Healthy Housing Opportunities During Weatherization Work

Project Funder: National Renewable Energy Laboratory/Department of Energy
Project Partners:  Tohn Environmental Strategies
Project Contact: Jonathan Wilson, 443.539.4162

Project Description:
This report is a result of Department of Energy (DOE) engaging the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) to review existing Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) policies, guidance, and training, and to interview a broad subset of 44 state WAP grantees and 42 local subgrantees from across the nation to get a strong and representative sample of the issues they encounter related to health and safety. NCHH conducted the research for this report in the summer and fall of 2010 to gauge how grantees and subgrantees interpret and incorporate existing health and safety guidance and practices in their weatherization work, and wrote the report in the winter of 2010 – 2011. A key element in the report is its evaluation of opportunities for expanding the program’s ability to address health and safety issues in the low-income homes it serves. As a result, the report reflects the industry as it existed before WAP issued updated Weatherization Guidance, in its Weatherization Program Notice 11-6, on January 12, 2011.

The report will also help DOE inform the federal Inter-Agency Healthy Homes Work Group that convened in 2009 to identify ways to maximize inter-agency coordination among federal programs and funding sources, and to streamline the provision of health, safety, and housing related services nationwide. Viewed nationally, programs effectively incorporate health and safety repairs into their work specifications and allocate an average 12% (or about $780) of the $6500 per unit allocated for weatherization work to complete this sort of health and safety work.

The report illustrates how front-line weatherization service providers have developed creative and effective means of addressing many health and safety issues. Despite innovation, however, many homes they encounter in the field have structural or other challenges that prevent energy efficiency work and/or would make energy efficiency upgrades ineffective. These challenges are the starting point from which the report explores practical and viable solutions for addressing health and safety issues encountered by weatherization workers in the field. DOE is also well positioned as a member of the federal Inter-Agency Healthy Homes Work Group to further the strategies identified in this report, which will help to increase programs’ access to added resources. Through these collaborative effects, the weatherization network can successfully offer its clients homes that are as comfortable and healthy as they are energy efficient.