Many of our readers will have had one of our friendly assessors visit them in their home as part of the Federal Government’s Green Loans Programs.

Our Assessor Extraordinaire, Carbon Accountant and Sustainability Consultant, Caitlin Findley, describes her experiences visiting the homes of many in and around Melbourne.

Being such a shy morsel of a person, nothing scared me more than going into people’s homes and attempting to teach them something about energy and water efficiency. I’ve always been more of a plant person than a people person – that’s no secret. What’s more, your role as a Home Sustainability Assessor is not something that is necessarily innate. Even once you’ve completed the training, it’s not like you receive your certificate and feel instantaneously qualified to do the job. You never know just who (or what) is behind the door to that mansion, that modest shack or that victorian terrace.

I took a very malleable approach to conducting home assessments. Since you’re getting into the homes (and lives) of so many people it is impossible to have a regimented method or checklist. In the early stages I’d try to jump straight into collecting the data required to fulfill the needs of the calculator. The calculator is the tool which magically produces the assessment report for householders. These reports are then checked over and sent out by the federal government department coordinating the program.

I took it upon myself to do more preparation and research to ensure I could have, on-hand, the answers people craved. I created my very own fact sheet which I distributed at each home; I sent a follow-up email detailing ways in which people could pursue the products/services and rebates in which they were interested; I even sent them a draft copy of their report to guarantee that I had done all within my power for the householder.

In countless instances, the first few minutes of the interaction would be spent talking about their dog (mostly because it wouldn’t leave you alone) or their suburb or just about anything that could break the ice. I assume householders expect someone/something else when they open their door to me.  They see this little blonde girl whose face and physique have not changed since she was 12 and I bet they’re thinking I could be either a terrible snob or a quiet little mouse. This is why I knew it was even more important to get off to the right start.  I have found that 90% of the icebreaking is done if you can (a) make them laugh (b) teach them something interesting (c) remain clear and concise and (d) give them something to follow up.

A lot of the time you’re more an ear for people, rather than a teacher. Occasionally householders would confide in me that they so desperately broke and needed some easy and practical ideas as to how to reduce their energy and water consumption to decrease the burden of their bills. I like to think that I have armed these people with some very important knowledge to allow them to first understand the hierarchy of energy consumption within the common home and consequently take charge of the space over which they have control in the hope that they can successfully forge their way through to a more sustainable lifestyle (both financially and environmentally).

Times have changed since those first feeble assessments. I’m not uncomfortable asking people how long they shower for (even if it is a bit of a creepy question)  and performing calculations to see how much water they could save if they shortened their shower or upgraded their showerhead to one that is water efficient.  I ended up liking going through people’s electricity bills and informing them whether their household was a high, average, or low consumer of electricity – whereas at the beginning I’d quickly record all the consumption details from bills and slink away without giving any feedback. It was only when people kept asking questions that it was evident I was required to really know the Victorian averages for gas, electricity and water. Many householders were motivated to improve by learning what others were doing and how they compared.

In many instances I would walk away from a house thinking ‘they were really cool’. I’ve visited people from all walks of life – doctors, architects, musicians, engineers, lawyers, students, paramedics, artists, amputees, retirees, all descriptions of families and couples, some ‘greenies’ and not-so-greenly-tinged types. I am finding out now, after having completed hundreds of these assessments (from the mountains of Macedon to the shopping malls of Sydenham to the sky in Skye and all manner of inner-city-dwellings-latte-sipping-types in between) that I can confidently walk into a place and teach these people at least one thing that they did not know before about home sustainability. And one thing can mean a lot. It gets the ball rolling. The householder’s new found knowledge will be transferred to their family members, friends and workplaces. New knowledge and understanding suggest that this planet may have a fighting chance yet.

For more information or to find out how Caitlin can help you maximise the energy efficiency of your home or business please email us.