A Fresh Face on the Job: Q&A with Summer Intern Isaac Baker

A Fresh Face on the Job: Q&A with Summer Intern Isaac Baker

  • When we need to track energy use more closely we install an emonitor. This device monitors electricity use on a circuit-by-circuit basis, allowing us to diagnose equipment problems and identify further savings opportunities.

If you're renovating this summer, you may see a fresh face on the job. But if you go away for a few weeks, you may miss him. Isaac Baker is Byggmeister's summer intern, so he's only with the company for ten weeks. An environmental non-fiction major at Middlebury College, Isaac will be returning to school in September for his senior year. Rachel White sat down with Isaac to find out how he ended up at Byggmeister and what's he's looking forward to doing this summer.

Is it true that you first heard about Byggmeister from your father?
Yes that's correct. My dad became really interested in green building when he started working on our 200 year old house, trying to tighten it up and make it more energy efficient. He met Paul at a conference a few months ago and told me about the company.

And you thought... this is where I want to work this summer?
I did half of my coursework this past spring in green building and really wanted to continue over the summer. Based on what my dad told me, Byggmeister seemed like a perfect fit. Their whole systems approach to building and focus on energy efficiency really appealed to me.

So how did you arrange the internship?
I had applied for funding through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which matches students who want to work in clean energy with companies in need of interns. So I emailed Paul, and told him that I wanted to work with Byggmeister - and that I'd have funding through the Clean Energy Center.

And that was that?
Pretty much. Paul had to fill out an application as well for Byggmeister to participate in the internship program, but that was just a formality.

Can you tell me about the coursework you've done in green building?
I am part of Middlebury's Solar Decathalon Team. We're building a net-zero house that's going to be shipped to Irvine, CA in the fall. I also did an independent study focused on helping the college make some basic energy improvements to some of its buildings. Middlebury owns a lot of small, older homes that are in need of efficiency improvements.

The college gave me funding to get building performance training, and I went around with an energy auditing company doing blower door tests and building assessments. I also did some research on solar hot water because the college had installed two systems that were failing.

That must have prepared you well for some of the work you're doing with Byggmeister.
Absolutely. If I took the BPI (Building Performance Institute) certification test right now I don't think I'd do that well, but it was great background and gave me a good introduction to how to think and talk about home performance.

And did you figure out why the solar hot water systems aren't operating properly?
Well, it's not that they aren't working properly. It's just that they aren't achieving anywhere close to the savings the college was hoping for when they installed them. They are two-panel systems for three-student apartments. The students had no idea there's solar hot water on the roof, so they weren't maximizing the benefits of the system. And they weren't using all that much hot water to begin with.

Is there anything you're especially looking forward to doing this summer?
It seems like there are a lot of great opportunities. I'm especially excited though to dive in deep on energy accounting. When I was putting together my recommendations for building efficiency improvements at Middlebury, I relied on a program that Efficiency Vermont uses for all of its energy audits. The program produces estimated savings of energy upgrades, but it all seems kind of arbitrary. It was impossible to find out how the estimates are calculated. So I'm excited for the energy spreadsheet work I'm doing.

Spreadsheet work?
Byggmeister is tracking actual energy consumption of all the homes they've worked on to gauge the impact of their work on energy use. I'm working on a spreadsheet that analyzes all this data.

Any thoughts about what you want to do after college?
It's all very up in the air right now. I started at Skidmore and transferred to Middlebury after my freshman year because I wanted an environmental degree. My major is actually environmental non-fiction.

That's so interesting. I've never heard of that major before.
About two people graduate with it a year. So it's very specific. But I love it; it's great. I'm also minoring in computer science, so maybe I can get a job when I graduate.

So I have to ask you, do you get to work with the famous environmental non-fiction writer at Middlebury, Bill McKibben?
Work with would be a stretch, but he is a resource for a lot of the campus activism that goes on. Bill McKibben was a big part of the reason I chose Middlebury over other places. I want to be Bill McKibben or Michael Pollan. Talk about an ideal job!