Student Union Building
875 Perimeter Drive MS 4264
Moscow, ID 83844-4264
1031 N. Academic Way,
Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814
By Donna Emert
As a business student, crunching numbers and trying to grasp and then synergize varied approaches to economic, social and business challenges, it can be difficult to envision your future niche in the world. Not for lack of options, but because it is impossible to pin down a single, satisfyingly multi-faceted identity.
Little kids work around these complexities by setting their sights on the jobs with the most compelling costume— like a nice a flowy cape, snapping smartly in the wind. The cape is cool, but what it really represents is a person who does good.
In the real world, some jobs allow adults to wear their cape on the inside.
Arguably, Ryan Arnold (’07) has that kind of job. As the senior energy auditor for the Community Action Partnership in North Idaho, his days are split between gathering facts on the ground and crunching the data back at the office, ultimately to decide what weatherization work can be done to help reduce energy costs for low income citizens.
Arnold works for CAP in Coeur d’Alene. The organization’s mission is to serve as a catalyst for building relationships that inspire and equip people to end poverty in their communities. Lowering energy bills and increasing energy efficiency for low income households is critical to achieving that goal.
Arnold and other members of the CAP team conduct on-site energy audits of homes to assess the weatherization needs of low income residents of Idaho’s five northernmost counties: Kootenai, Boundary, Bonner, Shoshone and Benewah. They aim to make the homes safer, healthier, more affordable to maintain and more energy efficient.
With the additional funding provided by the recent economic stimulus package, CAP is now weatherizing over a dozen homes a week in northern Idaho. The local weatherization branch of the national organization, based in Hayden, Idaho, now employs over 30 people directly and provides consistent work for dozens of local electrical, heating, and plumbing contractors, work that has not been available in the recent economic downturn.
Typically, CAP’s 1 to 2-hour long audit begins with an interview. After listening to and recording the problems residents are experiencing with their home, Arnold and other members of his team begin a whole house assessment: taking measurements and inspecting windows, doors, walls, attics, crawlspaces and basements; looking at insulation levels, heating systems and water heaters. They also perform a whole house pressurization to identify areas of air infiltration and energy loss.
Arnold and the team input the data into energy modeling software to determine energy saving benefits, and to calculate cost savings to homeowners for the weatherization an energy auditor prescribes.
“It is critical to find out which energy saving measures are cost effective over time,” said Arnold. “CAP will not perform weatherization procedures that do not make a certain energy return on investment. This is how we continue to be effective in our scope of work while still being fiscally responsible as a program.”
Any weatherization work done must meet financial return criteria: a dollar invested must equal a dollar saved in energy costs over the lifetime of the prescribed work. The majority of CAP weatherized homes realize savings to their occupants of hundreds of dollars each year.
CAP weatherization recommendations that meet energy savings payback requirements are written into a work-order and implemented by a CAP crew. In the case of specialty work such as HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) repair, the work is done by a local accredited contractor.
“My UI business education played a role in preparing me for this program in a few ways,” said Arnold. “Directly, it provided me the skills and competence I need everyday in my field. My work constantly operates in the realm of net present value analysis, and analyzing returns on investment. These financial skills learned at U of I help me everyday in what I do.”
“Second, my education at University of Idaho, especially my minor in economic forecasting, helped me develop skills in analyzing trends which led to my interest in the field I’m in now. The financial, social-political, environmental and global trends all have led me to my current work as an energy auditor. Though when I graduated, the field of energy auditing, sustainable building, and energy efficiency were still barely recognized, I saw where the trend was going, and wanted to position myself to capture the opportunity to be on the ground level when tipping points occurred locally and regionally.”
After graduation, Arnold took continuing education courses to become a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professional. He is one of only a handful in North Idaho. He also earned certification as a Sustainable Building Advisor; the first in Idaho and one of the youngest to be certified nationally. He is now enrolled at Bainbridge Graduate Institute, pursuing a Masters of Business Administration in Sustainable Business, with focus on Sustainable Economic Development and Green Building.
“The most rewarding facet to my job is that what I do has a positive impact on our community at multiple levels,” Arnold said. “The things we do, such as addressing Carbon Monoxide issues and proper home ventilation are critical to the indoor air quality of a home, and thus the occupants’ health. My job is also a rewarding experience because I know, and can quantify, that each home that we weatherize will reduce their energy costs and environmental footprint significantly over the lifetime of that building.”
Arnold’s work locally reflects a global trend:
“Energy and national security, aging energy infrastructure, and local and global environmental concerns are all making energy efficiency a more important piece of our future,” Arnold noted. “We are at the dawn of an era where resources are becoming scarcer. Energy efficiency is a key component to reducing our demand. Building efficiency retrofits will be one part of the solution to many of these large-scale environmental, social and economic problems.”
His work locally has given the global issue of sustainable energy use a human face.
“This job has opened me up to some of the painful struggles that many of our community members are going though, and to how large the income gap is in our area,” he added. “I witness, on a very personal level, difficult situations and harsh realities I would never have been exposed to otherwise. It has given me additional internal drive to use my education and skills for the betterment of society, and has made me grateful that I can be in the position to help.
“It is rewarding to know that everyday I make a real change in people’s lives for the better.”
This month, Ryan Arnold is beginning a new job as Weatherization Technical Monitor for Community Action Partnerships Association of Idaho. In his new position, he will oversee and monitor all CAP agency weatherization in the state of Idaho, and serve as the agency’s main contact, providing reports on CAPAI progress to federal and state representatives. Arnold also will serve on a newly forming technical review board, which is being designed to evaluate and implement new weatherization technology and techniques within state programs.
Ryan Arnold, weatherization technical monitor for Community Action Partnerships Association of Idaho, works to offer weatherization assistance to Idaho residents.