Back Porch: Austin Hosts National Home Performance Conference

November 13, 2016
Winter 2016
A version of this article appears in the Winter 2016 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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On the plane to the Home Performance Coalition (HPC) 2016 National Home Performance Conference in Austin, I sat next to a young oil industry engineer on his way home. He was confident that Texas would ride out the boom and bust in the fossil-fueled economy, and that most Texans wouldn’t be motivated by energy efficiency when the cost of fossil-fueled energy was so low.

The municipal utility, Austin Energy, tells a different story. Austin Energy is a regional partner of DOE’s Home Performance with Energy Star (HPwES) program, as well as a principal sponsor of the conference. (Austin is also the headquarters of the conference’s major sponsor, CLEAResult.) Austin is known for being one of the first U.S. cities to create a “negawatt” power plant. Because it saved 700 MW from 1982 to 2006, the city eliminated the need for a new fossil-powered generating plant.

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Tom White
is publisher of Home Energy magazine. He restores historic homes in his free time. (Kate Henke)

Innovative Training Techniques

The conference attracts home performance and building science trainers who share best practices in adult education. At a PechaKucha-style workshop. Dale Sherman, president of EnergyWright, Inc., spoke about integrating new techniques into building science training—for example, by using infrared thermography overlays onto actual wall and mechanical systems. “You need to paint a picture with words,” says Dale, “Good storytelling is key to our business, and it sticks in your long-term memory.”

Amanda Hatherly, director of the New Mexico EnergySmart Academy at Santa Fe Community College, shared her work on SimBuilding, a 3-D simulation game for teaching building science.

Raising the Bar for Home Performance

HPC national conferences provide a vast array of workshops with tracks including Building Envelope, Diagnostics & Audits, Home Performance Business Operations, HVAC, Mechanicals & Ventilation, IAQ & Healthy Homes, Water Efficiency, and Weatherization Operations.

What stood out to this observer was the increased emphasis on high performance HVAC systems. As performance standards are raised with updated energy and building codes, HVAC contractors have a greater role at the center of the relationship between the home owner and their understanding and management of home energy and comfort. But with this increasing in understanding comes greater responsibility to accurately diagnose and solve problems that diminish home performance.

Anthony-Cox
Anthony Cox

Honoring Leaders and Welcoming Millennials

At the opening session, HPC’s CEO, Brian Castelli, spoke of the importance of bringing new blood into the home performance industry. HPC’s first Emerging Leader Symposium, moderated by Joshua Wolfe, owner of Project Energy Savers, lent support to this theme; and 75 conference scholarships funded by E4theFuture Foundation were awarded to small businesses, underrepresented populations, women in home performance, and younger generations who are new to the industry. Castelli also honored established industry leader, Anthony Cox. with the Linda Wigington Leadership Award for his work as building science manager and lead trainer with Community Housing Partners’ Energy Solutions division, in Christiansburg, VA

HPC is also reaching out to include more women and Millennials. Says Joanne O’Neill, product manager with Pacific Gas and Electric Co., “Our sector offers a great fit for those Millennials who want to change the world and make it a better place!”

HPC celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2016. Among the over 200 presenters, it hosted several industry heritage sessions at the conference as a way of thanking individual presenters for their dedication to the organization over many years. Presenters so honored included Gary Nelson (president, co-founder, and chief energy geek of The Energy Conservatory), David Keefe (manager of training services for the Vermont Energy Investment Corp., Rana Belshe (principal at Conservation Connection Consulting), Linda Wigington (consultant at Linda M. Wigington & Assoc.; and John Proctor (founder and former chief executive officer at Proctor Engineering Group).

The conference is also a time to highlight award-winning HPwES contractors. You will read about these contractors in upcoming issues of Home Energy.

Credit: This article was sponsored by Home Performance with Energy STAR, managed by the U.S. Dept. of Energy. The opinions, views, and ideas expressed within this article are those of the author, and do no necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency of the U.S. government.

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