Have Truck, Will Travel: Reflections on the First Half of our BC Airtightness Workshops

Have Truck, Will Travel:  Reflections on the first half of our BC Airtightness Workshops

It was with a mixture of excitement and fear that Small Planet Supply accepted the contract award to provide mobile airtightness trainings across the BC Province.  The grant was a combined effort of Fortis BC, BC Hydro, the Province of British Columbia and BC Housing.  It wasn’t teaching the classes that seemed intimidating; it was the thought of navigating the sheer size of British Columbia, how to connect with communities across the region and how to replicate the hands-on portion of the BCIT held classes in local trainings.   Since late September, we’ve conducted twelve classes and trained 143 people. Here’s a little of what we’ve learned so far:

Build It Small

Albert Rooks, Geoffrey Kirkpatrick and Albert Rooks working on the modules in the Small Planet Supply Warehouse

Albert Rooks, Geoffrey Kirkpatrick and Albert Rooks working on the modules in the Small Planet Supply Warehouse

The most impactful part of the BCIT airtightness training has been participants’ ability to apply the concepts on a real building.  We didn’t want to lose that – so we built smaller buildings with the help of RDH’s James Bourget who designed and then constructed the buildings with Geoffrey Kirkpatrick.  How real are the buildings?  They have lights that turn on and off, ceilings, floors, windows to install and plumping components.   These buildings were designed to fit into the back of a box truck and to be able to fit through double doors, making it easier to find locations for classes.  A number of participants expressed surprise when they saw them (especially in hotel meeting rooms); session evaluations consistently cited the hands-on portion of the trainings as the best part. 

No Two Communities Are the Same

While our funders were a great help in getting us introduced into local communities, what we have learned so far is that communities vary in their openness to BC step code airtightness training.  Some communities are already addressing their training needs in anticipation for the step code changes either internally or had already made plans with other training providers.  While it sometimes hurts to be turned away, it is heartening to know that so many communities are already getting ready for the changes. 

This unique nature of each community extended to their familiarity with airtight building.   Some communities were already easily meeting Step Code 3 while some were still trying to prepare to understand the step code changes.  One of the best parts of doing these classes has been the exchange of ideas with class participants, who often have developed their own ways they are working to create airtight buildings. 

Trucks are Temperamental

It’s all smiles now, but not so much fun earlier. We all arrived to Kelowna, ready for the drive to Penticton, only to have a dead battery. Instructor Brandon Clevenger (left) is carrying the battery charger we purchased from Canadian Tire. No added stress on that trip!

It’s all smiles now, but not so much fun earlier. We all arrived to Kelowna, ready for the drive to Penticton, only to have a dead battery. Instructor Brandon Clevenger (left) is carrying the battery charger we purchased from Canadian Tire. No added stress on that trip!

An old Small Planet Supply delivery truck was repatriated for transporting the modules around the province.  We can now confirm that Joe Sullivan, our Tumwater warehouse manager and delivery driver, was correct when he said we needed a new delivery truck in Tumwater.  Our plan to utilize our “surplus truck” backfired.

Problem One:  Dead battery in Kelowna, which necessitated a jump from a tow truck and then an emergency trip to Canadian Tire with Brandon Clevenger to get a battery charger in case the truck died again. 

Problem Two:  Before a second trip to the shop, the truck needed to idle a long time before it would start.  Our apologies to the folks at the motels we were staying at, especially the 6:30 am truck starting and idling that probably woke you up.

Problem Three: The lift gate broke, slowly.  First only being able to lift four inches at a time and then dying altogether.   Two separate next day air shipments of parts and expert over the top service from Accurate Truck Service in Richmond saved the day, allowing us to get on the road just in time for our next scheduled class.

Our Trainers Are Awesome

First “on the road” workshop in Kelowna. with instructuors James Bourget and ALBERT Rooks

First “on the road” workshop in Kelowna. with instructuors James Bourget and ALBERT Rooks

Our instructors James Bourget, Brandon Clevenger and Geoff Kirkpatrick bring expertise, experience and enthusiasm to what they do.  Working along with Small Planet Supply’s Albert Rooks, they have worked to engage each class to learn and try new airtight building techniques.  James, Brandon and Geoff are already working full time at RDH Building science, so doing these workshops are a stretch both for them and their families.  It is a testament to their dedication to airtight building that they give up Fridays and weekends to share their expertise with the rest of the region.

British Columbian Can-adians

The best learning of this process has been discovering some incredible British Columbians, both in our classes and in communities at large.  It’s been exciting to meet individuals who take up the crusade of airtight building and inspiring others in their community to follow.