Integrating Energy Code into the BITA Program

Author: Brian Selby, Principal, Selby Energy, Inc.

This past March, Building Industry Technology Academy (BITA) program instructors had the opportunity to learn more about California’s Energy Code. The goal was to provide instructors with a better understanding of California’s Title 24, Part 6 Energy Code and to integrate building science and High-Performance Attic (HPA) and Wall (HPW) requirements into their existing construction curriculum. The BITA program is four-year high school construction trades program provided by the California Homebuilding Foundation (CHF), currently active in 29 campuses throughout the state.

Two train-the-trainer sessions were held on consecutive Saturday’s at Brea Olinda High School, in Brea, CA and Whitney High School in Rocklin, CA. Instructors were given an overview of the Energy Code, including the history, intent and benefits of the code, then reviewed energy efficiency principals, code requirements and strategies for meeting code based on specific learning objectives over the four-year program. The learning objectives were developed to address specific principals over the four-year program cycle, these include; Year One – Energy Basics, Year Two – Energy Code, Year Three – Energy Efficient Attics and Walls and Year Four – HPA and HPW installation strategies.

The Energy Basics section covered foundational building science concepts, such as heat gain/loss, methods of heat transfer, energy efficiency terms and units, and how climate conditions affect efficiency. After each section, instructors were asked to provide feedback on how appropriate the material was for students at this level, are students already getting this education from other classes, and what’s the best way for students to learn and retain this information. Feedback from instructors was encouraging and confirmed that students are getting energy basics from other classes, but it’s more impacting when presented in the context of building. Instructors also agreed that this level of information was appropriate for year-one students and stated that the most effective way for students to retain this information was through activities designed to help them discover the effects of these principals.

The Energy Code section, designed for year-two students covered topics, such as history, intent and benefits of our Energy Code, understanding the code compliance options and process, and identify HPA and HPW prescriptive requirements. Instructors felt this level of information was more appropriate for year-three students because it would fit better with preparing for design build competitions and students would benefit from learning more about efficient materials and assembly strategies before tackling the complexity of code.

The Energy Efficient Attics and Walls section, which was originally designed for year-three students covered identifying insulating materials, strategies for reducing heat transfer through attics and walls, and the intent and strategies for meeting and/or exceeding HPA and HPW requirements. This section focused on the benefits of different types and application of insulation materials, advanced wall framing techniques, and the benefits of proper air sealing and insulation installation. Instructors found this information extremely helpful for students and felt it was more appropriately placed in the year-two curriculum. They also added that it would be very helpful for students to apply these techniques through activities that required them to construct attic and wall components and test its performance.

The HPA and HPW installation strategies section, designed for year-four students, covered hands on installation strategies for attics and walls, as well as Quality Insulation Installation (QII) requirements. Instructors watched HPA installation and Advanced Wall Framing videos provided by WISE, and discussed air sealing and QII requirements. They really like the videos and thought it would be very helpful for students to see these principals applied in the industry. Instructors also requested updated plan sets that incorporated the HPA and HPW requirements with the corresponding Energy Code compliance documentation.

All-in-all, the train-the-trainer sessions were very successful and provided necessary feedback to develop lesson plans and activities to support integration of energy code into the BITA program.

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