A Guide to Green Auditing Become Certified in a Job with Growing Green Potential

In the wake of the sagging U.S. job market, environmental proponents are finding something to be thankful for—the need for a “green-collar” workforce, specifically workers adept in energy-efficiency measures. Those with building and contracting experience already in place, or those looking for a fresh start (or a lucrative side job) are turning to green auditing.

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As of August 2010, the average salary for a building energy auditor on indeed.com was $102,000. Other sites quote auditor salaries at anywhere from $45,000 (blisstree.com) to $65,000 (simplyhired.com).

What’s a Green Auditor?

An environmental auditor makes sure a company is in line with federal and company regulations, and finds ways for businesses to curb inefficiencies to promote profit, improve worker health and raise environmental performance. They also evaluate homes for air leaks, poor insulation and indoor pollution problems.

Erica Brabon, a manager of Existing Buildings for Steven Winter Associates, Inc., with experience in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification says, “Cutting consumption often means optimizing the systems you already have, such as sealing ventilation shafts and tuning boiler controls. Buildings are full of holes, which mean air leakage, stack effect, infiltration, heat loss and pathways for pests. Air sealing all these holes saves energy.”

And it’s not only contractors who are qualified to become auditors. Brabon says: “Any math, science, urban planner, public policy and engineer background allows for the easy transition.”

Getting Trained

There are a few avenues for getting certified. Building Performance Institute (BPI), the Association of Energy En-gineers (AEE) and the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) all offer auditor training. BPI offers certification in green auditing with the completion of a field test and a 100-question written exam. Once certified, BPI auditors “conduct blower-door tests, combustion appliance inspection and repair, air-quality testing including carbon monoxide detection, duct testing and airflow testing.”

Edward Smyth, director of KEMA Services, an energy consulting company, drew on his previous experience when seeking AEE certification. “I had spent two years doing lighting efficiency projects for an electrical contracting firm,” he says. “These helped offset the challenge of being less knowledgeable with some of the other technologies required in the exam.” To gain certification from AEE, test takers must first acquire Certified Energy Auditor (CEA) accreditation. Those looking for CEA membership must complete an auditing seminar along with an intense four-hour written exam.

Would-be auditors becoming certified via RESNET do not have to go through training before taking the exam, but it’s highly recommended. The typical RESNET certified course lasts one week, and training includes both in-class and field experience. The RESNET exam itself is a two-hour, 50-question commitment, and test takers must also perform at least two energy ratings.

Greener Still

Those looking for a “more green and sustainability-focused option,” says Brabon, might opt for LEED certification instead. The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) administers the exam. In order to be able to take the exam, the GBCI requires one of the following: experience in a LEED-registered project, employment in a sustainable field of work or the completion of an education program that addresses green building principles.

Certified Energy Manager Tom McLam advises: “Know what sections you are going to take, tag all the sections in the books, know how to convert oil to gas, [and be able to do] money problems ahead of time.” With LEED Green Associate certification, members are required to complete 15 hours of continuing education each year. Classes can be taken online.

With a growing number of homes and businesses looking for greater energy efficiency, the demand for green auditors is growing, too. But the job provides more than just a good income. Says Anthony Sotire, president of consulting company Energy Smart Solutions: “I find conducting green audits rewarding. The most challenging part is helping the customer understand how important and valuable this whole process is to them—for their homes, safety and the chance to save money and energy.”