling, Inspector, and Risk Assessor), and fit testing/respiratory care. Our facility is a little over 7,000 square feet and has a large meeting room, conference room, classroom, and training lab. The center hosts the Montana Weatherization Round Table and Technical Committee meetings and has hosted large reunions for groups such as the Weatherization Plus Health Conference.
In 2014, Benjamin Cichowski (Host of the www.WXTVonline.org series) took the helm as the Director of the Montana Weatherization Training Center. During his tenure the center has activated the BPI Test Center, expanded our training offerings considerably, become IREC accredited, and reinforced relationships with local contractors and our local municipality. The center looks forward to providing more local contractor training in the areas of blower doors, duct blasters, and infrared training as energy conservation code enforcement and building science is becoming more prevalent in Montana.
The Montana Weatherization Training Center would also like to thank John Davies and the entire staff of the Building Performance Center in Bellingham, Washington for training, ongoing support, and proctor mentorship during the opening of the Montana BPI Test Center.
If you want any further information on Montana’s program lease contact Jeffrey Moore at JeffreyMoore@Montana.edu, visit www.weatherization.org or call 406-586-0070.
What’s going on in Arizona?
According to my Flixter account, the big blockbusters this summer will be Terminator, Ant Man and The Fantastic Four. But I am willing to venture a guess that if you are reading this article there is a much more thrilling, heart-pounding, roller coaster-of-emotions, event this summer. The Quality Work Plan. So how has Arizona prepared itself for what promises to be one of the most significant changes in WAP history? Here is where we are at from the perspective of the training guy that has been in the middle of a good percentage of the tasks associated with the upcoming changes:
Sub-grantee’s have all submitted their respective QWP’s to the state. It appears that we will have a mix of 3rd-party and In-house pioneers taking on the responsibilities of the QCI inspectors.
Our field guide has been approved for use by DOE. SWBSTC developed the AZ and NV field guides based on the Critical Details we had built a few years ago with Advanced Energy. I do not mind mentioning that on several occasions during the production and approval phases we had been told that we had the nicest field guides in the country. Only time will tell if they are found to have a measurable impact on the work we consistently tout ourselves as being the best at. I am optimistic. If you would like to see what we are talking about, go to: www.swbstc.org and click on the “AZ Field Guide” or “NV Field Guide” tab to download our final and approved products.
We now have several certified QCI inspectors within AZ and I am currently working with Nevada to get their inspectors certified. This challenge in itself is a big hurdle that we have been working past. July 1st marks D-day so-to-speak for Arizona and Nevada. Are we ready? At the moment I am writing this, I have to say not quite. But I can also say with optimism that we will be. AZ currently has a choice of inspectors out there ready to work. Nevada has people in hotels near SWBSTC as I write this article awaiting the training and ultimately the outcome of another set of the toughest exams our entire industry has ever faced.
The main reason I am actually optimistic about the QWP is this:
We have already been through this here. We have a Home Performance program in AZ that does a lot of business. With an average 10,000 audits a year that lead to approximately 4000 upgrades a year. There were a few hiccups. There were quality issues. There were administrative hurdles, and of course there were a few annoyed customers and contractors. But with a Quality Work Plan in mind, we were able to overcome that obstacle. How? Well, we used the Critical Details on which our field guide is built from. We were careful to make sure that all work was based on an agreed upon set of standards, the SWS. So this is not new for us. We learned how to ramp up production, quality, maintain cost effectiveness in a state that goes out of its way to try and disprove our industry for various political reasons, and we did this with people that were brand new to this business, and we came out of it just fine.
I was fortunate enough to be a part of the quality improvement process in home performance, and as a result I have firsthand knowledge of the impact that a Quality Work Plan can have on an industry. In my opinion it is nothing for us to worry about. We generally all try to do the right thing anyway. Just putting it all under the context of a measurable standard is really not that big of a problem when you think about it. And for an industry that has proven over history to be as uniquely pliable and adaptive as the WAP is…Well, I am excited to see how we as a group innovate, and accomplish, as we always do.
Alaska has had the good fortune of generous state investment into the weatherization program over the past six years. The program is administered by the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation. Because of the huge drop in oil prices, the state is facing a fiscal crisis that threatens to affect all state funding. Our program was funded at about 60 million for four years, then approximately 27 million for the last two yeasr. We are in the legislative budget for only 6.6 million for 2016 although we hold out hope for a last minute increase. If it stays as is there will be many more layoffs of highly trained personnel and losses of agencies that have become a big part of our network.
That said we are this year once again completing over 2000 units with seventeen subgrantees. Only three of our agencies receive DOE funds and those agencies are deep into compliance with QCI and SWS. We now have 12 QCI inspectors certified for the coming year. We partnered with the BPC in Bellingham to test since we have no credentialed training center here.
Sometimes a picture will tell the story better than anything. The before and after photos below are of a home completed in 2014 in one of our rural communities in the Bristol Bay Region using state funds. We often have to work on homes that should be walkaways but our philosophy is that if there is an eligible family with no other option for housing available we do the best to improve the home in terms of energy efficiency and durability, while immensely improving the health and safety of the clients.
This house in particular received a metal roof, new insulated stove pipe, foundation repair, skirting, interior ceiling, attic insulation, floor insulation with insulated sheathing underneath, wall insulation including thermal break using rigid foam board, vinyl siding, replacement door and windows as well as controlled ventilation, lighting, smoke detectors and co detectors.
In remote rural Alaska (accessible only by plane or boat) we allow a $30,000 average cost per unit. Weather, remote access, lack of tools and materials available in the small communities, a short building season, lack of a trained work force in many areas, cost and limit of freight deliveries, very substandard housing, and overcrowding all contributing obstacles to weatherizing homes in the bush. Many of the homes, like the one pictured, are very small though, making it easier for us to complete a more comprehensive approach to weatherization. We often insulate and wrap walls as well as airseal and insulate attics and floors, creating virtually a whole new house in the process. Ventilation is a requirement for every home. In the bush, windows and doors pay back especially given the existing condition that most present.
On the road system and in the more urban areas, the average is $11,000 per unit, which often doesn’t even start to cover all the needs of the homes. Heating system replacements have become so expensive that regardless of payback we can’t always replace them. In Fairbanks an oil boiler can cost approximately $10,000. In Anchorage gas boiler replacements are around $8000. Clients are always grateful for the energy savings that they do see once the work is done. Many comment on the overall improvement in terms of air quality and lack of cold spots in the home as well.
In a push for quality and efficiency several of our agencies have rethought the normal way of doing business by taking some of the work out of the field and building insulated hatches in the workshop. One agency does a variety of Items including water heater doors, crawlspace access hatches and attic accesses with a focus of insulation, air tightness and an “attractive” final look. By moving the design /build to a controlled workshop (not at the client’s house) the agency has found it can provide a higher quality product at a lower cost.
Through our follow up client questionaires to each household, we get back unfiltered comments about the work the agencies have done. Almost universally they are positive. We have overwhelming support for the program and the ways that our work changes the lives of the people that we help. Hopefully we will be able to continue on and provide services as we have over the past thirty-five years.
AHFC Weatherization Program Mananger
Are you thinking about EOW 2016 yet? We are, and planning has already begun.
We will be holding the 2016 Energy OutWest Conference in downtown Spokane, WA at the Davenport – Grand Hotel Spokane. We will be in Davenport’s brand new hotel that is across from the Spokane Convention Center, The Grand Hotel.
So Save the date, and remember to like us on Facebook to get up to date information as we get closer to the conference.
Date: May 9-13, 2016
Facility: Davenport – Grand Hotel Spokane
Location: Spokane, WA