The Northeast Region has initiated a Climate Change Steering Committee that is promoting a sustainable building initiative along with energy audits, for all covered facilities. Also, parks in the Northeast Region are being directed to enter the Climate Friendly Parks Program and to establish regional Green Teams.

Both the Secretary of the Interior and the Director of the National Park Service have mandated youth programs as a high priority, calling for an increase in employment opportunities for youth in the Bureau by 60% this fiscal year. They have also directed the NPS to engage youth in resource and energy conservation efforts.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Reflection - The End

Seven Weeks. Nearly two months. 35 days. That's how long we have been training, visiting, working.

This program, as I knew going into it, is a short-term position and would last only until the end of summer. Nevertheless, knowing certainly differs greatly from understanding.

On Wednesday of this week, August 25th, we gave our final presentation to the Northeast Regional Office. It was during the presentation when I realized what I have taken from this program. I discovered how much we had actually learned - the training, the theory, the experience - and what we had accomplished - physical, beneficial work in three separate National Parks around the region - and what knowledge we could give to others - over 425 people reached, and, watching the faces of the audience, even more. It was only then when I realized this group of six disparate people had formed a single unit, a functional, cooperative, intelligent, wonderful team.

After we finished the presentation, I knew how grateful I was for the people who helped to bring this Energy Conservation Corps to life - Ernestine White, our immediate supervisor and organizer; Robert Fudge and Robin Snyder of the Northeast Regional Office; everyone at the Northeast Regional Office who had the willingness to encourage and foster this project. Without all of these people, I would not be as knowledgeable and experienced as I am now due to this program.

It was on Wednesday when I finally, completely understood that after these 7 weeks, after conversations and riding in the rental van and eating lunch and installing insulation and using a saw zaw and making a powerpoint and having a laugh, I really enjoy working with my coworkers, my colleagues, my friends. To Mike, Kelsey, Khalid, Nathan, John - thank you for making this last part of my summer so great. I honestly will miss you all.

Thank you.

Fort McHenry National Monument

As part of our two-day visit to Baltimore, one of the most impressive sites we visited was Fort McHenry National Monument - the turning point in the War of 1812 (or so our History books say). We were able to learn about the fort's history as well as get a tour of the fort. The park ranger was rather humorous during the tour and repeatedly told one person in the group that "you're standing where a bomb went off." After the tour we were shown the construction site of the new LEED certified Visitor's Center. The park employee spoke about the many ways that they are using green technology. He informed us of how much the solar cells saved them each month. It heartens me to see alternative energy in action.

Presentation Preparation

Monday and Tuesday were spent preparing for our presentation of everything we've done to present to the Regional Office staff. Our presentation will include a general overview of our time, the public outreach days, and information on alternative energy methods.
I will have the the pleasure of presenting our experiences at Valley Forge NHP where we worked on the Thomas House and the Ranger Station. Each building presented a challenge in itself, but a definite way to save money and energy in each would be to replace all the incandescent lights with Compact Fluorescent.

Also, I I will present information on Wind Energy and included facts like: Denmark generates roughly 19% of its power from wind energy, new inventions that have reduced noise and improved efficiency, and that 70% of people either like or don't mind the sight of the wind turbines. It really makes me wonder why we haven't invested more in this form of energy instead of pouring more money into non-renewable energy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Reflection - My YCC Experience

The YCC program has given me a new perspective on many things. The first is energy conservation. Before this program, I was always curious about how my family could save money on our energy bills. I even persuaded my mom to buy energy efficient light bulbs thinking this would solve the problem and we would save money. I now know there are many things that we could do everyday to conserve energy and at the sametime help the environment. It was fascinating learning how to conduct weatherization energy audits, properly use caulk, insulation and foam to seal air leaks in buildings (if needed).

I also visit places I never been like Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site (I did not even know that it existed), Elmwood Park Zoo, and Fort McHenry National Monument and Hampton National Historic Site in Baltimore (that’s was my first time going to Baltimore and the furthest I have been out of Philly).

I have become acquainted with new people and I have worked on my communication skills. I learned stuff about American history I did not know; like how it is not proven that Betsy Ross actually sewn the original American Flag and that Fort McHenry is a French designed fort and that there are many like it across the world.

Finally, I have seen a lot of wildlife, plenty of deer, hawks, and groundhogs; however I have to say that the visit to the Elmwood Park Zoo was exciting. They have animals I have never seen before like porcupine, foxes, wolves, a bald eagle, and vultures (all the vulture excepts one was local and just seemly enjoyed being in the park's displays).

I had a good time this summer. It has been a experience that I won't forget.

Khalid Hamilton

Reflection - My Favorite Part

So far, my favorite part of the program was when we went with the installers from ECA. We actually used what we learned in training and got to see how everything worked. In the training center we talked about blowing in insulation but never actually saw how it worked or did it ourselves. But going with the installers, we had a chance to physically used the machines and experience what it was like to do that kind of work. The workers I was assigned to educated us how everything works. We didn’t just follow them around but we were involved in the project. I wish we had another day of going with them because it was fun and I learned a lot.

Second Week of Training Recap

During our second week of training, we spent less time in the (physical) classroom and had much more experience going out into houses and seeing and doing weatherization and energy audits. On Monday, we visited the renovated and retrofitted row-home of an experienced energy auditor, and helped examine the efficiency of the home with two other auditors. We learned of the techniques that the homeowner had used to reduce her energy usage – smaller refrigerator and freezer, tighter home, new heater system, floor cooling system that does not use forced air, white sloped and insulated roof. We also conducted blower door tests on the home and a blower fan test on the inner duct work used for heating with forced air. The homeowner had made these renovations in order to conserve energy, save money, and she wanted this audit performed in hopes of achieving LEED Certification, Platinum level.

On Tuesday, we worked with Marco in the Philadelphia ECA site. He taught us methods for glass cutting, window repair and replacement, insulation installation in both crawl spaces and attics, and saw zaw cutting. Not only did we learn these methods, but we practiced and exercised them as well.

On Wednesday we split up, that is, our group of six primarily went off individually with different installation teams from ECA to learn and help physically retrofit homes in the Philadelphia area. For the first time in our training, we were able to see and often do the work that helps homes become more energy efficient. Personally, I saw my crew put spray insulation in the attic, foam cracks in the basement, caulk windows, replace windows, and I myself replaced a window in one of the homes we visited. Similarly, the following day we went off with ECA Energy auditors and performed, depending on the jobs of the crews either audits or inspections, and saw what work was done before and after installation and overall how ECA actually makes physical and important changes in the surrounding communities.

On Friday, we worked with Dawn from ECA at Valley Forge, reviewed how we can perform audits and installation, and later visited both the Ranger Station and looked for any weatherization work that we could do, and wrote everything down in preparation for the future work during the week we would work at Valley Forge.

Reflection - A Few of My Favorite Things

With the majority of the program over and a variety of experiences under my belt, I would like to say that the best part of this experience has been getting to know the staff at each of the parks. This is especially true of the maintenance crews. Hopewell Furnace, Valley Forge and Independence Park, they have all been extremely welcoming, helpful and knowledgeable. Come to think of it, this was also true of the men and women we got to work with at E.C.A. as well! Quality people make all the difference in an experience.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

It has not been all work and no fun!

Guided history walks, nature hikes and behind the scene tours was incorporated into the experience to give the crew a chance to learn about the significant of the park units that they are assigned to work.

Hopewell Furnace NHS known as an 'iron plantation' was in opertation from 1771-1883.
The crew heard stories of industrial development, technology, community, craftsmanship, and natural resources that together changed America.

Valley Forge NHP, nationally significant as the site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of the Continental Army under General George Washington. The crew got to see and learn about the historic landscapes, encampment period structures, historic objects and the beauty and challenges of the natural resources.

Independence NHP
The crew saw the most potent symbols of individual freedom, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. How exciting to have the opportunity to tour three square blocks in the City of Philadelphia where the dream of a free country of independent citizens became fact.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gett'n dirty

The work days always makes me nervous. What if the caulk won't stick? What if we run out of foam? What if someone knocks over a beam and the whole place comes tumbling down? Sure, these thoughts may not make any sense but they are there. I am happy to report that the day was catastrophe free. We had the pleasure of working at:

The Kosciusko's House (aka The K. House): The home of dutch colonial Kosciusko and a memorial to all his accomplishments.

The Draft House or Declaration House: site of where Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence.

The Poe House: Home of Edger Allen Poe and his family

It was a hot and slightly chaotic day but the maintenance staff were amazingly helpful to us. Especially (shout out warning) Ray Fossett the Facility Manager. They could not have been better to us.

Independence N.H.P.

This week we are here at Independence National Historic Park. A completely different experience then the other parks we have worked at. Other then the tourists, traffic, buildings and noise it is also full of some of the most important historic buildings in our nation. This fact alone makes the work here much different.

The first day consisted of an orientation to the park and all it offers, which turned out to be much more then any of us expected. This fact was very exciting to Khalid.

The second day we got into the building we will be working on and did our visual weatherization audit. Due to the historic significance of the buildings there were some restrictions on what we could do, but still there was plenty to get done.

The third day was all about outreach. Now you might assume that a park that gets millions of people in it during per year would lead to throngs of visitors flocking to your humble info table. But it turns out that the kind of visitors to this park are much different then Valley Forge so we had to settle with around 200 for the day. There were good conversations though and as always Philadelphia provided a number of interesting characters.

We are looking forward to the rest of the week now and getting into what is referred to as the K. House, The Draft House: where Jefferson drafted the declaration of independence, and the Poe House: Home of Edger Allan Poe.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

America's Great Outdoors - Listening Session

This program has been in the works for a while, and the fact that we participated is amazing. We travelled to the WHYY station in Philadelphia. We got the chance to hear from key figures from the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), including:

- Jay Jensen, Deputy Under Secretary of Natural Resources and Environment, USDA

- Robert Stanton, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the Interior

- Will Shafroth, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Fish & Wildlife & Parks (DOI)

- Dan Wenk, Deputy Director of the National Park Service (DOI)

After the informational sessions, we - that is to say several hundred youth employees/volunteers - broke up into "focus groups."

Each group was tasked with discussing the most effective ways that the government could improve attendance and overall quality of National Historical Parks and Sites. The group I attended decided that the three best ways would be to:

1. Better incorporate National Parks into education, via annual field trips in public schools, so that people would get a better appreciation for the parks.

2. Sponsor an informative documentary that would appear before movies in theatres. While people go to see their favorite shows, they would get a glimpse of what a national park has to offer and even if they didn't end up going, the interest might be passed on to their friends and families.

3. Widespread pamphlets to the general public that provide information on nearby parks and what could be done there. This would increase the number of visitors if more people actually knew that the parks existed. (I saw several parks in PA that I'd never even heard of at the presentation slideshow.)

After all was said and done, one speaker from each of the six youth groups would stand and present the ideas at a podium where they'd be recorded and sent to the president. I was one of those six speakers. When you get up to speak before a recording that's going to the president, you definitely feel humbled.

Insulation gaps? I don't see no insulation gaps?

The training has ended. Two weeks of classroom learning, hands on practice and observing the pros have culminated in working on the buildings at Hopewell Furnace NHS on our own.

This is a beautiful park. With amazing scenery and facinating history everywhere. It is definately a place that I will come back to. Many of the utility buildings are another story though. Cracks and gaps, holes and rats, from an energy conservation perspective could use some help (the rats are an exageration for the sake of a good rhyme).

We quickly dug in with applying caulk, foam board and two part foam. We worked to make the 5 buildings we were assigned as efficient for cooling and heating as possible. It was hot and hard but good work. As is the case with most of these kinds of projects it is good to see the fruits of your labors at the end of the day.

Recap of Training - Week 1

The first week of training began in a traffic jam. Actually, Dan, our instructor, got stuck in one on the first day but nonetheless successfully arrived and introduced the six of us to the theories and practices of a process known as weatherization.

Although the physical training was held (for the first two days) in Valley Forge NHP, the instructors, Dan and Louis, for Monday and Tuesday respectively, and all others to come were based out of ECA, the Energy Coordination Agency, Philadelphia sector.

Dan explained that weatherization is a method by which homes and buildings can be retrofitted so that they are more energy efficient, and therefore save more money. In doing so, he also covered how thermal and air boundaries can cause a home to be leaky and inefficient when not properly sealed and tight.

Louis described the dangers that we may encounter when performing energy audits or installing and improving structures: asbestos, mold, lead, and more.

Later those two days, we first did visual audits on Valley Forge NHP buildings and then, on the next day, pointed out the obvious dangers in those buildings.

In the latter half of the week, we spent each day at the Philadelphia site, ECA, where we continued to do workshops but also received PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) and suited up in goggles, gloves, masks, hard hats, and practiced using caulk and two-part foam, both of which we would use later in the field. We also learned about the use of a blower door in an audit, and had practice utilizing them.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Valley Forge NHP, Thomas House Basement Weatherization Audit Highlights

Water is seeping through the basement window that is covered with plywood causing mold spores.

Inside view of the window with plywood. There are visual moisture problems.

A door has been recommend to be installed at the bottom of the stairway inside the basement that lead to the outside to save on energy lost.

The structure is also losing energy through the crawlspace. A piece of plywood is recommend to be installed when access in not needed.

Challenges of Weatherizing Historic Structures

Nathan speaks on the challenges of weatherizing historic structures.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Energy Conservation Corps Crew conducting public outreach at Valley Forge NHP,Hopewell Furnace NHS, French Creek State Park and Independence NHP.

Nathan and John at Valley Forge NHP.

Khalid and Kelsey at Hopewell Furnace NHS.

John and Dennis at French Creek State Park

Crew at Valley Forge NHP

The crew at Independence NHP

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Robin Snyder, Northeast Region Volunteer and Youth Programs Coordinator met with the Energy Conservation Corps Crew during her site visit to Valley Forge NHP.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Insulation Project at Valley Forge NHP

Energy Conservation Corps members Nathan and Dennis speaking about the insulation project at Valley Forge NHP.

Today, at Valley Forge NHP, we insulated an old barn that has been retrofit into a garage/gym. The purpose of our efforts is to keep the cool air and heat in what is now the gym. We put the insulation in the overhead of the garage under the gym. Then put wire up to hold it place.

Khalid helping to measure the space for insulation.

Dennis and Khalid installing insulation.

Kelsey and Khalid.

Dennis and John.

John installing wire to hold the insulation in place.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Team members Nathan and Kelsey remove excess insulating foam from Thomas House exterior.
Two-part insulating foam is used to block air, water, and heat flow through gaps in the structure, thus improving energy efficiency and better protecting the structure from mold and water damage.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA) Instructor teaching the Energy Conservation Corps members how to inspect windows and doors. The members learned how to properly apply caulk to window and doors when needed to prevent significant damage to buildings from moisture. The instructor also shared that doing basic maintenance to your windows and doors can save on energy costs and protect your investment.

A ECA Instructor teaching the Energy Conservation Corps Crew members how to calculate energy consumption data on an energy audit spreadsheet and how to analyze energy consumption patterns.

Dawn Moody,ECA Energy Auditor speaking with the crew members about the importance of
wearing personal protective equipment(PPE).

Crew member Kelsey is learning how to properly operate a saw zaw cutting power tool.