Housing Inspector Matt Byers hangs a red nylon tarp inside of the front doorway of an empty house that serves as a training ground for the WSOS (now Great Lakes Community Action Partnership) Home Weatherization Assistance Program (HWAP) crew workers. Attached to the bottom of the tarp is a high-powered fan that blows air outside of the house. The device — a blower door — creates lower pressure inside the house, causing higher-pressure air outside the house to enter the residence through cracks or openings in the home’s exterior.
HWAP crews use the blower door after insulating residences. Matt explains the blower door provides an objective measure that verifies how well the home has been insulated.
Matt works quickly — he’s worked at WSOS for more than a decade and has done this plenty of times before. But this time is different. Matt is demonstrating the blower door to a visiting delegation of Ukrainian young professionals interested in energy issues.
"The blower door is an innovation I’ve never seen before," said Oleh Maslennikov. "It is a very useful tool."
Part of an Open World Program delegation, Oleh was one of the five Ukrainian delegates who visited the northwest Ohio area in summer 2015. As the head of the Infrastructure Reform and Economic Analysis Administration at the Department of Housing, Utilities and Infrastructure Development in the Kharkiv region in eastern Ukraine, Oleh was interested in how some U.S. practices might be useful back home.
The Open World Program delegation was hosted by the Great Lakes Consortium for International Training and Development, a partnership of WSOS. During their visit, the delegation toured a wind farm, biomass facility, and LEED-certified building to learn about energy-efficient practices already in place in the U.S. They also visited with local government, businesses and non-profit entities to see how such practices are funded and put into place.
Ukraine faces several challenges relating to energy consumption, Oleh said. Aged infrastructure needs replaced, and imported natural gas from nearby Russia comes at a high price. The need to reduce reliance on energy imports drives Ukraine to increase usage of alternative sources of energy such as solar and biomass. Additionally, encouraging and helping residents to institute some of the weatherization measures used by WSOS would also help reducing overall energy consumption throughout Ukraine.
Not only did the delegation learn about innovations that might be useful to Ukranian energy initiatives, but also how non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government, and commercial enterprise work to institute changes.
"We’ve learned about new insulation material, blower doors, government organization of infrastructure, and work in NGOs," Oleh said. "We are very grateful to WSOS for organizing our visit."