Volume 13, Issue 8 - October 2012

feature

Do You Need to Get FIT?
Does Canada need another installation program? A number of industry groups have joined together to create the Fenestration Installation Technician – Level 1 (FIT-1) Certification program. Yes, Canada already has the Window Wise program but proponents say FIT is different. While Window Wise focuses on the actual installation, FIT tests an individual’s knowledge of the installation and replacement of window products. The program had a soft launch on June 8 and ready for full rollout. Now the question is: If you build it, will they come?

The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) worked with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), Fenestration Canada and the Siding and Window Dealer Association of Canada (SAWDAC) on the program. Interestingly enough, SAWDAC also is involved in the Window Wise program.

What is FIT?
Anthony Toderian, manager of corporate affairs for the CSA Group, describes FIT as a national, third-party, independent personnel certification program for fenestration installation technicians in Canada. The program is aimed at individuals installing factory-assembled windows, exterior doors and unit skylights in residential buildings three stories or less. It is designed to demonstrate their capability to accurately and competently perform the tasks required for the purpose of promoting building envelope integrity, energy efficiency, health and safety, consumer protection, and to ensure that defective practices are circumvented before they can cause costly material damage. The certification is good for five years and installers can change jobs but still maintain their certification.

“CSA Group’s fenestration installer personnel certification program is designed to certify an individual’s knowledge of the installation and replacement of fenestration products, by conducting an assessment against objectively identified criteria. CSA Groups’ FIT-Level 1 program will examine an individual’s measurable knowledge and skill, rather than qualification based programs that consider an individual’s education and general credentials,” says Toderian.

CSA’s approach adheres to the ISO 17024 international standard for certifying bodies.

The program was two years in the making, according to Steve Hopwood, Energy Star account manager for Windows, Doors and Skylights at the Office of Energy Efficiency for Natural Resources Canada. He has been involved since the beginning.

How Energy Star Fits In
“Essentially we provided some funding for its development and some technical expertise in areas of how it related to Energy Star,” says Hopwood.

For example, the installation can create an energy issue of the installation leaks air which “causes the efficiency of the window to be reduced,” he says.

He clarified, however, that Energy Star in Canada is a manufacturer product program in that manufactures get their windows certified as Energy Star qualified. (Energy Star is a U.S. EPA initiative which is promoted and administered in Canada by NRCan.

“We have been looking at the idea of listing dealers on our website who carry Energy Star products,” says Hopwood. “We are also looking at possibly having these companies also have someone with FIT certification. We could list them as valid dealers of Energy Star-qualified products with a CSA verified installer on staff.”

Hopwood says first he needs to see how the program takes off.

“It would probably be next year that we would start thinking seriously about this,” he says. “We could start encouraging it then make it mandatory in a few years. If the program takes off we can move faster. This is a cost sensitive industry especially at the dealer level. It’s a very fluid industry so it’s more difficult for us to reach them if they are here today, gone tomorrow.”

Marketing and Getting FIT
Since the June launch 11 installers have become FIT-certified even though there has been virtually no advertising or marketing plan.

“That is coming this fall,” says Hopwood.

Installers have to take a test to get FIT, so how do they cram for the exam, so to speak? That’s where SAWDAC comes in.

“When we saw the need for FIT, unfortunately we thought a lot of people wouldn’t be able to pass so we better create a course,” says David Mitten, executive director of SAWDAC. “So we have a one-day installation course and it is almost identical to what we teach Window Wise installers.”

The training program currently consists of a 200-page slide presentation complete with photos and graphs, and there is talk in the future of creating a web-based training program.

“If the demand is there we would love to take it to a self-taught sort of thing. Due to the breadth and depth of this country it would be difficult for some to find a training center near them so that’s where a web based program would be useful,” says Mitten.

“We expect this will permeate through building industry training programs as years go on,” says Hopwood. “Manufacturers may pick up on it, associations, community colleges and others. What CSA did was set the bar and said ‘this is what we say you have to know to be a certified installer.’ Now you need to get that knowledge. That component will take a longer time.”

Mitten agrees and says when Window Wise was created it didn’t take off until it was heavily marketed.

Industry Feedback
Hopwood, along with Mitten, has talked to manufacturers, who have some thoughts about the program. Reaction to the program has been mixed.

“Some installers were happy to see this come along,” says Hopwood. “Others were puzzled as to why they need to know all this and why they can’t keep doing it the way they have been for years. The manufacturers are very happy about it. They tell us that many of their calls are based on bad installations so they are happy to see this program.”

Mitten says even people involved with the Window Wise program, himself included, thought it wasn’t necessary, and that there would be competition among FIT and Window Wise.

“We realized that the FIT certification was a measure of whether that person has the knowledge to do a proper job,” he says. “It’s not nearly as comprehensive as Window Wise.”

“Some companies just manufacture the product and leave the installation up to others,” adds Hopwood. “But this is good for them as it would eliminate part of their headaches as being targeted as a bad manufacturer due to an installation issue.”

Mitten admits that it may be difficult to convince companies to spend money to take the course, and adds that external factors may help push this along.

“If code people start asking for this that is what will drive it,” he says.


DWM

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