Weatherization & Renewable Energy

Enjoy this snippet from our video and text course: Weatherization and Renewable Energy.
Approved for credit in Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, and Wisconsin.
Or take the course without credit from any state to expand your knowledge!

Thermal and Moisture Protection

Most construction claims result from a failure of the building envelope or shell caused by poor design or construction. Often, damage is caused  by contractors and laborers while maintaining or erecting residential and commercial structures. Unfortunately, the original building plans or original design may lack sufficient detail to prevent exterior shell failure.

Workers often fail to assemble structures in accordance with properly written plans. Too often, workers are uneducated about proper construction of building systems and the use of materials per the manufacturer’s recommendations and reasonable “best practices” for construction of homes and buildings in coastal, mountainous or areas with relatively high humidity. Thermal and moisture protection is the entire country’s problem!

Occasionally, construction workers inadvertently damage the building envelope while maintaining or working on items not directly related to the building exterior, causing it to be compromised and fail over the course of time. The time it takes for an “EXTERIOR SHELL” mistake to cause noticeable damage can take from only a few days to several years. At times, repairs may cost more than the building is worth!

Unfortunately, most workers and contractors of new homes rarely get to see, first hand, the mistakes they’ve made. It usually takes a period of time before the building shell failure becomes evident. Often, the failure happens after the original warranty has expired and the repairs are then the responsibility of the disgruntled home-owner who feels compelled to hire a different contractor!

Improper design, construction application and inadvertent damage can all compromise the exterior shell of a structure and result in immediate or delayed building envelope failure. Building shell failures often result in water being allowed to enter the structure in a manner that is contrary to the intended design. Water must be forced to the exterior of the envelope by weep holes or ventilation.  Delayed failure is almost always more expensive to remedy!

Primary claims.  Water, whether liquid or vapor, when allowed to enter the building shell can cause a host of problems. Warranty and insurance claims result from:

•  Damage to exterior systems and structure
•  Failure due to rot
•  Damaged, unrelated components that are not part of the building envelope
•  Mold

In areas prone to damage by water and water vapor, programs are often available to provide weatherization and energy conservation services at no cost to households with relatively low median income. Primary funding for these programs is from the U.S. Department of Energy with other funds from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, utility companies and local entities like Community Action or Habitat for Humanity… Yes…there is program assistance for those who need it, but remember assistance still costs taxpayers. In the long run, everybody pays!

How water damage can affect contractors.  Damage, caused by failure of the building shell, costs everybody time and money in litigation, damages, repairs, and increased insurance premiums. Costs, covered by insurance and bonds, are driven higher than ever before. These premiums are paid by every contractor, and add to the cost of construction in North America.  Ultimately, these additional costs are passed on to the consumer or purchaser of the new home or commercial structure!

Increases in the cost of housing have at least three negative effects:

1. Increased cost of housing for consumers.
2. Reduced number of potential home owners that can afford to purchase homes or home improvements.
3. Reduced profitability for most contractors.

Insurance and bonding can increase the cost of “doing business” to the point of it not being profitable!

Solution.  Increased efficiency and reduced costs will help avoid unnecessary effects. All contractors and tradesmen must be better trained with regard to:

• Building design
• Reliable Construction
• Envelope (shell) maintenance

Education, education, education!!!  Experience is great, but when the cause of a shell failure is determined, it’s often found that the problem was caused by a contractor that just made the same mistake he’s made over and over again… Sometimes these mistakes are made 100’s of times.

If education is embraced by every contractor as a useful tool to help prevent future, repetitive mistakes, then our homes and businesses will soon be better built and have few weather related problems, resulting in less maintenance and insurance costs to the owners and construction industry professionals.  Not knowing the right way to do something should never be an excuse to keep making the same mistake over and over again!

The value of experience.  The Builders License Training Institute expects every builder and tradesman to put these BEST practices into service through self-training, on-line education and on-the-job experience. The scope and level of knowledge needed by a tradesman will depend on the type of work a construction business offers and performs within the market place. It should be obvious that a roofing contractor will, on occasion, need different knowledge and skills than a siding, window, framing or general contractor.

Again, repetitive mistakes are common but no excuse! The competent and conscientious builder will be more efficient and reliable than his competition because not only does he consider the building’s shell weatherization but uses these “Best practices” daily. The only way to beat a little experience is with A LOT OF EXPERIENCE!!!

Contractor’s responsibility.  Common law holds contractors accountable for the work of the business, whether the labor is performed by the business owners, employees or subcontractors.  *This means both FISCAL and PHYSICAL ACCOUNTABILITY!

The contractor must have the ability to perform the work and ensure both employees and subcontractors are skilled, trained, and supervised to perform the work offered to the public. Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the business owners to see to it that they, or their workers, use both knowledge and skill to assemble components and maintain a weather proof building envelope.

Most states that require licensing also require Continuing Education to maintain the license in “good standing”. Weatherization, thermal and moisture protection is certainly one of the most common topics discussed within the construction industry.  All contractors should embrace and promote quality, continuing education!