An Inside View of DOE's Residential Retrofit Guidelines

It’s here, and it’s coming sooner than anyone is realizing. Hidden behind a warm fuzzy announcement by Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu on November 9, 2010 (the White House Middle Class Task Force event launching the Home Energy Score pilot program), was a 632 page document calling for more robust worker certification and training. Digging deeper into the announcement, one finds the reality that the Home Energy Score is designed to offer homeowners straightforward, reliable information about their homes' energy efficiency while the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is developing Workforce Guidelines for Home Energy Upgrades to foster the growth of a high quality residential retrofit industry and a skilled and credentialed (emphasis added) workforce. The DOE argues that these voluntary guidelines will produce benefits for workers, homeowners, businesses, and training providers. Once finalized, the guidelines can be adopted by home energy retrofit programs nationwide seeking to increase the consistency and effectiveness of the work performed, and utilized by training providers to improve course curriculum and other training materials. Maybe so. Energy efficiency and lowered dependence on foreign oil is very “Mom and Apple Pie,” and good for the country, no doubt. But, it comes as a package of regulation of what to buy, who will decide the purchases, and who will install it. It’s not hard to see that joining the current Certified Renovator and Certified Firm will be Certified Energy Auditor; Certified Crew Leader; Certified Retrofit Installer/Technician; and Certified Quality Control Inspector. These trades, presumably paralleling Remodeling Contractors (probably replacing them at some point) are tediously described in qualifying detail in another released publication called the Job Task Analysis. Both the Workforce Guidelines and Job Task Outlines documents are available for public comment through January 7, 2011, with the option of concerned parties using an online form to submit suggestions directly to DOE. The described intent is that after reconciling and incorporating comments, DOE will release the final version of the document and work with the Weatherization Assistance Program, Recovery Act grant recipients, and other retrofit programs nationwide to promote adoption and implementation. The guidelines will also lay the foundation for a more robust voluntary (for now) worker certification and training program accreditation architecture that will be developed in the coming year. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a document available for public review titled Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Retrofits that is related to the DOE workforce guidelines. Both are intended to provide a set of voluntary measures that energy efficiency retrofit programs may adopt to increase the quality of the retrofit work performed while maintaining or improving the health and safety of the occupants. DOE encourages reviewers of the workforce guidelines who have a specific interest in healthy indoor environments to also review and comment on the EPA document. For those who still believe that RRP Lead Containment and Lead Safe Work Practices are an anomaly, guess what the common step is in each of the Guidelines for Home Energy Upgrades: Lead paint assessment and compliance with EPA’s RRP Rule. In addition, some of the same equipment (masks, goggles, hand protection, etc.) is required to be worn by assessment workers as well as the actual installers and technicians. The point is, RRP is not isolated with EPA, it’s a requirement of DOE, and will purvey all renovation going forward. And, this is not Legislation like HomeStar and stimulus or tax break initiatives we can help influence the result by contacting and lobbying our Senators and Congressmen. This is regulation and there’s little we can do to influence regulation. Unless we all keep track and participate, we will wake up next year and find another “RRP” has snuck up on us, and we have lost more control, more business and more profits.

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