Indoor Air Quality: Retrofitting for health

The Protocols also include guidance on home and job safety, as well as worker protection and client education.

August 03, 2012
The EPA’s Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades (Protoco

The EPA’s Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades (Protocols) provide industry professionals with practica

Millions of American homes will be retrofitted in the coming years to increase energy efficiency, install green features and add upgrades.

When retrofit activities account for and address potential indoor air quality concerns, this work can lower utility costs and improve indoor air quality at the same time. However, when retrofit and upgrade work proceed without first assessing and appropriately planning to manage the risks, these activities can degrade indoor air quality and negatively affect occupant health.

Why is indoor air quality so important? EPA’s Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) studies found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be two to five times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas. Other research indicates that people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. Thus, for many people, the health risks to health due to exposure to air pollution may be greater indoors than outdoors.

The EPA’s Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades (Protocols) provide industry professionals with practical guidance on how to conduct home assessments and take actions to maintain or even improve indoor air quality in conjunction with energy efficiency retrofit and other remodeling activities.

The Protocols are designed for energy-efficiency retrofit and housing rehabilitation professionals and others engaged in energy-focused residential retrofit, renovation or remodeling efforts. They apply to existing single-family and multi-family low-rise residential buildings and offer guidance for conducting home assessments and the steps contractors need to take to maintain or improve a home’s indoor air quality and safety.

EPA recommends adoption of this voluntary guidance by a wide array of entities conducting retrofit activities:

  • Federal, state, tribal and local weatherization assistance programs
  • Federally funded housing programs
  • Industry standards organizations
  • Private sector home performance contracting organizations
  • Public and environmental health professionals.

The Protocols may also help to improve the quality of home weatherization projects and other energy-efficiency retrofit or remodeling jobs, ultimately reducing failures and call-backs—a big financial and reputational benefit.

The Protocols focus on high priority indoor air quality issues often encountered and sometimes exacerbated during home energy upgrade work, such as moisture and mold; asbestos; radon; carbon monoxide; pests; materials emissions;  whole-house ventilation for distributed contaminants, and more.  They include guidance on how to assess risk before work begins, minimum actions to take to ensure work does not make things worse, and expanded action for improving indoor air quality:

  • Assessment Protocols include the EPA-recommended or required steps for evaluating existing conditions of concern and potential concerns that may arise from typical retrofit activities.
  • Minimum Actions include critical steps that home energy retrofit contractors should take to help ensure their work does not introduce new indoor air quality problems or make existing conditions worse.
  • Expanded Actions include additional yet simple actions to promote healthy indoor environments that can easily be taken during many home energy retrofit projects. They can be performed by trained home energy retrofit workers who have sufficient resources.

The Protocols also include guidance on home and job safety, as well as worker protection and client education.

EPA worked in coordination with the U.S. Department of Energy Weatherization Assistance Program (http://bit.ly/cNM5Pc) and the White House Council on Environmental Quality Recovery Through Retrofit initiative (http://1.usa.gov/K3YdkV) to develop this guidance. Programs and contractors undertaking energy retrofits and renovations are encouraged to coordinate their services with local health and housing resources to provide families the support they may need.

You can download EPA’s Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades for free at http://1.usa.gov/AqL3uj. PR

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Building Science content is provided in partnership with the Energy & Environmental Building Alliance and its National Education Partners. For more information on building science education, visit eeba.org.

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