Guest Post by Larry Zarker, CEO of the Building Performance Institute
The green building community is pretty much sold on the value of certifications – whether for an architect designing a new LEED® high-rise, or for technicians at a contracting company carrying out home performance improvements. Professional credentials demonstrate a degree of knowledge and skill. They show the individual cares enough about their profession to invest in some training and verification of their abilities. They help employers screen applicants and help energy efficiency program administrators set criteria. They give consumers added confidence when selecting someone for a project. The list goes on.
And yet, throughout the blogosphere and at industry events such as ACI, you hear that tell tale muttering, “I’m certified. Now what?”
Turns out that certification itself is not the end game, but really the first step. It’s an entry point on the journey toward a successful career. And it is precisely that career path model that is behind the development of the new Home Energy Professional certifications offered by the Building Performance Institute Inc. (BPI) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Designed to meet the international benchmark for personnel certifications across all industries, ISO 17024, the four new certifications focus on the most common jobs in the home energy upgrade industry: Energy Auditor, Retrofit Installer, Crew Leader and Quality Control Inspector.
Energy Auditor is specifically tailored to verify the diagnostic and analytical skills required to perform an energy audit, including software modeling skills and work scope development.
Retrofit Installer is geared toward experienced technicians with a broad range of installation skills and experience, including windows, heating systems, air sealing and insulation.
Crew Leader is intended for experienced professionals who supervise the implementation of retrofitting activities specified in the scope of work, as well as work site health and safety.
Quality Control Inspector is designed for individuals who validate and verify that work was done correctly, whether as part of a contracting company’s internal QC process or as a true third-party QC inspection conducted on behalf of a government or utility energy efficiency incentive program.
Since the announcement of the new certifications, there have been a lot of questions about how they fit in with the current designations offered by BPI and held by tens of thousands of professionals across the country. “Will the new energy auditor credential make my building analyst certification obsolete? What’s the difference between my air leakage control installer certification and the new retrofit installer? Will crew leader replace building envelope? What role will the quality control inspector play?”
The Home Energy Professional certifications will not replace existing BPI certifications; rather, they will build on and complement the current credentials. It’s important to understand that the current BPI certifications are not going away (although over time they will be refreshed to meet ISO 17024 criteria).
It should also be noted that the four new certifications are not designed for rookies to the home performance game. All four contain significant experience prerequisites. Each certification requires the individual to prove he or she has spent time in the field doing related work. All four certifications require education (GED/high school diploma or equivalent), and a combination of industry-specific experience, building experience, relevant building science coursework/training and/or industry certifications (BPI, RESNET, NATE, EPA).
That’s an important point of differentiation. Not only for the individual who gains the certification, but also for the employers, program administrators and consumers who get to choose who goes into the home to conduct the audit and do the work. Experience speaks volumes when it comes to reducing risk and building trust. Having the DOE’s support and the rigor of ISO 17024 behind them adds even more value to the new Home Energy Professional certifications.
Differentiating from competitors has different advantages to different members of the industry. For state program administrators, the verification of skills and experience means meeting more benchmark goals and reducing liability for the program. For employers, differentiation means a higher-quality workforce doing higher-quality work for happier customers, leading to reduced call backs, improved satisfaction, fewer emergency replacements and more referrals. Not to mention a marketing edge when speaking with homeowners. For the individual technician, it means increased job opportunities and job security.
And for the home performance community, the Home Energy Professional certifications, and all the experience they entail, are the next step toward creating a recognized, self-sustaining, thriving and credible industry.
For more information on the Home Energy Professional certifications, go to www.bpi.org/pilot.
Larry Zarker is BPI’s Chief Executive Officer