What does a day in the life of a thermal performance assessor and trainer look like?
Today I catch up with thermal performance assessor Matthew Graham to chat what he does as a thermal performance assessor and NatHERS trainer and assessor.
Matthew is the Principal at Graham Energy, is one of the moderators in the Thermal Performance Assessment Facebook Group and has delivered training and assessment in FirstRate 5 and NatHERS qualifications. So I thought it would be great to find out more about Matthew and why he has taken up a career as a NatHERS Assessor.
Michael Young: Tell us about yourself?
Matthew Graham: My name is Matthew Graham, Principal of Graham Energy and subject matter expert in the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme. I’m considered a highly experienced, accredited Assessor, Teacher and Mentor in AccuRate, BERS Pro and FirstRate5 and contribute to the development of the industry as an ABSA, Design Matters National (formerly BDAV) and NatHERS Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) member.
MY: What got you into thermal performance assessments?
MG: After working for high calibre architectural practices over 15 years, I decided to focus my attention on building thermal performance and sustainability. Graham Energy was founded in 2008 to provide a collaborative team-based approach to Architects and Building Designers who were looking for a consultant that understood ‘design sensibility’.
MY: What is your main focus with your assessment work?
MG: We take a slightly different approach to many when conducting an ‘energy rating’. Determining an optimal energy-efficient solution takes time. Many assessors spend the highest amount of time on the data entry process, then quickly increase specifications to reach minimum regulatory compliance. Once achieved, they often don’t question or consider the alternatives. We take time to understand each project and then quantify the beneficial options.
MY: What courses did you do to get to where you are?
MG: Initially studied Architecture at university but later in my career realised I did not feel adequately equipped to design optimal energy-efficient solutions, so I studied the Building Thermal Performance Assessment course in 2008 at RMIT University. Over the years I’ve completed Certified Building Science Thermography (Level 1), the Passive House Designer course, a Certificate IV in NatHERS Assessment in all NatHERS software tools, a Certificate IV in Home Sustainability Assessment and a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (whiich is important if you want to properly teach and assess).
MY: What does a typical day look like for you?
MG: I quite often describe my day analogist to an air traffic controller. Graham Energy is the airport and projects are like aircraft movements. You need to know when to place a project in a holding pattern, make sure others touchdown safely and on time while assisting with industry issues that blow in and out of your airspace like the weather.
MY: The best thing about working as a thermal performance assessor is…
MG: Knowing the result of every project you are involved represents the best outcome achievable and ultimately contributes to a better built and natural environment.
MY: What are you currently working on?
MG: Just finished work on the NatHERS 2022 Star Bands project, now working on the ABCB Energy Efficiency Provisions for Residential Buildings in NCC 2022 and still providing advice on a regular stream of medium to high-end residential projects.
MY: What are your plans for the future?
MG: Continue to hone my skills and share knowledge as a Teacher, Trainer and Mentor to students and other fellow Assessors. Grow close working relationships with Assessor Accrediting Organisations (AAOs), Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) and NatHERS software developers. Look for opportunities that can expand my experience and foster the cross-pollination of ideas.
MY: If you could give someone who was thinking about working as a thermal performance assessor some advice – what would it be?
MG: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You don’t know what you don’t know. Leading experts in the field have provided mentoring, and without their time and effort, I wouldn’t be able to bridge thermal performance theory and practice in my unique way.