Southface Energy Institute recently held a grand-opening ceremony for its new Southeast Weatherization Energy Efficiency Training Center, nicknamed the SWEET Center. The event was well attended, with several mercifully brief speeches by several dignitaries, including civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis; officials from DOE and the Georgia Energy Office; and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who just the day before unveiled an ambitious sustainability plan for the city.
After the ceremony, the center opened for tours, and competitions took place to see who could perform the best weatherization work on sample building sections. The classroom focuses on combustion safety issues, a big component of weatherization work, most of which is currently focused on low-income housing. My favorite display was the backdrafting demonstration, which uses theatrical fog machines to show exactly how easy it is to draw toxic fumes like carbon monoxide into a house with pressure imbalances. I want to shoot a video of this for some of my upcoming talks; it should scare the crap out of an audience.
The center also includes several complete, albeit small homes, both indoors and out, that will be used to teach proper use of performance testing equipment. I liked the wall sections with clear plastic on one side that can be used to test blown insulation techniques. After students fill a stud cavity, they can see exactly how good a job they did, learning the best techniques in the process.
We can’t outsource this work
Bob Adams, the DOE representative, shared some impressive statistics with the group. Stimulus funding is currently helping to weatherize more than 15,000 low-income homes every day; to date, almost a quarter of a million homes have been completed. In addition to providing training for low-income weatherization, one stated goal of this center is to expand the techniques to market-rate projects that will help our domestic economy grow. As many people have said, we can’t outsource weatherization work; it has to be done locally.