When the Home Star legislation still looked like it was going to happen, one buzzword was inescapable: certification. Many of the programs that Home Star would have funded required that installations, energy audits, and other tasks be performed by a contractor certified by the Building Performance Institute (BPI), the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), or other organizations. Even though Home Star is now out of the picture, certification has proven to be a valuable resource for many remodelers.
President of Neil Kelly Co., in Portland, Ore., Tom Kelly has seen his business boom, and having certified employees has certainly helped. To qualify for retrofit projects funded through Clean Energy Works Oregon, contractors must have at least one employee BPI-certified. In 2009, NKC did $480,000 in retrofit upgrades and $1.3 million in 2010. After reevaluating his leads for upcoming CEWO weatherization projects, Kelly had to revise his budget to double the 2010 levels.
Doug Selby, owner of Meadowlark Builders, in Ann Arbor, Mich., definitely thinks certification is worth the time and effort as well as being a good training program for existing homes. “It’s a little pricey, but we felt like we got good value with it,” he says, adding that the training is “a full immersion; by the time they’re done with it, they really know what’s going on.”
Tom Weiher, president of Carmel Builders, in Milwaukee, thinks certification is vital to the success of an energy-efficient retrofit. That being said, nobody on Carmel Builders’ staff is certified. However, the company partners with experts who are. The home energy consultant that Carmel Builders partners with is both BPI- and RESNET-certified and in turn, Carmel’s employees have been trained by both him and by Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s utility-sponsored incentive program.
These partnerships have allowed Carmel Builders to pick up business where these credentials are required while saving the company the cost of certification and training. For example, Wisconsin Home Improvement Co., Carmel Builders’ insulation contractor, is also BPI-certified. “Rather than train my lead carpenters to be good insulators, I prefer working with a certified trade contractor,” Weiher says. “We worked with them on conventional remodeling projects for several years. Since they were certified, we brought them along for projects that required insulation and air sealing. We just found it easier to use the resources we have to expand our income.”
—Mark A. Newman, senior editor, REMODELING.