Posts Tagged ‘building science’

Angry Air!

June 7, 2017

John Tooley said, “Air is like crooked rivers, crooked people, teenagers, and cheap labor.  It always seeks the path of least resistance.”  He didn’t say that Angry air is Noisy air.   Air doesn’t like being forced through corrugated, flexible ducting, pushed around corners, and made to force open dampers.  It resists being made to perform in a way that it doesn’t want to.  It takes more and more force as the resistance increases.  Air is just fine when you just let it move at will.  It can become amazingly strong as any building that has met a hurricane or tornado can attest to.  And as objects like asteroids and space capsules hurtle through the atmosphere they burn up!

ASHRAE 62.2 requires bathroom fans to make no more noise than a quiet refrigerator in a quiet kitchen: 1 sone or less.  And if you put an Energy Star bathroom fan on the bench and plug it in, you can barely hear it.  It’s amazingly quiet.  “Is it running?” people ask.  And it is.  So how come once you install the fan in the ceiling it gets uncomfortably loud?

Fan manufacturers not only made these fans quiet, they put DC motors in them that are extremely tolerant ofchanges in pressure.  As the pressure increases in the installation, the fan motor compensates by using more power to increase the speed of the spinning wheel that is pushing the air.  (Notice the curve on this graph that starts on on the left side and then drops off the cliff at about 75 cfm.  It has about the same airflow from 0.45 iwg as it does at 0.0 iwg!)  That’s a wonderful thing because people can install the fans horribly and step on the duct and lots of other nasty things and still come out with the same airflow . . . but not the same sound level.  What was really, really quiet is now uncomfortably loud.  And as houses get tighter they get quieter and a noisy fan is annoying which is why so much effort was made to get them quiet so they could run all the time without bothering anyone!

I have found that builders get aggravated because these quiet and expensive fans that they have been compelled to install really aren’t all that quiet.  And they should be quiet.  They have been designed to be quiet.  Tested to be quiet.  And if you disconnect them from the installation, they are quiet.

So here’s a simple way to determine if the fan is working right: listen to it.  If the air is angry, it will be noisy and noisy DC fans equal bad installation.  The air is yelling at you.  I have found ducts filled with the foam that was sprayed on the house for insulation.  Backdraft dampers remain taped closed.  Ducts terminated against a wall or floor in the attic and don’t actually get to the outside.  If a bathroom fan that is rated to be < 0.3 sones is noisy, its a bad installation.  Period.  Fix it.  It may still be moving enough air to meet the ventilation requirements, but if it is noisy the homeowner will find a way to turn it off and stuff it full of socks.  Then the air in the house will get bad and people will get sick.  And the occupants will get angrier than the air!  And the really dumb thing is that all these codes and standards and mathematical computations and formulas to size the fan correctly mean absolutely nothing if the fan is turned off.

What is my house doing to me?

November 22, 2016

Fall River, MA

hhe-kitchen-hazards“Why do I wake up in the morning with a headache?”  “Why is the house so dry in the winter?”  “What are VOCs?”  “Does my house have a radon problem?”  Can you answer all these questions?  When we do an energy audit on a home, we are looking for issues that impact the heating and cooling loads.  But the same tools that we use for thermal analysis can be used to highlight unhealthy or hazardous conditions in a house.  The BPI Healthy Home Evaluator (HHE) certification merges energy efficiency and home health together.

On Tuesday the 15th and Wednesday the 16th of November, a first in the nation BPI HHE class was held at Bristol Community College.  The BPI credential was developed in partnership with the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative.  “It builds upon the BPI Building Analyst (BA), Energy Auditor (EA), and/orbpi-logo-4c Quality Control Inspector (QCI) certifications to verify competencies required to conduct in-depth healthy home environmental risk assessments.  The Healthy Home Evaluator assesses home-based environmental health and safety hazards and provides a prioritized list of recommendations to address those hazards.”

The two day class extensively reviewed numerous aspects of HHE skills including the liability issues involved in stepping into a hazards and health analysis, resident interviews, the identification and interpretation of hazards, and the seven “Keep Its” developed to clarify the primary elements of the program:

Keep it:

  1. Dry
  2. Clean
  3. Safe
  4. Ventilated
  5. Pest-free
  6. Contaminant-free
  7. Maintained

The class was able to apply these techniques to the test cabin located in the BCC weatherization laboratory while going through a typical field analysis incgas-leaksluding gas leak detection, CO monitoring, combustion safety testing, blower door testing, and ventilation system verification.  Added to these was asbestos pipe insulation, messy counters including cigarettes and spilled coffee, long blind cords, children’s toys in the oven, toxic chemicals in a cabinet, and a hazardous carpet.  These hazards were so common and obvious that the students missed many of them despite the fact that they had been sensitized to seeking them out.  Like odor fatigue, elements such as these are so common in an energy audit that they are simply overlooked.

What are the Lower Explosive Limits for natural gas, propane, and gasoline?  What is the impact on house pressures of a blocked return air vent?  Is it a water stain on the ceiling or sign of a mouse nest in the attic?  There are dozens of questions about a house.  Some of them are no problem at all.  Some of them are chronic, long term problems, and some of the are acute problems (like CO) that should be addressed immediately.

This is an evaluation credential.  There is so much to know about this stuff that it will take years of testing and experience to know the ins and outs.  But if we can get homes safer and healthier it will save a great deal on medical care which should appeal to health insurance companies and all of us.

If you wanbristol-community-college-1t to learn more about this stuff, Bristol Community College will be conducting more of these classes at 1082 Davol Street, Fall River, MA 02720 – 774-357-3644

Healthy Home Evaluator Training

October 13, 2016

Fall River, MA     October 13, 2016

hhe-class2_troost-avenue For two days – November 15th and 16th – Paul Raymer of Heyoka Solutions will be teaching a pilot of the BPI HHE course at the Fall River campus of Bristol Community College (BCC).  The purpose of this course is to blend the knowledge of building science with the ability to recognize home environmental risks.

For years qualified building scientists have been striving to make homes more energy efficient.  The same tools can be used to recognize a healthy home environment.  Using their building science knowledge, students taking this course will connect what they already know to environmental concerns that are being overlooked.  The class, based on a course developed by Healthy Housing Solutions, is a combination of classroom sessions, group exercises, hands-on tool use, and situation analysis in BCC’s unique test cabin.  This class will review basic building science fundamentals and analysis tools that are used to apply the six Keep It principles: Keep It Dry, Keep It Ventilated, Keep It Clean, Keep It Pest Free, Keep It Safe, and Keep It Contaminant Free.

What is Integrated Pest Management?  What if the homeowner says the house is too dry?  What does that mean for energy use?  What does that mean for health impacts?  What impact do air fresheners have on the environment?  What impact do they have on energy efficiency?  What elements of a home environment might impact asthma in children?  What issues are chronic?  What issues are critical and an Immediate Danger to Life?

Consider healthy home evaluation an investigation, like CSI.  Understanding building science fundamentals can be lead to a clarification of a healthy environment.  A house is a system.  It’s all connected.hhe-class1_troost-avenue

Upon completion of the course students will be ready to challenge the BPI HHE 1.5 hour certification exam offered on November 17th.  Class will be held at  BCC – 1082 Davol Street – Fall River, MA  Phone: 774-357-3644

Contact Rosemary Senra at BCC for more information.  Rosemary.senra@bristolcc.edu

TV Sets, Homes, and QCI

May 18, 2015

I have had the pleasure of talking to a lot of wonderful people about the challenges of the BPI QCI CertificHomeowner checkation, and I am getting some unique insight.  I started out working on my book – Residential QCI Handbook on a quest to help candidates who are preparing to take the exam.  I wanted to get a clearer picture of how to prepare for the exam, what to study, what to learn, and what to brush up on.  But there is a lot more to it than just sharpening your pencil or memorizing a table.

For one thing, there is a lot to being a Quality Control Inspector for homes.  Early in my career I worked as a technician in a company that made television sets.  Electronic components were stuffed by hand into circuit boards.  Hardware components were mounted on large, copper back plates, wires were run between point A and point B . . . and C, D, E, F, G, etc.  Lots of wires.  For awhile I had to solder those wires in place.  Individual components like the power supplies and the channel tuners were tested at individual stations.  And then the whole thing was put together, shaken for a half hour to see if everything would stay in place, and then turned on and aligned and then put in a box to be shipped.  Every person in the process had something to do with making that TV set work . . . every person from the person who stuffed the resistors into the holes on the circuit boards to the final test technician who made sure that it actually would work when it arrived in someone’s home played a role in the success or failure of the product.

I started out connecting wires, but I ended up performing the final alignment – performing the final quality control on each television.  There were a lot of smart people putting those things together, but the level of risk was small.  If the TV set didn’t work, people in a bar weren’t going to able to watch the 3 Stooges!  (They told me that when I was doing field service.)  If someone doesn’t properly check the spillage on a water heater in a house, a family could die.

Quality Control for homes is a lot more serious than quality control for TV sets.  Over and over again as I have talked to people I heard that the economic rewards for the job are barely considered.  The rewards are emotional.  Clients are grateful when their homes are more comfortable and the heating bills lower.

So that’s another thing.  I had heard that candidates struggle with the “soft skills” questions on the written test.  It’s very difficult to write “soft skills” questions that have only one right answer.  Those are generally the questions that attorneys answer by saying, “Well, it depends!”  How do you assess client satisfaction?  You talk to them.  We don’t do this work ON clients.  We do this work WITH clients.  The crew and the weatherization agency brings the skills and that has to blend with requirements of the house and the people who live there.  It is all one beautiful, functional entity.  It’s like the TV sets I worked on only much more significant.  Most of those TV sets that I worked on back in the 1970’s are in the dump by now.  Houses will be around for a few hundred years.

100217_4760Tamasin Sterner of PureEnergy Coach told me that you can’t have an ego to be a Quality Control Inspector.  It’s just not about you.

You, however, will provide the final quality control checks on my book.  I am honored to have been certified as a QCI Master Trainer by IREC.  I am honored to have been able to talk to a lot of people for the contents of the book.  I have tried to pull together a lot of useful knowledge and tools to get the job done.  But there is so much out there that it is overwhelming.  You really need to know a lot to be good at this job.  For those of you who are about to challenge the QCI exam, take courage, eat some dark chocolate (Amanda Hatherly mentioned that), and believe in yourself and what you are doing.



 

If you are planning to challenge the BPI Quality Control Inspector’s certification, you might find the Quality Control Inspector’s Residential Handbook helpful.  Scheduled for publication on June 1, 2015.  For updates and a discount on publication, please add your name and email address by clicking on the book below.

QCI Handbook Cover copy

Visit us at www.HeyokaSolutions.com

Shades of Gray in Residential Construction Morality

April 27, 2015

I was called in to perform a last minute duct test for a modular home builder.  He was all in a dither to have a duct test and a blower door test done on a Friday so that he could get his Certificate of Occupancy (CO) so the homeowner could move in the following Monday.  He said that he’d just found out that he needed these tests.  The building inspector asked for them at the last minute!

I was glad to do it partially because it’s good to have builders aware of what is going on despite the fact that he might have been warned for the past year or more that the code had changed.  General awareness of these changes take time.  After all, this wasn’t the first house that he had built since the new codes went into effect, but this was obviously the first building inspector who had made him do it.  The 2012 IECC is quite demanding in contrast to the 2009 version, and it is clear that builders can’t just build the way they used to.  The IECC requires 3 ACH50 and ducts that leak no more than 4 cfm per 100 square feet.  This house leaked at over 7 ACH50 and the ducts were at just under 9 cfm per 100 square feet.

So the builder ran around with a caulking gun.  He stuffed paper towel under the basement door.  He pulled off electrical receptacle covers and installed those little foam pads.  And then he looked at me.  This is the point where the rubber meets the road as a Quality Control Inspector.  The house performed better than many houses that have been built over the years.  It wasn’t likely to explode or rot away in a year.  After all, it had been mostly assembled in a factory – indoors where it never rained.  So why didn’t the modular manufacturer get it right?  They could have sealed up the tops of all the wire chases in the attic.  There was air coming up from the marriage wall gap.  Whose responsibility was that?

We called the factory.  They were apparently shocked!  How could air be leaking at all the outlets?  Using a pressure pan I showed the builder which ones were connected to the outside and which ones weren’t.  It wasn’t all of them.  Attitude in the factory came into play.  Maybe someone had been assigned the task of sealing all those holes but ran out of . . . foam?  attitude? time?  Maybe it was Friday afternoon.

Open Panned Return1

Panned Return

Then there were the ducts.  The only return in the house was a large opening in the living room floor where the joists had been panned  down below.  There was a wind blowing up from the basement (outside the conditioned space) when the blower door was running.

We called the HVAC contractor.  “I sealed every joint with mastic!  We do that every time.  I don’t know what could have happened.”  Using the theatrical fogger, it was pretty obvious that they hadn’t sealed every joint.  The filter slot was uncovered and beyond that, it was located in such a manner that the gas pipe and some wires would always make it extremely difficult to change the filter.

By this point, the builder recognized that the house was not going to pass and he was not going to get his certificate of occupancy for Monday.   He told me that he would arrange to have the HVAC contractor back and would spend time sealing and tightening up the house.

Open Panned Return

Vision of the Living Room

A week went by before he called me back.  Now, all of this is unfortunately too common, but it was the second visit that really disturbed me.  On the phone the builder said the ducts had been retested and they were fine.  All he need from me was the blower door test.  I asked to see the duct test results.  He said that the HVAC guy was having trouble with his email, but he sent me a photograph of the test results.  I noticed that the building size was wrong.  The results were remarkably good.  I couldn’t read the signature or the name and there wasn’t a BPI or HERS number.   No, the builder said, you don’t need to retest the ducts.  Just do the blow test.

When I got to the house, the builder was running around with his caulking gun again.  Proudly he showed me how the marriage wall had been foamed in the basement.  He said he had talked to the factory but they really hadn’t done much.  I looked at the ducting.  The section of the floor joist panning was wide open at the end.  You could see the daylight of the grille in the living room.  There was absolutely no way that the testing could have had the results that it did.

While we were in the basement, the HVAC contractor showed  up and started caulking around the floor boots.  If the ducts were so tight, why was he still trying to make them tighter?  I showed him the open panned return.  “Don’t know how that could have happened!  We had a guy who was doing bad work.  I had to let him go.”

I asked him about the guy who tested the ducts.  “Oh, he’s just a guy that works for me.  Does this once in awhile.”

So the duct testing was a lie.  It was a lie by an employee who worked for the HVAC contractor.  The builder accepted it and refused to let me retest the ducts once the HVAC company had worked on them.  He wanted the CO and he wanted to be done with the job.

This situation was obvious: the end of the ducting was wide open.  Without my testing, they would never have known.  The system would have been running that way for its entire existence.  Even with my testing, the builder was willing to accept the results and walk away.  The HVAC contractor was willing to accept the results and walk away and complain about onerous rules and regulations.  The homeowner would have gotten a shoddy product and the building inspector would have received invalid information and had to accept it because he couldn’t recheck the result due to lack of time and money.

If we are going to make this system work and have any value, at the very least there ought to be simple ways to verify the credentials of the people doing the testing.  There ought to be a way for QCI inspectors to ding the contractor or the builder for making stuff up.  I want to believe that this was a learning experience for both the builder and the HVAC contractor and that they will do better next time.  But when I saw those original duct testing results from the HVAC contractor, I didn’t believe them.  Should I have compelled the builder to let me retest?  Obviously the ducting system would have failed miserably.  If it had been a health and safety situation, there would have been no question.  But it was a performance and long term durability question.  Are there shades of gray in residential construction morality?


 

If you are planning to challenge the BPI Quality Control Inspector’s certification, you might find the Quality Control Inspector’s Residential Handbook helpful.  Scheduled for publication on June 1, 2015.  For updates and a discount on publication, please add your name and email address by clicking on the book below.

QCI Handbook Cover copy

Visit us at www.HeyokaSolutions.com

Which version of CAZ testing is used for BPI/QCI testing?

April 20, 2015
20101119_Audits_3807

Boiler

Combustion Safety Testing is one of the most important components of the HEP QCI exam.  Because it is linked to the safety of the occupants, it has been a fundamental element of BPI exams since the inception of the organization.  As we make homes tighter and more energy efficient, we cut back on the supply of combustion air which can cause appliances to malfunction.  Since traditionally the combustion appliances rely on the buoyancy of warm air to function, as appliances get more efficient, their smaller chimneys and flues take less back pressure to fail.  More efficient systems use fans or blowers to force the air up the flue and out of the house, but it is the older, naturally drafted appliances (Category I gas appliances) that fail.  Testing has to be done to be sure that won’t happen under any circumstance.
There are a number of combustion testing protocols for the combustion appliance zone or CAZ.  BPI has been refining their standard for a number of years now.  If you are going to get Home Energy Professional (HEP) QCI certification, you want to be sure that both you and your proctor and working from the same standard.  Although the BPI 1200 Standard is now used for Building Analyst, Envelope, Heating, and AC & Heat Pump certifications, the HEP certifications still use the Building Analyst Professional Standard.  It would be a good idea to make sure that your proctor knows that before you start the testing.

Go to the BPI web site (www.bpi.org) and download the Building Analyst Field Guide.

Take that and turn it in to a logical, sequential list.  Since the field exam is open book, you can refer to this and check it off as you go along.  Now, as an experienced auditor or building science professional, you may feel like you don’t need to check it off.  You’ve done it a thousand times!  Well, consider a pilot.  They may have flown that plane a thousand times, but I for one, hope that they never skip items on their checklist!  If you leave anything out and it cause you to fail, you will regret it.  Oh, and make sure when you are finished, you go back over the list and put things back the way they were.  You don’t want to be fifty miles away and get a call from the homeowner about not having any hot water!

When you assemble your CAZ checklist, make sure that you combine other elements of the HEP QCI Field Guide.  For example checking the chimneys to be sure that they comply with the 10:2 rule (chimney terminates two feet higher than anything in a ten foot radius)  and have a 1/4″ slope rise per foot of run. All that stuff should be on your checklist.

During the field test you want to be efficient and you want to talk all the time, telling your proctor what you are doing and why you are doing it, explaining everything.  But don’t look for confirmation.  If you say, “I’m putting my manometer probe in this hole I made in the flue.  Right?” the proctor should not give you any indication of whether you have completed the task successfully.  The proctor and his/her camera should be mute and effectively invisible.

This may sound basic, but make sure that the appliances in the test house will fire when you want them to!  Some water heaters may be full of hot water and turning the thermostat up won’t get them to fire.  You may have to run the hot water.  (I have had candidates under the pressure of testing, fling on the cold water tap and wonder why nothing is happening!  Testing does weird stuff sometimes.)

Also make sure you are familiar with your tools – particularly if you are borrowing them.  You want to know how to turn them on and set them up to take the readings that you need.  You want to make sure that the batteries aren’t dead.  Some combustible gas leak detectors and other tools time out after a while, for example.  You don’t want to be running downstairs and outside to restart the tool in the middle of the test.  (This is true whether it is for a certification test or just a regular, run-of-the-mill audit!)

Just to be allowed to take the HEP QCI exam means that you have a lot of experience.  You’ve done most of these tasks hundreds of times.  But it may have been a while since you did your initial BPI training.  Be sure you take advantage of all the resources available to you and don’t take the testing too casually.


If you are planning to challenge the BPI Quality Control Inspector’s certification, you might find the Quality Control Inspector’s Residential Handbook helpful.  Scheduled for publication on June 1, 2015.  For updates and a discount on publication, please add your name and email address by clicking on the book below.

QCI Handbook Cover copy

Visit us at www.HeyokaSolutions.com

What does it take to be a certified Home Energy Professional Quality Control Inspector (HEP QCI)?

April 13, 2015

A quality control program requires knowing a lot about a lot of different subjects.  A HEP (BPI Home Energy Professional) Quality Into the Crawl SpaceControl Inspector is qualified to compare a project outcome to the project requirements or work scope so that the final result is satisfactory to both the program and the homeowner.  It requires both technical knowledge as well as “soft skills” which are difficult to teach, learn, and test.

Receiving QCI Certification is a major commitment of time and money and not a task to be entered into lightly.  You must be technically competent and experienced and you must be convinced that the commitment will be worth the reward.  As of January 1, 2015 the DOE Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) requires program grantees to meet their Quality Work Plan.

The Weatherization Assistance Program’s (WAP) comprehensive Quality Work Plan establishes a benchmark for quality home energy upgrades. The plan includes an inspection and monitoring requirement that all WAP Grantees must meet.  All units reported to DOE as completed will be inspected to ensure compliance with the specifications in the SWS (Standard Work Specifications).  All quality control inspections, including monitoring inspections, must be conducted and signed-off by a certified Home Energy Professional Quality Control Inspector.

There are about twenty-five Weatherization Assistance Agencies throughout the U.S. and there are about sixteen regional weatherization assistance training programs.  (These numbers come from the WAPTAC website http://bit.ly/1CHezbg)

Most of the QCI inspections are likely to be performed by internal staff at the weatherization agencies and programs.  It is expensive for an independent contractor to carry the necessary liability insurance, although many independent energy efficiency contractors are already carrying a heavy insurance load for audits and HERS ratings.

The HEP QCI certification is a BPI (Building Performance Institute ) certification program.  In order to be qualified to challenge the required exams, there are a number of experience requirements as defined on the BPI HEP prerequisite page.  One of the biggest challenges is being able to prove the experience related credentials.  It is important that anyone thinking of achieving these credentials begin to log or document their experience.  This might require going back to former employers to get them to sign off.   Experiences are summarized by adding up a minimum of forty points from five different areas:

1)    Industry inspector experience;
2)    Other industry experience;
3)    Building experience;
4)    Training;
5)    Industry certification

Inspector experience can include site visits, inspections, and diagnostics for a maximum of twenty points, defined as ten points for every one thousand hours of experience.  If an average energy audit takes you two hours, it would require five hundred audits for ten points.

If you were an energy auditor or crew leader, you could include five points for crew leader and ten points for energy auditor as long as you have completed a minimum of fifteen documented audits.  You will need to have an organization attest to the fact that you have completed two thousand hours as a crew leader and/or two thousand hours as an energy auditor and completed fifteen audits.

For building experience such as framing, roofing, drywalling, or siding you could include a maximum of ten points with five points allocated to every one thousand hours.  You will need to have an organization verify that you have completed one thousand hours of building experience for each five points.

You can include a maximum of ten points for eighty hours of training (five points per forty hours).

Finally you can list five points per industry certification (with a maximum of ten points) for RESNET, BPI, NATE, or EPA.  Other industry related certifications are also considered.

Once you have applied and your experience verified and you have been approved to take the exams, you will have two and half hours for the written exam at a cost of approximately $250 (depending on the testing organization) and three and a half hours at a cost of approximately $700 to take the field exam.   (Reportedly the field exam can be accomplished in less time if the house is relatively basic.)

The HEP QCI certification is valid for three years.
Courses
irec

There are twenty-nine organizations that offer QCI training (according to the BPI website).  The first thing to look for is a training provider that is IREC (Interstate Renewable Energy Council) Accredited.  An organization that has achieved IREC Accreditation has gone through an extensive review of all of its practices and programs from the content of the courses to the solidity of its economics.  An experienced IREC assessor has reviewed it all: everything that a student would want to know.

There are fourteen organizations in the U.S. whose HEP QCI courses have been accredited.  Go to the IREC website for their locations.   This is not to say that the other training programs are not good.  They may be excellent but seeing the IREC Accreditation gives you one more level of assurance – quality assurance – in the program.  And if you’re going to invest that kind of money, you should use the best.  It may not necessarily be the closest – and there is something to be said for limited travel costs – but you’re making an investment so it should be a good one.

The QCI course is based on a Job Task Analysis or JTA developed by a team of industry experts.  The QCI JTA consists of five knowledge domains:
Domain I: Conducting Quality Checks – In-Process Visual/Sensory Inspections
Domain II: Conducting Quality Checks – Post-work Visual/Sensory Inspection
Domain III: Conducting Quality Checks – Post Work Diagnostic Inspections
Domain IV: Ensuring Worker Professionalism
Domain V: Ensuring Program or Project Compliance

Each of these domains are broken down into four or five tasks.  BPI has a “Field Guide” on their website.  The Field Guide includes everything that is on the field test.  It would be reasonable to go through everything listed on the Field Guide and make sure that you know how to efficiently perform every task.  It would also be advisable to rewrite the field guide (including all the items) into a checklist in the order that you are familiar with.  (Note that you want to be sure to perform every step in the Field Guide.  Just because a task seems obvious or inconsequential or not applicable to the present home, doesn’t mean that you should ignore it.)  The BPI Field Guide is grouped in similar areas – all the items related to work problems in one area and all the items related to CO in another area.  Bouncing back and forth will be inefficient and time consuming.  It makes much more sense to reorganize the Guide in a logical and sequential list.  At the same time you will be familiarizing yourself with what is included and less likely to be fumbling around during the field test.

More on these  Domains and Tasks to come in future blog posts.

 


If you are planning to challenge the BPI Quality Control Inspector’s certification, you might find the Quality Control Inspector’s Residential Handbook helpful.  Scheduled for publication on June 1, 2015.  For updates and a discount on publication, please add your name and email address by clicking on the book below.

QCI Handbook Cover copy

Visit us at www.HeyokaSolutions.com

150 Years to 10

April 6, 2015

Houses should last a very long time.  The Knap of Howar was built approximately fifty-five hundred years ago.  Pueblos in New Knap of HowarMexico were built over a thousand years ago.  Saltford Manor House, in Somerset, England was built sometime in the twelfth century and is still occupied!  These houses are built of extremely durable materials like stone or adobe.  But even the wooden houses built in the U.S. are intended to last a very long time.  It is interesting to think that we don’t actually own our houses.  It is rare that a house is passed along from generation to generation endlessly.  We’re just borrowing the shelter for a time, and then it is likely that it will be sold and passed along to someone else.  My house – at least parts of it – has been around since the middle of the eighteenth century.  I don’t know the people who lived here before except for the nice lady I bought it from.  There have been a lot of lives and a lot of stories enclosed within these walls.

When it was built, heating was accomplished by individual room stoves.  A central, warm air coal system was installed with very large ducts that allowed the air to move around convectively because there was no electricity and no fans.  Coal fired, single pipe steam was added and that was eventually converted to oil.

Electricity was added with knob and tube wiring to a fuse box.  More recently that was converted to Romex.

Running water and indoor plumbing was added, requiring the installation of pipes and drains one of which finally rusted out in the deep, dark recesses of the crawl space this winter.

I added insulation and storm windows and some passive solar heat.

The point is that some of this house is still over 150 years old.  The world has changed.  Building technology has changed.  Materials have changed.  Comfort has improved.  Houses are adaptable.  But not all the materials are going to last 150 years.  Some things – like network computer wiring – change very quickly, lasting less than a decade.  Knowing that, we shouldn’t be creating new houses that require the removal of the 150 year stuff to replace the 10 year stuff.  Repair and maintenance is a fact of life.  There are cars like that and they are not always exotics.  The Dodge Stratus, for example requires jacking up the car, removing the driver’s side front wheel, removing the inner fender skirt, in order to unbolt and replace the battery.  Not that a car is going to last hundreds of years.  We should not have to throw the car away because the battery dies.  If we are to be good stewards of the planet, knowing that things break and maintenance is required, we should build in such a way that conserves the good, solid, 150 plus year materials.

Quality Control should be more than just getting the job done.  Every time we work on a house we should think about the legacy of what we are providing for the future.  There is going to be love and sadness, laughter and joy and history will be made within the walls and that is not something to be treated casually.


If you are planning to challenge the BPI Quality Control Inspector’s certification, you might find the Quality Control Inspector’s Residential Handbook helpful.  Scheduled for publication on June 1, 2015.  For updates and a discount on publication, please add your name and email address by clicking on the book below.

QCI Handbook Cover copy

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KSAs – Teaching the ‘A’

March 16, 2015

What are KSAs?  Kosher Supervision of America?  Knights Saving Armadillos? In building science terms (and others) KSA is an acronym for Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities.  There is no question about the Knowledge part.  You definitely have to know what you are doing when you are working on a house.  You have to know about the concept of the “house as a system”.   You have to know how to do basic math.  You have to know what ACH and CFM mean.  That knowledge can be presented and learned.  You can read it in a text book or hear it from a trainer.

Attic soffit stuffing

KSAs in an attic

There is also no question about Skills.  You have to have the skill to operate a blower door or a combustion analyzer.  Once you know how to do it, you can develop the skill by continuing to do it.  Some people can play their manometers like Stradivarius violins.  That’s a skill.

And there really is no question about the requirement for Ability to get the job done.  The problem is that you can’t teach ‘ability’.  Ability is either there or it’s not.  No matter how much knowledge you have or skills you have learned, if you’re not able to do the job you can’t do the job.  It might be better, however, to consider that the ‘A’ stands for attitude.  Ability and attitude go hand in hand.  When someone says, “I can’t!”, does that really mean that they lack the ability to do the job?  Or is it that they lack the right attitude?  They don’t feel like doing the job or the task or the event?  You can’t teach attitude either.  Maybe it’s in the motivation.  Maybe it’s self confidence or desire or the reward for getting it done or the punishment for failing.

Imagine you are in a hot attic sealing duct work and you are there by yourself.  It’s the end of the day and you are tired.  It’s dirty and dusty and cramped and your legs hurt and your arms hurt and your head hurts from bumping it on the underside of the roof.  There is one last joint off there in a corner.  No one will ever know if you finish the job and seal that joint . . . no one but you.  You have the knowledge.  You have the skill.  And you have the ability.  But do you have the attitude?

A quality control inspector has to have the knowledge and skill and ability to read the crew members’ attitude.


If you are planning to challenge the BPI Quality Control Inspector’s certification, you might find the Quality Control Inspector’s Residential Handbook helpful.

QCI Handbook Cover copy

What’s Your Quality Control Mission Statement?

March 9, 2015

Even with the best intentions, mistakes get made.  The meaning of mistake is defined by your Mission Statement.  A Quality Control Inspector moves the result of a project one step closer to perfection.  To do that, the inspector has to be a generalist and understand all the aspects of the project and have the experience of making his or her own mistakes and have learned from them.  The weatherization of a home has many parts from an initial analysis to determine what needs to be done, to understanding the systemic nature of construction, to appreciating the needs and resources of the homeowner, to the capabilities of the crew performing the work, to the verification that the results match the initial expectations.

A Quality Control Inspector is a residential energy efficiency professional who ensures the completion, appropriateness, and quality of energy upgrade work by conducting a methodical audit/inspection of the building, performing safety and diagnostic tests, and observing the work.
Imagine that there is a small house owned by a nice old lady who is struggling to meet her bills and tolerating exceptionally cold 090831_1474conditions in the winter and excess heat in the summer, conditions that make her life miserable.  The house fits into the local weatherization program and a BPI (Building Performance Institute) certified energy auditor has visited the house and created a work order to make improvements.  He did a blower door test to measure the leakage, measured the insulation depth in the attic, determined the existing insulation in the walls, and tested the atmospherically vented combustion, gas fired water heater, furnace and oven for safety.  And the crew comes in and begins to work.
The weatherization crew consists of a certified Crew Leader and a good crew who perform consistently good work.  You are the quality control inspector on the job and during an in-progress inspection you find that the auditor mis-identified the building envelope and the installers are not insulating a wall between the conditioned and unconditioned space, a living-room and enclosed porch. They will complete wall insulation this afternoon, according to their schedule. If you stop the job, you will miss the completion time and extend the job.  If you don’t stop the job, will you be doing your job as the quality control inspector?

Life is full of compromises.  A compromise means that you give up something to accomplish something else.  It’s the greatest good for the greatest number kind of thing not the end justifies the means.  Someone on the crew needs to understand where the thermal envelope is and point it out to the Crew Leader.  Certainly, the Crew Leader should know.  The Leader should have pointed it out to the Energy Auditor because it was wrong on the work order.  The homeowner is the one who is going to lose out because she is completely unaware of the mechanics of the problem, although she may feel uncomfortable in that room.

As the Quality Control Inspector, you should be able to turn to your mission statement to answer this question.  If your mission statement is focused on cost effectiveness, then you have to weigh the cost impact of stopping the job.  If you mission statement puts the comfort of the homeowner first, then stop the job and do it right.  But you can’t know that you have achieved success if you haven’t defined what success means to begin with.

A mission statement defines the organization’s purpose and primary objectives.  If the mission statement says that your organization’s purpose is to provide the most energy efficient, comfortable, and safe homes to your clients, then there is no question about what should be done for this home

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If you are planning to challenge the BPI Quality Control Inspector’s certification, you might find the Quality Control Inspector’s Residential Handbook helpful.

QCI Handbook Cover copy