Written by Kimberly Kooles
"The Energy Blues" Schoolhouse Rock song remains a classic with lyrics ringing just as true in 2011 as they did with the original air date back in 1979. While I may no longer have the luxury of learning everything I need to know through catchy jingles sung by an animated earth sporting a fluffy white wig, I have to admit the message is clearer and more effective than many articles on energy efficiency I have seen recently.
Although not animated or set to music, the Sustainable Cities Institute in Charleston, South Carolina, is churning out educational materials on retrofitting historic properties for energy conservation that are soon to be instant classics. How are they doing this? By working collaboratively with experts in the construction, preservation and academic fields, the Sustainable Cities Institute has developed Weatherization for Historic Houses curriculum to “train the residential energy improvements labor force in Charleston on the skills and understanding of the unique aspects and required considerations to protect the integrity and embodied value of an historic home.”
The Sustainable Cities Institute’s curriculum is designed to align with the standards and requirements of the Building Performance Institute (BPI), a leading developer of technical standards for home performance and weatherization retrofit work. BPI also provides professional credentialing for home performance contractors. Historic Preservation has very rarely held a “once size fits all” point of view, and by developing curriculum specifically designed for their community, the Sustainable Cities Institute has opened the door for many more communities in the hot and humid southeast to follow suit.
The Sustainable Cities Institute’s new curriculum incorporates the classic surface-skimming questions on the basics of preservation into deeper building science equations, thermodynamics and historic materials conservation - doing so in terms that BPI analysts can and do understand. “Integrity” is translated with examples of reversible repairs to 1809 wooden beams and the aftermath of Portland cement on historic masonry, “Character” is defined with numerous local examples of historically significant homes and “Inherently Sustainable” is detailed with lessons on local historic construction methodology - all great stuff on its own, but it also does a fantastic job of filling in the gaps in the existing BPI curriculum!
The initial Weatherization for Historic Houses course will be open to all certified BPI Analyst I professionals and higher, and is expected to commence in November at Trident Technical Community College. I, for one, would love to be part of this inaugural class!
Kimberly Kooles is a certified BPI Analyst I and Policy Analyst with the North Carolina Solar Center.