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Why does BPI refuse to protect consumers?

I was hired by a homeowner to evaluate a geothermal HVAC system being installed by a BPI Gold Star contractor. I was aghast at how horrible the duct system was installed. I had the homeowner pay for an independent 3rd party evaluation of the duct system performed by a BPI certified employee of a BPI accredited company that also does HERS ratings and compliance testing for Energy Star, LEED and other programs, so there would be no question of the validity of the report. The system failed every benchmark.
I contacted BPI as I thought that they would be interested in the fact that one of their accredited contractors was doing such bad work. The people I talked to there were only interested in knowing if the contractor and homeowner were able to settle. Since the homeowner owed the contractor more than it would cost to fix the ductwork and other installation failures, she was able to reach an agreement. The problem is that this contractor continues to deliberately install ductwork that does not meet any BPI standard on every job. The owner was overheard telling a new hire, "forget about what I taught you in class." I have seen multiple jobs completed by this BPI accredited company and not one of them meets BPI standards.

As long as BPI does nothing to police its contractors, and allows them to game the system, then I question the reason for their existence. One of my go to BPI accredited companies is no longer paying to be accredited and will not renew certification. He sees no value in being associated with BPI. Is BPI a bloated agency that has not teeth and no value?
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Comments

  • Lloyd, thanks for the story. I let my BA expire because I couldn't see value.

    Take a look at the certified products. Many are good, but note EZ Breathe. I've had a number of clients where these caused moisture problems in their basements. Why is it on the list?

    I long thought that BPI had high ethical standards. I no longer think this is the case. Anything for a buck. Your story confirms this. Bums me out.
  • I thought BPI had a QA process for their Gold Star Contractors?
  • BPI is a racket! Collect a check is all they want.
  • Lloyd,
    I'm so happy to finally see someone like yourself vent about what I hear more often then not. I received a call from a desperate homeowner in Illinois today. He received a referral from Homeadvisors.com for insulation. This referral contractor is also BPI certified and also received spf manufacturer training. The poor guy is living with a poorly installed foam job and no one will do anything to help him. I asked what BPI was doing for him and his response shocked me! Nothing! At first I thought this was just another pissed off homeowner like most I hear from, but you just placed the last nail in the coffin for BPI credibility! What good is certification when there's zero accountability! To think many states are considering using BPI as a third party inspector to relieve the pressure from local building officials. Maybe this needs to be revisited by many.
  • @Richard, although there's no excuse for shoddy work, the situation you describe is a bit different than what Lloyd's talking about. There's a big difference between *individuals* who pass a BPI certification test (building analyst, envelope, etc), as sounds like the case with in your comment, and *companies* that participate in GoldStar, which is specifically a quality assurance program that addresses QA on the front end through training options and mentoring. Among other requirements, GoldStar accredited contractors must demonstrate that they have a complaint resolution program in place and agree to pay a std fee for independent QA inspections that may be triggered by customer complaints (bit.ly/1TFkJWr).

    If BPI is not responding to customer complaints about GS accredited contractors, that's a serious allegation that needs to be addressed.

    @Lloyd, since BPI monitors this group, presumably they'd want to know who you spoke with. Ok to send to me if you don't want to post it here.
  • You could say the same for any organization that doesn't enforce QA standards, or has conflicting standards.

    It's sad that the homeowners in the stories from Lloyd and Richard have faced what they have, but there are serious steps that need to be taken before the shoddy workmen (and women) in the building science industry screw all the hard working and standard meeting individuals.
  • Similar case with me Nate Adams. It's standards are great for combustion safety...outside of that I saw no practicality in most of what is expected. Personally I'd rather default to ACCA standard 4 for residential HVAC installation best practices.
  • David Butler I do agree with you. Certificate programs are frankly a joke if there's zero accountability. Accountability is what certificate programs were originally intended to offer the public. Seems that idea has been lost with fee based accreditation if your separating GoldStar versus passing a test. BPI is BPI in the public eye. I hope BPI is watching and takes some of these suggestions to the board.
  • I look at certificate programs a bit differently... they just show someone took and passed a training. The problem is when homeowners infer that to mean some level of accountability. In general, that only happens with state level licensure, like with trades and professionals (and of course, we all know that doesn't mean proficiency either). But there's no way a certificate program can monitor the actions of its certificate holders in the market.
  • Can I advocate for tracking energy savings on projects? That will tend to separate the wheat from the chaff. My old foreman Clayton McCune texted me a picture of a hideous tripolymer foam insulation job. That company's trucks say up to 50% savings. Prove it. With 10% full cavities it could be interesting. Same with Lloyds example.
  • David, I was hoping that my posting would trigger a response from BPI. I can assure you that the person I talked to at BPI headquarters was high enough up in the QA/QC chain at BPI that her statements can be taken as the official BPI position. I will grant that I could have misinterpreted, but I do not think so.

    If Gold Star contractors are not concerned about tough enforcement of the BPI standards, then some contractors will cheat, some more than others. If BPI does not show up when presented with creditable evidence that one of their contractors is systematically ignoring THE STANDARDS, then they do not offer the rest of the BPI accredited contractors any value.

    BPI has to be more rigorous in enforcement of their standards or their brand has no value to anyone, and IMHO is a violation of their fiduciary duty to the public, government agencies and accredited contractors.
  • I think it might be instructional to remember how BPI got entrenched in the system. B.S. programs were being embraced by Utilities as a way around their problem with only getting a partial credit for "Deemed savings" with an ongoing conundrum. "How can we suggest a type (certified) contractor and not take liability on? (they used to sign up 100's of contractors and say "get three bids" thus supposedly absolving them from co-responsibility for uniformly crappy work (read: not performing to any purported metric). Along comes BPI competing with contractors offering to publish actual performance. Guess who won out? Using BPI was sold as a sure fire way to externalize Risk/Liability away from their program. Voila! a new layer of cost to the consumer is born and the rest is history. Nate is trumpeting an old tested and true approach; Post your performance results for all to see REAL PERFORMANCE FROM WORK DONE. The public will catch on quickly. Certificated are great for a trophy wall...
  • On behalf of BPI, I am very sorry to hear about sub-standard work being performed by a BPI GoldStar Contractor. We do have a Quality Assurance procedure in place for customer disputes with BPI GoldStar Contractors.

    All BPI GoldStar Contractors agree to complete home performance work in accordance with BPI standards. Contractors verify they have a standardized data collection system, and use documented sign off forms on all completed work. BPI periodically performs a data review of a random sample of jobs completed. In-field QA inspections may be conducted when BPI is contacted by a contractor's customer regarding performance, or is contacted by a program administrator, or when the desk audit justifies further review. Unfortunately when BPI was contacted about this incident last year, the caller declined to provide the contractor's or homeowner's names or contact information. We can't follow up with our customer dispute resolution procedure if contact information is not provided.
  • Finally, David Butler is correct in noting the difference between BPI certification and the BPI GoldStar program. BPI certification verifies that an individual has the knowledge, skills and abilities to evaluate and assess homes based on BPI's standards. Certification does not verify the quality of their work. BPI GoldStar Contractor is a company-wide designation for contractors committed to following BPI Standards in their home performance work.
  • My company quickly jumped on the BPI "Accredited Contractor" bandwagon when it was first offered, because our bar is high. When BPI switched to "Goldstar", not only did it remind me of grade school when teachers would put a gold star on your work (or forehead) for doing good work, but it made me realize that after several years as an "Accredited" contractor, I never saw or heard from anyone at BPI except an initial visit to verify that I carried insurance. BPI was aggressive in collecting their annual toll, yet they had no idea of the quality of our work, even though they were supposed to inspect 15% of our jobs.

    In regards to Lloyd's concerns, I re-read BPI's policies regarding Goldstar Contractors, which only deal with BPI's policies. The only BPI policy that appears to apply here is that the company have a customer resolution policy, which it appears that they do, and they not intentionally commit fraud.
  • From what I can see and realize, most join these programs, individual & company, to qualify to work for programs, and so they can use the logos in their marketing for a "step up.". The quality takes a back seat to selling more work, getting it done and getting out the door to the next one. I see more bad work than I see quality.
  • BPI is a trade group and nothing more. Same arguments, same problems, different Presidential administration.
  • Unless you have a quality assurance program in place to enforce what is taught in class as the standard, this will happen. Accountability can only be guaranteed in today's market if the person doing the installation knows their work will be checked.
  • There are 5 models of performance contracting. The Federal Government set this up in 2000 to determine if they got the bargain they expect. These processes were formulated based on collaborative relationships with ESCOs, the IOUs and particular agencies.

    Some 30 years ago we conducted telephone and energy auditing services and typically found most billing errors were the result of the utility errors not getting moves changes and additions right. These AUDITS were reconciling the reality of the rate payer against the detailed and complicated billing formats of the Utilty.

    When anyone studied Accounting 101 you learned that a business would do a "Compilation" first. This is a simple inventory, assessment and determination of where a business is at financially. The next level of accounting is a "Review", which would ascertain if protocols and data capture met reasonable expectations within a business or market plan. The final stage of accounting is an "Audit".
  • Today not many follow these protocols in energy conservation. Building owners here the first things were do is an ENERGY AUDIT. Then recommendations are made and when the contract comes out no one asks how we understand getting bargain they expected to obtain.
  • @Brad, interesting perspective, but I'm not sure how "audit" in the accounting context can be compared with energy audits or, more generally, performance contracting. Moreover, in the commercial sector, decisions are more likely to be driven by pragmatic concerns. In any case, this thread is about quality assurance for home performance contracting.
  • Leslie, I did give BPI the information of the contractors name and have all of the documentation available. It was clear the BPI had no interest if the customer was able to reach agreement, which they did. She was successful only because she owed him enough money that she could force an agreement. She kicked the contractor off the site and had others repair and finish. BPI made it clear to me that they did not investigate contractors based on reliable field reports.

    It is wrong that BPI refuses to investigate problems if the contractor reaches settlement with the customer. It is clear that this contractor refuses to follow standards on every job and knows that he will not have his jobs evaluated.
    I have all the documentation of the job, including lots of pictures. I have seen several other jobs done by this contractor, and have first hand accounts of his forcing workers to ignore the standards. None of his work meets BPI standards.
  • Lloyd - So true! The current IECC building code and duct blast should cover a descent duct job (although low pressure for geo heating is a further departure for many installers and their "value engineering" clients re: duct static ideals). I was at a code class a few days ago however where most in the room noted that NOBODY inspects HVAC systems. A real problem for proliferating high performance geo as you are no doubt aware. Thanks for the discussion. I find most BPI , RESNET folks and architects are sensitized exclusively to the envelope and have little training in systems development. I had a discussion recently with a BPI group who vehemently defended 12" walls, but felt that going geo was not good policy, instead suggesting air-to-air was best. Ugh!
  • Leslie wrote: "In-field QA inspections may be conducted when BPI is contacted by a contractor's customer regarding performance, or is contacted by a program administrator, or when the desk audit justifies further review."

    By omission, did you mean to imply that BPI does not investigate complaints lodged by someone other than the customer or program admin?

    I think there's a distinction to be made between complaint resolution where the primary focus is the customer (like BBB), versus a contractor accreditation program where the primary objective is, or should be, to ensure participants reasonably meet program requirements and BPI standards in general.
  • Whether it is BPI GoldStar, municipal and state code enforcement, state licensure of contractors, utility efficiency program QA, or trade association enforced standards, the underlying message here is the need for a quality assurance program. Even with the bureaucracy, a shout out for the required QA built into Home Performance with Energy Star and the Weatherization Assistance Program. In the bigger scheme of things, random inspections of 1 in 20 jobs is a small price to pay for quality. "Mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon" -Garrett Hardin
  • What if we track EUI on homes, both measured and predicted? Good projects are likely to show low usage. If this geo project was crummy, a bad duct system could show up, or a bad loop field that leads to too much resistance electric. It's not perfect, but it's a measure of accountability, especially if practitioners are publicly ranked against each other. This is also applicable to new homes as a backup code enforcement mechanism.
  • @Nate, given that this thread is about contractor QA, you're proposing EUI tracking would provide evidence when contractors do shoddy work. For homes that have been upgraded, I would think a better metric would be actual vs promised savings, as has been suggested by yourself, Ted and others. EUI would only obfuscate the results. In any case, the problem here seems to be a lack of will, not a lack of evidence.
  • Many of us are frustrated with the difficulty of identifying the best home performance contractors. Existing housing is highly varied, and retrofit jobs are complicated. Even good companies botch an occasional job. I know -- I spent 35 years in the trenches.

    I suggest that we professionals, such as are subscribed to this group, keep the pressure on our allied professionals -- including BPI Gold Star Contractors -- and call out bad workmanship for what it is.

    But I believe it's a mistake to issue a blanket condemnation of the Gold Star Contractor program. We need broad-based systems of accreditation to help both consumers and other professionals identify the most committed organizations in the market.

    There are surely some under-performing contractors in the GSC program. But I've seen BPI diligently keeping the pressure on them. Managing a QA/QC program is a constant battle anywhere in the construction industry, but I don't see anybody more qualified than BPI to do the job.
  • Well said Chris.
    Lloyd is pointing out BPI refuses to act when there is a complaint about a 'trained' BPI contractor. What message is this sending to members?
  • Let's go ahead and have the name of this contractor. Even if someone is listed as a BPI Gold Star contractor, the consumer should also check other places for reviews and feedback. I can't imagine this company has a solid BBB rating or good Angie's List reviews. BPI should have higher standards in terms of this type of bad work and removing contractors that do not adhere to BPI's standards and guidelines, but consumers should also know better than to just take one organization's word for it.