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Building Science: Key To A Healthy, Happy Home

Everyone wants a home that is safe, comfortable and efficient, but often our homes have poor indoor air quality, are drafty, and are expensive to operate. Building science is a field of study that focuses on these issues. A building system functions very similarly to systems in nature. If one aspect has a problem, it will impact the ability of the entire system to function properly.

If you are looking to create a more comfortable and healthy home, you may want to consider bringing in a trained, building science expert to examine the home’s performance and identify areas for improvement. This is important because not all problems will have visible signs (such as indoor air quality), and, even when there are visible signs (such as mold or moisture issues), the cause can be far different from what you might think. Treating an obvious symptom without knowing the real cause can actually make it worse or even create new problems.

For instance, most owners of drafty homes immediately think that air sealing doors and window will solve the problem. Unfortunately, if the drafts are actually coming from the ceiling or floor, sealing doors and windows can make the draft problem worse and impact indoor air quality. A slight amount of air leakage into a home is a normal state, and outside air coming through doors and windows creates a much healthier environment than air moving in from the attic and crawl space. An upgrade done right improves comfort, health, safety, durability, and energy efficiency of a home.

Santa Barbara has a number of experts trained in building science, known as Building Analysts. These analysts are certified by the Building Performance Institute (BPI) through a rigorous course with written and field tests. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of these trained professionals in the area. There is a great need for more Building Analysts, especially given the aging status of the buildings in Santa Barbara.

Through BPI training, Building Analysts are educated in building science and how a home functions as a system. A “building doctor” of sorts, these experts can look at the symptoms in a home, properly identify what is making the building “sick,” and suggest the solutions that would fix the problem. BPI coursework includes field training such as:

  • Using infrared cameras to look at temperature differences in areas of the house;
  • Conducting blower door tests to see how much air leaks out of the house; and
  • Performing function and safety testing for carbon monoxide levels and combustion appliance back-draft.

You may want to know how your home is performing, even if there are no visible problems. A home inspection by a Building Analyst can identify even the invisible problems to ensure that you live in a healthy, comfortable, and efficient home. If problems are found, now is a great time to make improvements, as there are currently two local programs available to provide financial assistance to make upgrades. Rebates are available through a statewide program called Energy Upgrade California. Additionally, emPowerSBC is a local program that provides low-cost loans to help finance the upfront costs of upgrades. Both of these programs have a list of preferred contractors to perform the upgrades, and these contractors are required to be BPI certified.

Interested in becoming certified as a BPI Building Analyst?

Two subsidized Building Analyst courses are being offered locally for $100; normally the courses would run around $2,350. The week-long program is well worth the cost. They include classroom lectures, field training, and the two tests for certification.

Building Analysts come from a variety of backgrounds. Participants in the training course may include contractors, green building professionals, students or recent graduates, and other professionals looking to expand their skills. There are no prerequisites for taking the training, and the concentrated style of the course provides all the necessary skills in a short period of time. Two intensive exams ensure that the trainees are ready to conduct home performance testing on their own.

The dates for the upcoming subsidized courses are:

Ventura: May 21-25
Santa Barbara: June 4-8

Click here to find out more and sign up.

For more information contact Ashley Watkins at 805-568-3514 or via email.

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