The Case for Accreditation
July 01, 2010
A version of this article appears in the July/August 2010 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
I know that none of us really likes the idea of someone looking over our shoulders. But there is a strong case to be made for smart self-regulation in the home performance industry. Now is the time for all of us to get on board and set the bar—before external forces impose standards on us that we might find much harder to stomach. If we act now and get in front of this issue, we can stay in the driver’s seat.
Matt Golden is the president, founder, and chief building scientist at Recurve, San Francisco, California. (Image credit: recurve.com)
America is in the calm before a perfect storm of economic stimulus and climate change that is about to slam into our industry, and things are going to start moving very quickly. I want to congratulate all of you for seeing this trend in advance and acting on it. Now we need to put our house in order, buckle in, and get ready for the ride.
We are about to see an avalanche of stimulus and incentive dollars pouring into the home retrofitting sector, closely followed by every contractor and freshman rater under the sun. Soon those of us who have been doing our time and learning the trade will be drowning in new competition. Many of these new players will have little training or real-world experience, and their work might not deliver on the promise of our industry.
If we allow home performance to be commodified and overrun by low-quality providers, we risk losing our ability to sell on the value of our differentiated service. The result? We could find ourselves in a market that forces us to compete primarily on price, not on the quality of our solutions.
Standardization will help quality home performance contractors to succeed in three ways:
- It will establish clear incentives for doing the job right. Our industry needs to grow, so we need to set an attainable bar, but we must also guard against false promises and subpar work by unskilled contractors.
- It will ensure that we deliver on our promise to the public, providing a service that achieves real performance in the areas of energy efficiency, indoor air quality, safety, and comfort.
- Finally, it will reduce our liability by establishing recognized practices that we can deploy with confidence.
We are about to see an avalanche of stimulus and incentive dollars pouring into the home retrofitting sector, closely followed by every contractor and freshman rater under the sun.
Why is BPI the Right Standard?
Home performance contracting (HPC) is a nascent industry on the verge of hypergrowth. Cities and states across the country continue to introduce home performance or energy retrofit programs, Home Star is about to go to vote in the Senate and House, and ingenious financing programs such as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans, will be the catalysts that accelerate industry growth. Emerging markets are fraught with risk of confusion and poor quality.
At GreenHomes we believe strongly that it’s important to avoid that. The HPC industry must have a core set of standards that all contractors abide by to ensure consistent quality, or we face the risk of severe damage to the reputation of our industry. All it takes is several serious mold problems, damaged roofs, or cases of CO poisoning, and the press will label us unfairly.
BPI is that standard. Why? Its longtime mantra of Do No Harm says it all. Since its inception, BPI has focused not only on the testing standards, but also on the appropriate standards for remediation and quality assurance in existing homes. The remediation and quality assurance standards are critical to Do No Harm. At GreenHomes America, we perform energy retrofits on close to 1,000 homes per year. We’ve developed hundreds of comprehensive procedures for all aspects of testing, installations, quality assurance, and more. However, we use BPI standards as our guiding principles. For example, BPI has standards for insulating, for setting up worst-case depressurization in combustion appliance zones (CAZ), and for business systems and practices.
Our industry will be attracting hundreds of new contractors a month; we need them all to be retrofitting homes to standards based on proven experience in the field. Poor work undermines the collective effort.
BPI understands that how we retrofit a home is as important as, if not more important than, how we test a home. Just as ACCA procedures, National Comfort Institute training, and North American Technician Excellence certifications are the gold standard for the narrow HVAC industry, BPI is the gold standard for the broader home performance industry. This is why EPA chose BPI as the standard for its Home Performance with Energy Star program back in 2001, and it’s why GreenHomes embraces BPI standards, certification, and accreditation.
Our industry is approaching an unprecedented time in its 30-plus-year history. We have never enjoyed this much national attention. Delivering consistent, high-quality energy retrofits will make home performance a household name we all can be proud of. It works and makes sense at the individual contractor level. And it’s really the bar we should be setting for the entire industry.
Mike Rogers is vice president of market development at GreenHomes America.
I strongly believe that we need to adopt minimum standards for home performance contracting in California. Currently, BPI is the de facto standard for our industry, and we should all move to get BPI certification for our workers and BPI accreditation for our businesses. (Don’t just take my word for it—see “Why Is BPI the Right Standard?”) The reality is that contracting companies sign contractors, not auditors, so company accreditation is the way to go.
True, industry regulation will require us to jump through a few hoops—like BPI certification and accreditation. And yes, we’ll even have to pay someone to check our work—though only for 1 out of every 20 jobs. At the end of the day, the benefits of establishing minimum standards for our industry will be well worth a little inconvenience and money. And remember: If we don’t set the bar ourselves, someone else will.
Please consider what I have to say, and think about this imposition in the context of the broader policy and market changes that are occurring at the federal, state, and local levels. We need to act fast and show everyone that we are ready to step up and start making it happen. Consider supporting this first step by taking your business through the process of BPI accreditation. Ultimately, all of us will benefit by making sure the home performance industry stays true.
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