Scorecard assessor news #3
- Assessing off the plans
- Tagging photos
- Understanding heater ratings
- Scorecard cheat sheet
- Tips for marketing
Assessing off the plans
Do you have a customer who wants a Scorecard assessment of a new build? Such assessments are possible, but there are a few different rules and procedures you need to follow. The assessment may be requested by a developer - possibly to use in marketing to sell the house or apartment - or by the householder who has plans but wants to know if improvements are possible.
We are developing a process for how off-the-plan assessments would work. In the meantime, here are some points to follow:
- In the Address field, write ‘off the plan’ as well as the supplied address.
- For window coverings, assume holland blinds.
- For evidence, you will need to provide the plans for the dwelling.
- Normal evidence requirements must be met; that is, there must be evidence that a builder or developer is planning on installing a particular air conditioner in that house. This may be on the plans, or perhaps a quote and email from the developer of their intention. If there is no evidence, then the appliance or feature cannot be included in the assessment.
- When supplying the certificate to the developer, builder or householder, please also supply a document that lists all of the assumptions that have been made during the assessment, such as the plan version and date the assessment is based on, air conditioner model number xxx installed in lounge, LED downlights as shown in the lighting specifications etc.
- Please ensure the customer knows the features and appliances that have been included, and that if these change, then the Scorecard assessment is not accurate, and hence is invalid.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions, and keep an eye out in your email inbox for more detailed instructions in the coming months.
Tagging was introduced to remove the need for assessors to individually label required evidence photos. Green and white tags are automatically generated depending on what you put into the tool as you move around a house. Pages 59 to 62 in the Scorecard Software Manual have instructions on evidence tagging in the Scorecard tool.
White tags are for individual features like a heater or year of construction. There is only one white tag generated per feature. Green tags are zone or feature tags and can be used as many times as required. An example of this is shown below. The white hot water system tag would be linked to the main hot water system photo, and then any other photos of the hot water system can be tagged using the green tag. Similarly, an insulation photo would be tagged with the white insulation tag, and any additional insulation photos can be tagged with green tags of the zone it sits in.
To ensure that tagging doesn’t take excessive time, there are some features that do not require multiple tags. This applies to insulation, for example. For a standard house, there is usually the same level of insulation for the entire house. Tagging an insulation photo for each zone is time consuming, and unnecessary. We require you to tag the insulation photos once, and we will assume that this insulation applies to the whole house. If part of the house has different insulation, then tag those zones that have different insulation with the new insulation photos.
The features that generate multiple tags but don’t require all of the tags to be utilised are:
- subfloor type
- window coverings
If you follow this protocol, you will have unused white tags once you have tagged all of the evidence. When you go to finalise, a warning message will appear like below.
Click on ‘Proceed to Finalise’.
The Department requires accurate tagging for auditing processes. All assessors will be audited soon after they start generating assessments. An auditor will look at the evidence that has been supplied within the assessment to determine the accuracy of the assessment. You should tag all photos that are required for evidence. Additional photos can be stored for an assessment, but if they are not tagged, then an auditor cannot use these to determine accuracy. So please ensure that you have tagged all the photos that are required.
Understanding heater ratings
Are you wondering why the Scorecard certificate rates a particular heater the way it does? We have developed a document that explains how the Scorecard tool determines the efficiency of heaters. It is also useful to understand the relative efficiencies of gas versus electric heaters in a home. This document will be incorporated into the Scorecard Manual soon, but you can read it now.
Scorecard cheat sheet
We have developed a cheat sheet of information that is commonly used in the Software Manual. The idea would be to save it where you save the manual - for some, this will mean printing it out, for others, it may be saving into iBooks. If you think something is missing that you use, then let us know.
Tips for marketing
Earlier in the year we sent out some information about setting up a website for your Scorecard assessment business (let us know if you didn’t get it and we’ll send it again). Thanks to all of you who’ve now sent us your web address – we'd be interested to know if it’s made any difference to your business.
If you’d like to do some more in-depth online marketing, or get some info to help you make a start, there are some short courses you could try.
The Centre for Adult Education in Melbourne runs courses on using Facebook as a business, setting up a simple website, and using LinkedIn to promote yourself. Have a look at their ‘Social media for business’ courses.
Small Business Victoria also runs workshops in all the small business essentials, including marketing. Find out more about their courses here.
Scorecard assessor news #2
- Solar Homes package
- Refresh your OHS knowledge
- Penalties for non-compliance
- Tips for marketing
- Tips from Doug the tech guy - underfloor areas
Solar Homes package makes it cheaper for households to get PV
On 19 August, the Victorian Government announced Solar Homes, a program to put solar on more Victorian homes and save households money on electricity bills. This means you may get more questions about solar PV and solar hot water. Here’s what you need to know.
Eligible households can get a 50% rebate on the cost of an average 4kW solar PV system (currently this rebate is capped at maximum $2,225 rebate for a system costing $4,450), or a $1,000 rebate on the cost of a solar hot water system. This is available for householders who have had solar PV installed since 19 August 2018 and possess the documentation required by Solar Homes.
The second phase of the program begins in July 2019. Households will be able to access the solar PV rebate and get an interest-free loan for the remainder of the cost, meaning they pay nothing up-front. Quality assurance is a priority – read the quality assurance measures.
The rebate reduces the financial barrier to installing solar, but how can householders overcome the knowledge barrier that can delay or discourage them from choosing solar? To answer questions about choosing a system size, expected energy bills savings and payback times, the Alternative Technology Association offers a free solar and battery advisory service and has developed a Guide that you can pass on to households.
The Clean Energy Council’s Guide to Installing Solar PV for Households provides information on choosing the right system type and size, finding a reputable installer, things to watch out for before signing the contract, connecting to the electricity grid and maintenance.
Refresh your OHS knowledge with some practical training
Prioritising safety and wellbeing is a Scorecard Quality Principle – assessor and householders need to be safe during Scorecard assessments. To become an accredited assessor, you must have completed the Unit of Competency CPPHSA4005A ‘Minimise Health, Safety and Security Risks when Assessing Home Sustainability’ within the last five years.
Recent exam observations and feedback from assessors have highlighted the importance of regularly revisiting, reflecting on and reviewing OHS practices. Assessors have a responsibility to keep themselves and others safe during assessments.
A FREE training session has been developed to equip you to meet your safety and security obligations. We highly recommend that assessors attend this training.
- Tuesday 9 October
- Port Phillip Eco Centre (55A Blessington Street St Kilda).
The training will help you:
- competently identify hazards and manage and/or mitigate risks when conducting Scorecard assessments
- understand safe equipment use and procedure in key areas relevant to Scorecard assessments
- identify and implement approaches to continuously monitor hazards and assess risks, evaluate procedures and improve OHS practices.
- understand the legal requirements related to the health, safety and security of yourselves, others, property and information.
The training will:
- be practical and presented in a home environment
- discuss common hazards and controls
- include the observation of safe practices
- give you the chance to reflect on, and review, your procedures and documentation.
Penalties for non-compliance
Ever since Scorecard began, assessors and other stakeholders have been telling us how important it is to maintain the integrity of the assessment process. That’s why we set up an audit program to discover non-compliance and other irregularities in data entry and customer service. However, without consequences for non-compliance there may be a temptation to continue using practices that will undermine the reputation of the program. In Assessor Bulletin 1 we discussed “What happens if you breach the standards?” In this edition we are sharing proposed sanctions for each type of breach. These are proposed only at this stage and the individual circumstance surrounding each case will help determine the final penalty.
We will be discussing the proposed sanctions at the next Assessor Pulse Check in September. If you cannot attend or want to share your views only with the team, you can complete a short survey (by 30 September).
See Assessor Bulletin 1 for an update on the audit program to the end of June 2018.
Tips for marketing
Did you know that the Scorecard team provides all kinds of marketing materials for accredited assessors?
We have postcards (see below) that you can print and add your own contact details - they're great for letterbox drops.
We also have A3 and A4 posters - again, you can print these and your own contact details, then put them up at local community centres, shops and so on.
Both of these products are available as PDFs (easy to print) or, if you have design skills or work with a designer, InDesign files so you can add your own information before printing.
We have also created a PowerPoint presentation which you can use if you're speaking at community events.
If you would like us to send you any of these materials, drop us an email at email@example.com
And don't forget: we have heaps of videos that you're welcome to share on your social media, website etc. Each video is targeted to a specific group and there's bound to be something that suits your customers. Some of them are hilarious. See all the Scorecard videos here.
Tips from Doug the tech guy - dealing with floors
The Scorecard uses a combined Floor Material/Sub Floor type drop down to identify floor types.
Structure and material
There are effectively three floor structures:
- Timber floor – this is a floor where the structural surface is made of wood. In older homes this would be floor boards, in newer homes its likely to be particle board or ply sheeting. This structure is common on the ground floor of older (pre-'70s) homes and homes on sloping sites, very common on upper floors of houses and common in older (pre-'60s) apartments.
- Suspended slab – this is a floor where the structure is a concrete slab, but there is a space under the floor. The slab is supported above the ground (or lower apartment) by walls, pylons or piers of some type. This is uncommon in houses, very common in modern apartments ('60s and later).
- Concrete slab – this floor type is a slab on ground. It sits directly on the ground, though there may be some insulation. This is very common as the ground floor in newer houses ('70s onwards), uncommon in apartments (they usually have sub-floor parking)
The sub-floor under the floor is specified as one of three types:
- Enclosed – an enclosed sub-floor has limited air flow, and remains warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Some air movement is required to control damp.
- Open – an open subfloor has some restrictions to air movement, but has much more movement than an enclosed sub-floor. The sub-floor air temperature is still warmer than ambient in winter, and cooler in summer.
- Elevated – an elevated subfloor has almost no restriction to air movement underneath. The assumption is that that air under the floor will be the same temperature as the surrounding ambient air.
The other type of floor is the concrete slab on ground. The slab in this case is directly in contact with the ground, and any heat loss or gain is primarily to the ground temperature. The ground temperature is much more stable than air temperature.
The ‘Space Below’ entry is used to identify the kind of space that is below the floor.
In most freestanding homes, the ground floor will be above a sub-floor (except where a slab is on the ground). An upper floor may be elevated or it may be above an existing room.
In a flat or apartment, the floor may be above a neighbour.
These floor relationships are important, as the Scorecard uses them to help determine the heat loss and gain through the floor. For instance, where there is a neighbour below, the Scorecard assumes that the neighbour is heated and cooled in a similar way to the apartment being assessed, and so there is little heat loss or gain from that neighbour.
When the space below is set to a value other than sub-floor, only the material component of the floor type is considered. The ‘sub-floor’ part of the floor type is ignored. For instance, if a Timber Enclosed floor is placed above a neighbour, the ‘enclosed’ part is ignored. It will act the same if you had chosen Timber Open or Timber Elevated.
Scorecard assessor news #1
- An update on the Scorecard audit program
- Latest statistics
- Tips for practicing assessment
- Tips from Doug the tech guy - photographs
An update on the Scorecard audit program
Since we started Scorecard, you have told us that quality assurance is critical to ensure the reputation, integrity and reliability of Scorecard is maintained at the highest possible level. To this end, we put in place an auditing program and all assessors are audited against the Scorecard Quality Principles.
The findings so far are positive, showing Scorecard assessors understand the importance of providing an excellent service to the public.
Facts and figures so far
Customers completed 47 email surveys and 126 telephone surveys by the end of April 2018.
- Over 90 per cent of respondents were happy with the process, certificate and assessor, yet less than 80 per cent were happy with the rating of their home. A small number of respondents were expecting to be given more information about how they can improve their rating.
- Well over 80 per cent of respondents said the assessor arrived on time, did no damage, provided a copy of the signed Privacy Statement and showed photo ID.
- There was strong to very strong agreement that assessors behaved professionally and in the best interest of their customer, explained the certificate well, answered their questions and provided tailored advice. Overwhelmingly respondents would recommend the Scorecard to others and found it a good use of their time.
- The most valuable advice received by the respondents was the very practical information about what to change and why, including insulation, gap sealing, lighting and showerheads.
- 74 per cent of respondents have either taken action already or intend to within the next three months. Of those who stated they would not be taking any action, the most common reasons were the cost and that they were trying to get the landlord to do work. A small number were still waiting for their certificate or further advice from the assessor. The most common actions taken are gap sealing, insulation, upgrading appliances and windows/coverings.
Every accredited assessor has had at least one desktop audit and we have conducted one shadow audit as at the end of June 2018. All assessors are informed of the results of their audit.
- Three assessors have failed desktop audits, with one being required to re-rate a house, the remaining two assessors received notification of errors and will be audited again soon.
- Common issues we have identified are missing evidence photos and photos that don’t capture the required information well enough to read (blurry, too tight, too wide or truncated information), data that is populated in a previous zone being carried through subsequent zones when it shouldn’t be, and star ratings of appliances not entered when they are available on the internet.
How do you improve your services?
- Ensure you explain the Privacy Statement and conflict of interest section, even if you don’t have any conflict.
- Consider how you can provide additional materials to your customer, whether this is general information about upgrade options, trusted suppliers or behaviour change suggestions. Consider whether the customer could be referred to a low-income assistance program.
- Ensure you understand what drives the hot weather rating, what is excluded in the rating, and how you explain this to householders.
- Give a thorough explanation of each element on the certificate. This will give the householder a better understanding of what makes up their overall rating. Following up with options to improve the rating will help customers understand why their house doesn’t rate better.
- Ensure you are well acquainted with all the evidence requirements. You can carry a copy of the Evidence Checklist with you so you know you have everything you need before you leave.
- If you have any questions about way elements have appeared on a certificate, contact the Scorecard team.
What happens if you breach the standards?
The Assessor Agreement which all assessors sign, outlines the Complaints Policy and includes a brief explanation of how non-compliance points are awarded and the relevant consequences.
Maintaining quality is important for the reputation of the program. Where issues are identified a further investigation is undertaken by the Department to consider factors such as the likely impact and frequency of the issue. The assessor is informed on what has been found and given an opportunity to respond to any significant issues identified. The aim is to work with the assessor to find the best way to resolve the issue and prevent a recurrence.
Depending upon the situation and its severity, penalty points may be awarded. Other options as well as, or instead of, penalty points may be applied. For minor issues this can include notification and warning letters, for very serious issues this can include suspension. Evidently the approach must have a level of flexibility to recognise individual circumstances, but ensure that there are consequences for unacceptable performance.
Assessors are also supported to resolve any significant issues through tutorial attendance, mentoring, shadowing during assessments, and further training.
Here are some examples of how penalty points can be awarded:
An accumulation of 6 non-compliance points within a 24-month period will result in the suspension of an assessor. Bringing the Program into disrepute may result in termination of an Assessor Agreement.
Costs of remediation, training and supervision may be borne by the assessor.
Note that a majority of Scorecard assessments done to date are by not for profit organisations that have targeted low income houses. These are generally small houses. Despite the houses having a low building shell rating, the relatively high average star rating is due to moderately efficient heaters heating small living areas.
Tips for practising assessments
If you are practising for your exam, here are some things to think about when doing your assessments.
Practise the whole process
An outline of the assessment process was emailed to all assessors in April. Use it as a checklist for your practise. Practise every part of the assessment, from the first contact with the householder at the house to identifying zones to uploading evidence photos and finalising. If you need another copy of the process outline, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carry out your practise in unfamiliar houses. This will give you the true experience of going into an unknown space to conduct an assessment.
Practise your conversations with the householder
Practise introducing yourself and explaining the Scorecard assessment process, what the assessment does and does not cover. Practise your conversations to identify householder needs, and to explain the Scorecard certificate and upgrade options.
Safety and wellbeing
Identify the hazards, assess the risk and implement any controls you need. Be very conscious of your safety and the householder’s safety as this will be scrutinised during the exam.
Check your tech! Make sure you have your access to the internet sorted, your device charged and the Scorecard working. Do not come into the exam without being familiar with your device, and knowing that you have internet access.
Have a plan B – if your internet or device does not work, what will you do? How will you gather your data and evidence for upload into the tool? Paper-based worksheets have been emailed to all assessors. If you cannot find the email, please contact us at email@example.com.
Tips from Doug the tech guy - photographs
There are several ways to take a photo and get them into the Scorecard. My personal preference is to use a small, rugged camera to take the photos. The default resolution can be set to a manageable size. Photos can then be transferred to your PC or iPad and uploaded into the Scorecard from there.
To transfer photos into an iPad, the "Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter" allows a camera to be attached to the iPad via USB. Similarly, the "Apple Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader" can enable the iPad to read an SD card from a camera.
Wireless and other methods are available depending on the camera.
Many Android tablets have built-in card readers, though they may be restricted to Micro-SD cards.
The default resolution of the iPad camera is very high, and there are no settings to adjust it. As a result, these photos can take a long time to upload into the Scorecard due to their size. While the Department doesn't mind if you upload large photos, the upload time and data use over a 4G connection might be a concern to you. To avoid this, consider resizing the photos before uploading. There are many iPad apps available in the App Store that are available that can resize photos.
While it is possible to take and tag photos as evidence in the Scorecard during the course of an assessment, I suggest that the photo uploading and tagging is done post assessment.