A year that started out on a worrying note for the Building Performance Institute Inc. (BPI) and its CEO Larry Zarker turned into a successful one as the organization celebrated its 20th anniversary.

In late February, 13 industry organizations, including the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), and Heating, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI), among others, authored a letter to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) requesting BPI’s accreditation as a standards development organization be withdrawn for “repeated violations of BPI’s approved operating procedures and specific requirements of the ANSI essential requirements.”

Since the letter, which was never formally filed as an appeal, Zarker and BPI have made strides in its industry cohesiveness, something Zarker is proud of. This culminated in August, when BPI and ACCA jointly announced they would begin exploring opportunities for collaboration.

“We feel very good about the direction we’re heading as an industry,” Zarker said. “We’ve had our issues with some of the industry groups, and the boards of BPI and ACCA got together and agreed to hit the reset button. We’ve had meetings and discussed how to work together. I meet regularly with (ACCA president and CEO) Paul Stalknecht. We talk about issues and how we can build this industry. So I think we’re at a real juncture where we can take the benefits of what this small niche group of home-performance contractors figured out and take it mainstream to benefit all of the 130 million homes in America.”

The increased level of communication between Zarker and Stalknecht has been beneficial for both sides, Zarker said. He said Stalknecht reached out to him in order to get to know each other better, since they barely knew one another. They had dinner and have been speaking regularly since.

“You can get into kind of an adversarial point of view and not really know someone,” Zarker said. “Now, we can pick up the phone and call each other and talk things through. I think that’s really important.”

Zarker said 2013 marked the launch of four ANSI ISO 17024 accredited advanced Home Energy Professional (HEP) certifications — energy auditor, retrofit installer technician, crew leader, and quality control inspector.

“The ANSI process for accrediting certifications is not easy,” Zarker said. “It sets a high bar that we pushed hard to get to, and we are very proud to be there. We now have five certifications that have been through the ANSI accreditation process, verifying that these credentials were developed following international protocols for quality and objectivity. We are very proud of that.”

This year, BPI also launched its Building Science Principles (BSP) Certificate of Knowledge, which helps people throughout the building trades understand the topic. Leslie McDowell, director of marketing and communications, BPI, said this was a big accomplishment for Zarker in 2013.

“The BSP has had tremendous success in its first year,” McDowell said. “It is the foundation stone of building science that contractors, their staff, salespeople, program administrators, manufacturers, realtors, home inspectors, and others must have in order to communicate the benefits of whole-house performance to consumers. All of these people have a significant influence on what consumers value in their homes, and what they are willing to invest resources in.”

In a year that started out with some negativity, 2013 certainly turned the corner for Zarker and BPI. In its October 2013 issue, Consumer Reports recommended consumers use BPI-certified professionals for energy audits and energy upgrades of their homes. That recognition will also benefit the many HVAC contractors who employ BPI-certified technicians.

Meanwhile, Zarker and BPI are working hard with HVAC industry organizations to further what home performance can do for HVAC contractors.

“I think there were some misunderstandings,” Zarker said. “What we did was try to be positive and build relations with key players in the industry. I think it would’ve been wrong for us to try to engage in skirmishes, so we took a position that we need to keep working hard and improving the delivery of our standards into the marketplace. We are listening, we do want to engage, we do want to work and collaborate with the leadership in the industry, so I think our former problems were an expression of frustration. That means there’s an opportunity for communication, and I think we’re at that point now.”

Publication date: 12/23/2013 

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