My company, Building Efficiency Resources (www.TheBER.com) is--among other things--a HERS providership. We see a tremendous opportunity now and into the future for Raters on the retrofit side, and we are devoting considerable effort to exploring and developing ways for our Raters to seize that opportunity. We bring to that task a clear understanding that not all Certified Raters are highly knowledgeable about existing homes, and that the farther back we travel in time, the less confident they are.
Sample question: What clearly distinguishes a home built just before WWII from one built in 1946? Answer: plywood in the original construction of the 1946 home. Although the history of laminated wood goes all the way back to the ancient Egyptians, plywood was not used in residential construction until the military refined the product and the manufacturing process to make gliders, PT boats, and probably other war materiels.
I've just spent the better part of a day reviewing the draft version of the ACCA Existing Residential Building Improvement Standard. Even though I'm an English major, I submitted a few suggestions, but those are not what got me thinking. On the whole, the document is well on its way to becoming a gold standard.
What's the catch? I have come to know quite a few Raters and Building Performance Contractors, as well as guys in the trenches and licensed Home Inspectors.
The key question for me at the end of the standard is based on a larger question, not on any particular details: Who is qualified to do these audits and specify the improvements?
I think I could do so with a reasonable degree of accuracy, but I've been in literally thousands of homes in the last 39 years (since you ask, yes, I was two years old when I started).
Since the end of the last century, I have done so not only with battle scars but also with a pretty good handful of earned certifications.
Now let's imagine someone with a bit less experience, such as--let's see--a person seeking a new career in a challenging economy? How can this person be trained to understand the content (much less the interactions and synergies of components) involved in such an audit? How about the creation of a workscope to address the findings of the audit?
I'm thinking that the audit has a level of complexity at least as great as engineering this roof framing with a slide rule and a pencil:
Ed Mazria spoke on his Architecture 2030 concept at a Southface Greenprints conference a couple of years ago, and I asked him this in the question-and-answer period: Where are we to find the people to do the work that needs to be done, but who can also pass a drug test and a police check? There is of course no answer.
To that I add this question: How do we create the audit force that can deliver according to this standard, and make that force large enough to do the work that needs to be done?
To quote from an unlikely source, the wonderful musical The King and I: "Is . . . a . . . puzzlement."