The Government and Retrofitting and my view on the need for third party audits

I just got done reading an article by Martin La Monica at the CNET green blog

What was of particular interest to me was the pdf attached at the bottom.

Out of fifteen homes in the report below are some findings
Twelve homes failed final inspection because of substandard workmanship. For example, improperly performed heating system tune-ups allowed the heating systems to either improperly fire or emit carbon monoxide at higher than acceptable levels;

Eight homes had initial assessments that called for inappropriate weatherization measures
or the assessments overlooked key measures needed to make the homes more energy efficient. To cite one example, a CEDA inspector identified a home where an assessor had inappropriately called for attic insulation when sizeable leaks in the roof would have significantly reduced the effectiveness of the insulation; and,

For 10 homes, contractors billed for labor charges that had not been incurred and for
materials that had not been installed. Billing issues appeared to be pervasive, since 7 of the 10 contractors in our sample were cited by CEDA for erroneous invoicing.
This article points out exactly why a third party auditor is valuable. It is quite obvious that in this government program that was criticized in the pdf a third party auditor not performing the work is extremely valuable.Maybe even essential for a retrofit programs success. As every plan we have seen proposed on the federal level has the same party that tests also perform the work one must question the wisdom of such a system.

By having an independent third party audit it might make the program actually work. I have often heard it adds to much money and takes away from work performed. But if the wrong work is being done and it is done poorly where is the value to work being performed?

I am a bit angry. How will our industry rid ourselves of inadequate measures and poor workmanship with a government program that seems to insist on not using third party verification and testing. After finding a problem it would seem the government solution is to then lower the bar to solve the problem.

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Comment by Evan Mills on November 9, 2010 at 12:58pm
Hi Glen,

We made a big push when remodeling our own home a couple of years ago, and I had loosely similar experiences to those you're describing. I seriously wish there had been a good third-party "customer advocate" in my area (I live in a relatively remote part of the state).

One thing along these lines that's very much intrigued me is the growing interest among home inspectors in expanding their offerings into this space. Interesting precisely because they are third parties (and ethically, if not legally barred from bidding on correcting the problems they find). Sure, some are not trained from the beginning as home energy performance people, but they know buildings (and energy issues like moisture problems) and with the right additional training they could develop a powerful offering.... They are already in the house and collecting a lot of energy-relevant info, so the incremental cost of finishing an energy assessment is relatively low.

The intent of the Home Energy Scoring Tool is actually to pave the way to context-appropriate instrumented assessments--certainly including the third-party ones you are calling for. "Trust but verify".

You'll notice from the green triangle image in our blog (thanks to Philip Fairey) that we and DOE see this tool and the process that goes with it as complementary to full-fledged audits; certainly a starting point rather than an end point. I think that with a lower entry-level cost of something like $100, a greater number of full-service practitioners can get a foot through doorways that would otherwise be closed due to the sticker shock of a fully instrumented assessment. Many of these relatively painless opportunity assessments should be able to"convert" into a more informative and more in-depth evaluation, ending in a solid work scope. Quality assurance is everything and third-party verification and other forms of risk-management can be a valuable part of that.

Maybe this helps a bit.

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