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Back to School with Train the Trainers

With fresh muffins and hot coffee in hand, participants at Green New Deal Housing’s Train the Trainers (T3) launch event kicked off a very fun, engaging, and informative day. T3 is a professional development opportunity offered free to construction-related educators and tradespeople, to facilitate the integration of green building principles and skills into trades instruction.



Minnesota North College, Hibbing graciously hosted the launch event on September 22nd, with eighteen educators and tradespeople attending. The staff were incredibly attentive, organized, and kind. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast and lunch, as well as a large shop room where participants got their hands dirty in a building activity. More on that later.

A key part of the day’s introduction, and a recurring theme, was the concept of seeing the forest through the trees. All too often, we get stuck in our silos, which has implications not only for ourselves personally but also for the efficacy of our work. As T3 trainer Rachel Wagner explained this concept in the context of building and design, heads were nodding all across the room. Our attendees were diverse in experience, identity, and profession; and yet most, if not all, expressed similar frustrations and negative impacts of being stuck in silos.


Homes are complex systems and should be treated as such. In this industry, it is crucial that folks step back, gain perspective, and see the situation in its entirety, or, as Rachel put it, see the forest through the trees. Green New Deal Housing wants to develop a workforce that understands these complex systems and sees them as a whole in order to build green homes: healthy, durable, energy efficient, and accessible.


After the introduction, T3 participants put theory into practice through a ‘build a wall’ activity using green building principles and practices, specifically, continuous insulation. Once the walls were completed, heat lamps were used to “heat” the interior of two different assemblies. Then the group experimented with infrared cameras to see the difference in heat transfer (loss) between a standard code-built wall vs. a wall with continuous insulation.


Instructor Josh VandeBerg followed the hands-on activities with discussion of essential aspects fundamental to building science. Both instructors modeled how to break down big topics such as heat flow, conductivity, and thermal bridges into digestible pieces and then relate the pieces to the larger context of building good homes. These activities were less about testing participants’ building abilities, and more about showing a strategy for teaching. After all, this is a train the trainers program. Participants got out of their seats, worked with their hands, melded theory and practice, and assessed different types of wall assemblies.

An essential part of the launch event was walking participants through the T3 program plan. The 6-month program includes a mix of in-person and online coursework delivered by professionals in green building and building science. Course materials include the Building Performance Institute (BPI) Building Science Principles Reference Guide and other resources created by Green New Deal Housing. Participants who complete the full program have the opportunity to test for an industry-recognized BPI credential in building science.


By the end of the event, one participant was already planning to use the T3 ‘build the wall’ exercise with his high school students. And the participant who won the draw for a new infrared camera discussed using it as a teaching tool in training their teams. Already the T3 launch event is starting to have a ripple effect, trainers training trainers.

Once again, we are so thankful to MN North College Hibbing for hosting the T3 launch event. We could not offer this successful program without our sponsor the Northeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, our partner The Energy Conservatory, or our supporter MN Power. Our next event will be held at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, another one of our valuable educational partners. We look forward to supporting the next generation of construction-related educators and tradespeople through this empowering T3 program.


The "Train the Trainers" program is sponsored by:










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