Construction Education-Construction Instruction

This post originally appeared on the Green Building Advisor’s website.

I recently took a trip to Denver, Colorado for a couple days of construction education, specifically a two-day class on high performance HVAC and IAQ.  The course was offered by Ci, or Construction Instruction and combined classroom learning with real-world, hands-on education in their adjacent testing center.

The classroom education covered a range of topics, starting with human comfort and moved through design, installation and commissioning of space conditioning and ventilation systems based on the planned size and performance of a home.  Temperature, humidity, and indoor air quality were all covered in detail.  Lessons in the testing center included testing air flow of different exhaust fans and how different duct installations will affect performance.  We were shown several different tools that are used to commission ducted forced air heating and cooling systems.  One of the tests that opened my eyes was how different grill designs can affect air flow.  The class was attended not only by building and mechanical contractors from hot and humid to very cold climates, but also representatives from a few different manufacturers, including Panasonic and Mitsubishi.  I sat next to a gentleman who designed and installed HVAC equipment in a hot and humid area of Texas, the opposite of my very cold climate.

This article is not about what I learned in Denver, but more about construction education in general and what Construction Instruction has to offer.

Continuing Education

Justin Wilson and Gord Cooke in the CI Lab. Photo by Jon Benson

I’m a big fan of learning as much as possible about the trades, all the trades in the construction industry.  In addition to my two days at Construction Instruction, over the past year I’ve spent several hours attending online webinars, a day learning at an in-person, state required contractor continuing education class, several days attending trade conferences, watching hours of live how-to demonstrations at the International Builders Show, and read countless articles from various trade publications.  I’ve been in the industry for more than 25 years, something I’ve come to realize is I thought I had a good handle on my construction knowledge when I was younger only to realize as I got older, that knowledge wasn’t nearly enough.  There are a lot of gaps that continue to be filled even today.  Continuing education is key to being successful in the constantly changing construction industry.  Educators like Construction Instruction can help.

Who is Construction Instruction?

Construction Instruction was started by three well-known building experts, Mark LaLiberte, Gord Cook and Justin Wilson each with decades of experience.

Justin Wilson, a founding partner of Construction Instruction, has extensive hands-on experience working with national and regional builders on new construction and renovations of residential and commercials buildings sites all over North America.  Industry know-how combined with a background in mechanical engineering and physics gives him great insight to find efficient solutions to problems in the building processes that affect energy, comfort, and durability.

Mark LaLiberte, a founding partner of Construction Instruction, has dedicated over 30 years to the building industry.  Devoting his time educating himself on the benefits of constructing durable, energy-efficient, and healthier homes through lectures, publications, and video series.  Mark speaks nationwide to over 8,000 people annually, offering consulting and training sessions for building professionals, architects, and major manufacturers.  By performing on-site visits of builder’s homes, he can identify risks and opportunities for contractors from an independent perspective.

Gord Cooke, a partner at Construction Instruction, is a professional engineer with over 25 years of experience in the low and high-rise residential building industry. As an educator, industry consultant, and much sought-after presenter, Gord has a unique talent for taking the building science issues that he sees in the field and presenting them in an easily understood and practical, real-world manner.  Gord has a particular expertise in applied building science, energy-efficient housing initiatives, innovative HVAC systems, ventilation, and Indoor Air Quality (IAQ).  He has developed and delivered a multitude of workshops in these fields and sales and marketing courses for builders and real estate agents to help them best promote the features and benefits of high-performance houses.

As you can tell from the bio’s, Construction Instruction isn’t just about education, CI also offers consulting services which can help builders and building supply companies lower their risk and improve their business.

Along with education and consulting, CI also offers testing and field service work to manufacturers and builders.  Testing products and assemblies in real world applications to determine any potential issues and suggest improvements.  According to CI, testing products and assemblies includes plan reviews, code compliance, building science based technical plan analysis, product evaluations and related technical information and documentation.  I saw several wall assemblies that were in the lab area ready to be tested to determine the performance characteristics along with prototype and production HVAC equipment being tested during my time at CI.

Education offerings

CI has a range of class offerings.  Two courses that are regularly offered are Applied Building Science and High-Performance HVAC and IAQ.  Other offerings include two variations for the Applied Building Science classes, one for cold climates and another for hot and humid climates.  There are also classes on high performance enclosures and a net-zero energy design-build workshop.  New in the coming year will be a class dealing with carbon in construction.  The flow chart shows how you can achieve Ci Live’s high performance builder designation.

The Ci App

In addition to the other Ci offerings, Construction Instruction has developed an app for mobile devices which features searchable videos, articles and animations on many different topics for the construction industry.  As a matter of fact, the Ci app is the number one construction tool app for mobile devices.  Handy if you are on a jobsite and have a question on a product or assembly.  You can find the app in both the Android and Apple app stores.

Using what they preach.

The CI team has installed systems to assure the best possible indoor air quality while students are in the classroom.  The fresh air ventilation system for the classroom is a good example.  The maximum occupancy of the classroom is 50 people, the ventilation system, which consists of two energy recovery ventilators, are sized to provide between 4 and 6 air changes per hour based on the actual occupancy of the room.  The ERV’s are controlled first by an occupancy sensor that will start the system when people are detected in the room.  A CO2 sensing multi-speed controller will adjust air flow based on CO2 levels.  Stage 1 of the system holds the CO2 levels at 850 PPM, a second stage with a higher fan speed starts when CO2 levels increase above 1000 PPM.  The goal is to maintain CO2 levels less than 1000 PPM, which is considered a good level for indoor air quality. Maintaining lower levels of CO2 have been shown to help students perform better while learning.

Should you take the trip?

I was impressed with both the traditional classroom education and time spent in the testing center getting real-world experience with tools and equipment.  Gord handled the majority of the classroom education showing his years of experience and extensive knowledge of the subject matter.  Justin’s enthusiasm in the testing center was infectious and fun.  I left Ci feeling the need to go home and investigate the deficiencies of my own HVAC equipment.  I’m hoping to attend another class at Ci in the future, bringing along a couple other contractors in my market who I think could benefit from what Ci has to offer.  In my opinion, the trip to Denver was worth the time.

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