Day 4 Recap: National Home Performance Virtual Conference

It was another day packed with insight. Our industry is rich with smart people who have a great passion to serve people and the planet. And they like being around each other and talking endlessly. They are the presenters here at the online conference, but also everyone who is listing, taking notes, and asking questions.

(Remember that all the live events as well as the on-demand presentations will be available to participants after the online phase of the conference is over.)

David Nemtzow, Joan Glickman, and Madeline Salzman of DOE and Steven Dunn from Home Performance with Energy Star (HPwES) took a sobering, but overall hopeful view of what the future holds for the programs that advance home performance, in the panel discussion, HPwES, Home Energy Score, and Beyond: What’s on the Horizon for DOE Residential Programs.

The potential is there, and the time is right to realize that potential, with $450 billion spent on energy in the U.S. each year. We are going to set a new course if we want our economy to thrive and that means efficient use of all our resources. The COVID-19 pandemic only makes that more apparent.

How about ultrasonic clothes dryers? That’s in the works. (Ask David about the details.)

Joan discussed the strategy across all Buildings Technology Office (BTO). BTO works with a wide swath of people and programs, including home builders, energy professionals, state and local governments, utilities, product manufacturers, educators, and researchers. BTO is looking towards R&D focused on whole buildings, transformational technology (see ultrasonic clothes dryer), and solutions that focus on reginal and local solutions. What works for one region doesn’t necessarily work for another. But, on the other hand, measures to improve home performance in a particular region that are proven can apply region wide.

The Home Energy Score continues to grow as the “miles per gallon for homes”. Note: Ten percent of homes in Portland Oregon have a Home Energy Score. (It’s part of the city’s building code.) Steven discussed the Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings Initiative that is using the latest technology to create a resilient and efficient electricity grid.

HPwES just had its most active program year with 100,000 projects. The there was a worldwide pandemic. But the ENERGY STAR brand is recognized, respected, and valued by 90% of consumers, so we are (re) building on a foundation that is solid.

The much anticipated Town Hall Meeting on Workforce Development for the Home Performance Industry did not disappoint. Keith Aldridge of Building Performance Association, Kelly Cutchin of SMS Amanda Hatherly who heads The EnergySmart Academy in New Mexico, Diana McCarthy-Bercury from Earth Forward Group, LLC, John Tooley of John Tooley, LLC, looked into their crystal balls at the future of workplace development.

Everyone at the town hall agrees that workforce development is key to our future. Diana described one challenge succinctly and delicately. The workforce for building and home performance is “advanced and senior.” So, we need to get into high schools to recruit young men and women to enter a career as technicians, crew leaders, and owners of thriving businesses. (At least for a time. Kelly mentioned that training someone to work in our field, even if they only stay working in it for 2–4 years still makes sense. Changing jobs often is a trend among the under 60 crowd. But a few years of good work is worth the time and expense of training someone.)

It was a wide-ranging discussion, but here are some threads.

  • Online learning is here to stay, though we also need to continue some form of person to person training.
  • We don’t know what the “new normal” will be and so we have to be ready to adapt, especially i the way we train people.
  • The pandemic is a huge challenge, but also an opportunity to swell the ranks of our industry.
  • To be attractive to young people, according to John, we have to “take pay off the table and pay people what they are worth.” Culture is most important. “We have to create businesses where people get up glad to go to work.”

Amanda, with years of experience training weatherization technicians and others, is developing a training program for people working during the current and future pandemics. “We want to teach people how to protect themselves and their customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, while still going into people’s homes and doing high quality work.”  That about sums it up.


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