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Workforce Development Online for the HVACR Industry

A Building is a System

Welcome to another post in our continuing series on how we, as HVACR technicians, can do our bit to improve the energy efficiency of our customers’ HVACR systems. If we incorporate this knowledge into our service and installation work, we’ll be saving our customers money and making their lives better and more comfortable, as well as contributing to the larger goal of wise use of limited and costly energy resources.

By Dan Linthicum

Changes to a building are usually made with the intent of improving performance or comfort.  However, changes can have unexpected results. Here’s an example: in the 1970’s, the energy crisis prompted builders to significantly increase the amount of insulation installed in homes and commercial buildings.  The anticipated results – which were achieved – were reduced energy use and increased occupant comfort levels.  Unfortunately, there was a hidden cost – increased moisture accumulation!  This led to accelerated mold growth and increased incidences of structural rot.

These undesirable changes came about because of ‘non-system’ thinking.  No house with roof cutawayone stopped to consider the effect of additional insulation on other parts of the building system!  Extra insulation was installed and the problem of increasing energy prices was considered to be solved. However, the exterior sheathing or siding became colder since the amount of heat loss from the home was reduced.  Warm, moist air from the inside continued to migrate outward and condensed on these now colder surfaces.  This led to the undesirable results of siding and paint failure, roof deck rot and increased mold and mildew growth, including growth in places never before affected.

Modern System Thinking

The System Approach: Each part of a building is viewed and recognized as an interacting and interdependent part of a unified whole. This is the backbone of Applied Building Science.

Every change in construction techniques and every new HVACR product introduced into a building must be evaluated to determine how it will affect the Building System.

How will it affect the flow of moisture, heat and air?

How will it affect the air quality or other aspects of the indoor environment?

How will it affect how the building interacts with the outdoor environment?

How will it affect the building safety and durability?

House as Interactive System


Remember, any changes made to a building can bring unexpected results. A system approach will help avoid the unexpected!

Building science professionals look at individual buildings as complete systems, rather than a collection of isolated parts. Research has proven that changing a single part of the building has an effect on the entire building system, sometimes positive and sometimes negative. Trends in changing out or upgrading equipment and building remodeling techniques come and go in response to new developments in technology, but positive and negative effects must be taken into account during the planning stages, with specific results matched to specific situations found in each building and environment.  A ‘one size fits all’ type of thinking just won’t work anymore.

Want to learn more about how to treat a building as an interactive system? 

Check out our course: 107 Principles of Building Science in our HVACRedu.net Master Catalog, then e-mail our Student Services department at studentservices@hvacredu.net. Tell them “I want to learn more about Building Science!” and they’ll fix you right up.


Young HVAC Workers: Find them and Keep Them (from IE3)

IE3, “where forward-thinking contractors go for daily content to feed their passion for success,” posted a great piece this week entitled A New Generation: Finding and Keeping Younger Workers.

Pointing out the deficit in the supply of trained workers, ever-worsening as baby boomers retire in droves, Sandra Sabo delivers hope and some ideas for finding promising employees amongst the youngest age group of workers. Just as important, she reports on some solid strategies that various companies have developed for keeping them around. Knowing what makes younger workers tick plays a big part in these strategies.

Frank Cerbone, president of All State Air Control in NY,  “sees distinct differences between employees under the age of 35— sometimes referred to as Millennials—and their older counterparts. For instance, says Cerbone, “One trend we see with the younger people is that they really like their ‘me’ time.”

In addition to seeking balance in their private and work lives, members of Generation Y prefer to move up on their own terms, want instant feedback, and are not afraid to change jobs and organizations frequently, according to Bruce Katcher, president of Discovery Surveys, Inc., Sharon, MA. “If you continue to use the methods of the past for attracting, motivating, and retaining young employees, your organization will become a revolving door,” cautions Katcher.


Click through to A New Generation: Finding and Keeping Younger Workers on the IE3 website to discover updated strategies that will prevent the ‘revolving door’ scenario, and more great advice from several experienced employers whom Sando interviewed.


HVACRedu.net Toasts Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs

By Chris Compton

Here’s a toast to Mike Rowe, the star of the series “Dirty Jobs” and now one of my two beer mugs toastingheroes.  Obviously this is a working man’s toast, hoisting a couple mugs of beer—the staple of the blue collar workforce.


So why am I toasting Mike?  Because he has become an outstanding spokesman for the blue collar workforce, and a promoter of not just the dirty jobs, but all of the jobs critical to keeping American factories and infrastructure operational.  With his high profile as a result of the Dirty Jobs series, he’s a great guy to have talking about a HUGE issue: the lack of respect given to the trades and technical workforce in this country.


I am thankful that Mike recognizes the value of that critical element of our society and has a real passion to get out there and tell the story.  If you watch the various YouTube sessions where he is interviewed on the topic of our trades and technical workforce, you’ll see his message comes across loud and clear.  I like his message because I can relate it to my own work journey, and I know he speaks the truth.  There is nothing wrong with hard work!  There is nothing wrong with knowing how to build or fix things!  There is nothing wrong with having pride in craftsmanship!  And it can be much more satisfying than being “doctors and lawyers and such” (Willie Nelson).


The heartbreak is that our culture has diminished the value of those careers to our young people over the past 40+ years.  The consistent message (and I’ve heard it many times) from parents to children, from school counselors to students, from influential people to young folks has been “the next step in life is to get a four year degree.”


I just came out of the ACTE NPS (Association for Career and Technical student loan debt chartEducation National Policy Seminar) in Washington, DC (okay it was really in Arlington, VA) last week.  The message was the same as it has been for decades and exactly what Mike is talking about. But I was part of the choir in attendance, not one of the people that need to hear the sermon.  One of Mike’s constant digs is that there are 2.9 million of these “opportunities” (thank you, Mike, for using that term) in the U.S. today and no one to fill them, no one stepping up to take them, no one prepared for them, no one aware of them.


How ironic that in a time when every politician on the street is lamenting about the unemployment statistics, Congress continues to cut funding for CTE and ignores the trillion dollar debt associated with academic student loans, many of which may never be paid back.  The research presented at the NPS indicates that the street value of a degree is going down due to supply and demand.  Mike, being the articulate and well mannered (sort of) spokesperson that he is on this issue, puts it one way.  I, being the hillbilly that I am, put it another: THIS IS FREAKING NUTS!!  WHAT ARE WE THINKING??


Now, if I were a conspiracy theory person, I might get carried away with the issue, but it would not be helpful to anyone for me to go there.  Just saying . . .  My interest is tied to one of the underpinning technologies that drive this country, HVACR and Building Performance.  As with many of the trades and technical occupations, if we don’t have the HVACR and BP technology at our disposal the wheels fall off almost everything.  The need for well trained and competent technicians in HVACR and Building Performance is huge and has been huge for many years.  It has been rated as one of the fastest growing occupations in the country for the past three years by the U.S. Department of Labor.  It has everything to do with our national energy efficiency ranking (HVAC is the second largest consumer of energy in the U.S.), and that relates directly to our national economic security.  No one is showing up to take on the challenge of meeting that need, and the opportunities are begging.


The level of sophistication in the competencies needed by this workforce continue to rise like a gully washer in the desert, driven by the desire for comfort provided by energy efficient systems.  The existing workforce is challenged by the technology and will continue to be challenged due to the numerous advances being made, thus the huge opportunities in HVAC and Building Performance.  Despite all of this, the occupation continues to have the butt crack image that was attached at some point years ago.


It’s not justified.  The occupation is well compensated and does not have a glass ceiling of any type.  The knowledge and skills needed are wide in scope and very technical in nature.  For those who want to get into it and do the things that Mike has spoken of, i.e. work hard, study hard, achieve professional certifications and licenses, the rise to the top has few if any obstacles.  Here’s to you, Mike Rowe!  I appreciate your passion and voice for this seemingly invisible flaw in our culture and society.  They will hear you way before they hear me….cheers!

Watch Mike Rowe’s comments on YouTube: