3 New Ways to Learn Building Enclosure Commissioning
November 11, 2013
Recent BuildingGreen resources give a pretty good picture of just what building enclosure commissioning (BECx) is and how its use is on the rise in high-performance buildings. But a logical follow-up question I get asked a lot is: how can I get the necessary education to become proficient in BECx—or actually get credentialed or certified as a BECx agent or expert?
There are several questions wrapped up here, and I want to take them one at a time to keep this complex topic at least somewhat straight.
Caution sign: Construction in progress
Although there are a number of significant efforts under way on BECx, this is a relatively new field, at least in terms of standards, courses, professional exams, and credentials or designations.
All of these issues need to be addressed for different target audiences—trade professionals (in vocational education), technicians (two-year schools), and construction managers/engineers/architects (four-year university programs)—as well as different building professional designations: a building enclosure commissioning agent versus a building enclosure specialist.
One effort is the combined and integrated work of the National Institute for Buildings (NIBS), the ASTM E2813 working group, and the Building Enclosure Technology and Environment Council (BETEC).
NIBS is working with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on certifying the organizations that will give BECx examinations. BETEC has developed a full matrix of BECx course content. ASTM E2813 has developed minimum core competencies for fundamental and enhanced BECx service providers and intends to offer a certification for BECx field professionals.
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The group is developing course materials and exams for three different “tiers” or levels of expertise: trade school, 2-year college, and 4-year academic programs for specialists. Philip Schneider of NIBS told me the credential probably won’t be available for two to five years, and he thinks that the initial focus will be on the 4-year specialist level.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Professional Development for Engineers
Meanwhile, the University of Wisconsin–Madison has developed a two-day BECx professional development engineering course, including an examination and two certifications. The exam has two parts, reflecting course content and the two certifications on the commissioning process and building enclosure science. The course will be offered in late May 2014 (a course brochure is available).
Joint Committee on Building Science Education
For quite some time now, DOE’s Building America program has been trying to work with colleges and universities (particularly land grant schools) to develop coordination and integration of building science education materials and approaches to high-performance buildings.
In the latest effort, the National Consortium of Housing Research Center’s Joint Committee on Building Science Education is working with the Associated Schools of Construction to develop and amass building science education resources and minimum requirements for two and four-year schools.
This effort has a decidedly residential slant, and is not as formally focused on building enclosure commissioning, but the principles and processes have a lot of crossover with the more commercial building-focused BECx.
What is an aspiring building science professional to do?
I wish I could tell you that there was one clear course of action, educational pathways, or credentials to qualify you as a bona fide building enclosure commissioning agent or expert. But we are simply not quite there yet.
We are making significant progress, and demand for qualified BECx professionals is likely to continue to grow, but perhaps the best advice at this point is:
- Get as much building science education as you can find.
- Study the “mother” BECx resource—NIBS Guideline 3—from cover to cover.
- Get out in the field to gain experience in how building science applies to the design, specification, and construction of high performance buildings.
On the first point, I want to put in a quick plug for a course we developed here at BuildingGreen: Fundamentals of High-Performance Building Assemblies. This four-unit online course provides methodologies for how best to design and manage details to achieve superior hygrothermal—moisture and thermal—performance.