Lunch with foreign diplomats, interviews with the press, meetings with politicians, and consultations with business leaders sounds like a job description for a world leader, but was in fact just a typical day for Anthony Cox and Caleb Simon of Christiansburg, Virginia-based Community Housing Partners (CHP) when they visited Argentina as unofficial ambassadors for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).
Cox, a building science manager, and Simon, a project manager at CHP’s Energy Solutions Research and Training Center, were invited to Buenos Aires by an Argentine NGO (non-governmental organization) known as FOVISEE (Foro de Vivienda Sustentabilidad y Energias) that is dedicated to promoting energy efficiency and sustainability in low-income and social housing. Having already visited CHP’s training facility last winter to learn more about establishing a weatherization program in their home country, FOVISEE staff asked CHP to come to Argentina and share its expertise with interested stakeholders.
Cox and Simon spent a busy week this past November working with FOVISEE to help develop interest in a national weatherization effort and another program in the works called Weatherizers Without Borders that would encourage skilled energy conservation professionals to provide weatherization training and mentoring to community volunteers in South American communities.
FOVISEE’s Nicolas Maggio commented, “The need for energy efficiency in existing housing becomes even more important for low-income families, as they end up paying more for energy and are subject to health and safety threats due to irregular and precarious electric connections and homes. Due to the impact weatherization can have on energy bills and improving the ‘livability’ of a home, we believe that the WAP model would be a perfect fit for Argentina.”
To help foster support for the programs across a wide platform, Cox and Simon met with U.S. embassy staff, local community and business leaders, educators, manufacturers, and the media to explain the social, financial, and environmental benefits of investing in weatherization in Argentina. They also helped perform modified energy assessments on homes in the municipalities of Campana and Moreno and gave a hands-on weatherization demonstration to professors and students at a university in Campana.
According to Cox, “almost everyone we talked with was very interested in learning more about weatherization and how it can have such a significant impact on people’s quality of life. It’s exciting to be a part of the momentum that’s building in Argentina around energy conservation.”
Simon agreed that the weatherization message was well received in Argentina and attributed that fact to a simple truth: “People are the same everywhere. Everyone wants a better life, and we can help with that.”