It's not rocket science, but it is a link between building science and diagnostic testing, says Walt Harwood of the new home-performance division he runs for Neil Kelly Designers/ Remodelers, in Portland, Ore. “We do it to create homes that are comfortable, durable, safe, and cost-effective.”

It's a burgeoning industry that will become more popular as the desire grows for environmentally friendly design and sustainable building. Using diagnostic equipment such as infrared cameras, duct blasters, carbon monoxide testers, and blower doors (which depressurize a house to help find drafts), analysts spend about three hours on an energy audit looking at the whole house as a system, instead of as individual components.

Findings are then entered into a Web-based application that prints a report — about where the problems are, recommendations on how to fix them, and how much money can be saved if the problems are addressed — in a consumer-friendly format. Homeowners spend $275 on the initial visit and, if they elect to have NKD/R address the problems, the company will also do a post-audit.

The up-front costs in tools, as well as hiring, training, and certifying personnel, are significant. “It's not a program someone can just jump into and be up and running in a short time,” Harwood says.

He sees the home-performance division as a jumping-off point for the company, which has several other divisions. It has brought in a few remodeling jobs, and Harwood foresees that, as the division develops, NKD/R may get more involved in the insulation business. Also, “This new division is helping the company learn and do remodeling, home repair, and custom home building better,” Harwood says. “And it's a win for our clients.”