Skip to Main Content


Category Listing
Archived Categories

The WAPTAC Blog Policy

Sort By: Title   |   Blog Date

EVENT SUMMARY: Strategy for Action to Advance Healthy Housing

Tuesday, February 05, 2013
On Monday, February 4th, the federal Healthy Homes Work Group (HHWG) held an event at the National Building Museum to launch the new Advancing Healthy Housing: A Strategy for Action. The Strategy lays out the goals and priorities of the HHWG to advance healthy housing initiatives for the next three to five years nationwide. The event also highlighted the publication of HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing’s new radon testing and mitigation requirements for Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured multifamily mortgage applications for new construction and significant rehabilitation, and certain FHA-insured refinancing programs. These important steps show that the federal government is taking home health seriously and Weatherization Plus Health is ready to step up to the plate.

The event featured leaders from the six federal agencies who make up HHWG, as well as non-profit partners focused on energy, health, and housing issues. The agencies that created The Strategy introduced themselves and provided an overview of the five goals of the Strategy:

Goal 1: Establish Healthy Homes Recommendations
Goal 2: Encourage Adoption of Healthy Homes Recommendations
Goal 3: Create and Support Training and Workforce Development to Address Health Hazards in Housing
Goal 4: Educate the Public about Healthy Homes
Goal 5: Support Research that Informs and Advances Healthy Housing in a Cost-Effective Manner

Speakers emphasized the effect that healthy housing initiatives have on low-income families by improving their health and safety, as well as the complementary role that the low-income Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) can play. David Poneman, DOE Deputy Secretary and Anna Garcia, Program Manager for DOE Office of Weatherization and Intergovernmental Programs highlighted the thousands of people WAP put back to work while weatherizing over one million homes during the Recovery Act period. They also noted WAP saves families in the range of $200-$400 in income that can then be used for other necessities like food and medicine. Other partners, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), applauded DOE and WAP’s unheralded commitment to energy efficiency and existing health and safety component. Attendees took time to recognize WAP Furnace Specialist Carl Harvey’s life-saving work – truly an example of WAP’s impact and reach.

WAP is a key player in the advancement of healthy housing initiatives, touching more low-income homes than any other program. To learn more about how WAP works with healthy homes, visit

Please watch a video recording of the event. The federal Advancing Healthy Housing: A Strategy for Action and the Radon Notice will be live soon.

Posted by: Alice Gaston at 1:53 PM
 | permalink

Weatherization Plus Health: The Connecticut Efficient Healthy Homes Initiative

Thursday, June 28, 2012
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Weatherization Plus Health Initiative provides a national platform for increasing partnerships among organizations serving the health, housing, and energy needs of low income families at the state and local levels. One example of such a partnership is the Connecticut Efficient Healthy Homes Initiative (CTEHHI), which brings together a major Connecticut utility company, a children’s hospital, various state agencies, local governments, and nonprofit partners to create an effective referral network to cost-effectively weatherize homes and improve health and safety conditions.

This article is part of an ongoing series from the National Association for State Community Services Programs (NASCSP), which is implementing Weatherization Plus Health on behalf of DOE. Each piece will highlight best practices and guides at the intersection of energy, housing, and health. NASCSP and DOE believe that Weatherization Plus Health can be a vehicle for showcasing the talents of the Weatherization Assistance Program’s (WAP) network and bolster the case for more funding for the WAP network as well as organizations that tackle housing-related health hazards. By simultaneously addressing energy efficiency and health and safety in low income homes, CTEHHI provides a blueprint for collaboration that puts the WAP network’s creativity and innovation on full display.

The Connecticut Efficient Healthy Homes Initiative
CTEHHI, led by The United Illuminating Company (UI) in partnership with the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund (the Fund) and Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P), is a great model for agencies looking to implement a Weatherization Plus Health approach. It has mobilized partners, including local governments, nonprofits, and healthcare providers, that provide weatherization, lead abatement, and other housing-related services to comprehensively address energy efficiency and health and safety issues in homes throughout Connecticut.  As a result, UI and its partners are confident that they are stretching every dollar for the benefit of their low income clients, while putting the partnership in a better position when competing for federal funding for health, housing, and energy needs.

How It Started
The Connecticut Children’s Medical Center’s Lead Action for Medicaid Primary Prevention (LAMPP) project is an early intervention and prevention program that educates the public about the dangers of lead poisoning and remediates lead hazards in low income homes. Funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), LAMPP has made over 1,400 homes lead safe since 2003. Through previous work with community action agencies across the state, LAMPP was familiar with the WAP program and the health and safety measures it can complete. They also knew that UI and CL&P ran a low income weatherization program funded by ratepayers through the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund.

LAMPP was convinced it could use new partnerships with UI and CL&P to leverage funding for additional health and safety measures and, along with other partners, build a sustainable model for addressing all of the health, housing, and energy needs of its low income clients. After approaching UI and encouraging them to apply for a DOE Weatherization Innovation Pilot Program (WIPP) grant, UI competed successfully for this funding to streamline programs between partners, thereby cutting costs where services overlapped. By partnering with UI and CL&P and integrating energy and health services, LAMPP has since been able to secure additional grant funding from HUD to continue its good work.

How Does it Work?
UI and CL&P are the lead partners in CTEHHI because of their capacity to address energy efficiency and major health issues. Intake, processed through many different partners, is used as a means to refer low income clients to UI and CL&P. CTEHHI sends a team to a client’s household to perform both an energy assessment and a healthy homes checkup that includes client education on identified home health and safety issues. The team installs energy conservation measures, such as energy efficient light bulbs, simple air sealing measures, and water-saving measures. Based on the results of the energy assessment and health and safety checkup, one of two scenarios occurs:
  • UI generates a work order and a weatherization crew re-enters the home to perform a more comprehensive installation of weatherization measures, such as furnace tune-ups and insulation, as well as health and safety measures, following DOE WAP Health and Safety Guidance 11-6.  A third party then completes a final inspection of the work.
  • If there are instances where the weatherization program cannot address certain issues, leading to a deferral, UI generates a work order in consultation with partners to cost effectively address health and safety concerns that cannot be addressed through UI and CL&P’s weatherization program.  Once partners address these concerns, the agency generates a referral so that UI and CL&P crews can proceed with completing weatherization, including health and safety measures, as described above.


Developing mutually beneficial partnerships is at the core of CTEHHI’s success. Current partners of CTEHHI include Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust, the City of New Haven, the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut Department of Public Health, Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, L. Wagner & Associates, NauVEL, NeighborWorks New Horizons, and Yale-New Haven Hospital.  Three roles for partners offer models for best practice:

  • Intake and outreach, including providing referrals into CTEHHI
  • Providing guidance on program structure and process, leading to partner investment in success
  • Referrals to and from CTEHHI for health and safety

To create and maintain fruitful partnerships, it is essential that the larger group understands each organization’s mission.  In 2010, UI started its first meeting with a “status assessment” that queried all partners on questions, such as:
  • What health and safety interventions do you provide?
  • How many units can you contribute?
  • How much funding do you have available?
  • How do you rank your priorities?

The status assessment informs CTEHHI’s use of referrals among its partners. In addition, CTEHHI makes a deliberate effort to reach out to all partners to update them, maintaining a sense of community and trust. “Chris [Corcoran, Project Manager of LAMPP] and I know each other’s phone numbers by heart,” Julia Hatton, Project Manager of CTEHHI at UI said, stressing that these types of personal connections can be transferred to the work the group performs collaboratively. Partners also take turns hosting a bi-monthly meeting to keep each other informed of their work, show off their facilities, and discuss strategies for moving the initiative forward.

These meetings also provide an opportunity to reaffirm commitment to the initiative, as partners are reminded why it is beneficial for their organization to be involved; namely, it enhances their capacity to offer additional client services, making their interventions more efficient and cost-effective. CTEHHI ensures that the referral process is easy by equipping partners with tools, including brochures and necessary forms for admission into the program, as well as flow charts describing the process their clients will go through when they reach CTEHHI. This provides partners with the assurance that UI and CL&P will take good care of their clients. Finally, the meetings offer a chance to discover additional cost-sharing opportunities.

An early focus on program development enabled CTEHHI to confront a series of potential barriers often faced by other weatherization programs around the country. These include:

  • Varying income eligibilities for different programs
  • Varying interventions that are achievable depending on client location and available funding in a client’s jurisdiction
  • Administrative and logistic differences between programs

To address the question of differing income eligibility guidelines, CTEHHI created a chart that provides an easy visual for partners to determine program qualifications. CTEHHI also created a verification system so that proof of income presented to partnering programs is sufficient for CTEHHI’s purposes of determining client eligibility. In addition, LAMPP and CTEHHI make joint presentations to educate partners about the various programs available for clients and their income eligibility differences.

To facilitate referrals, CTEHHI created a health and safety checkup to be performed at the initial weatherization visit that includes referral opportunities for additional health and safety interventions.

Lowering barriers that separate programs is an ongoing effort.  Part of CTEHHI’s strategy has been to demonstrate to their vendors and contractors that they are already a healthy homes program. When UI and CL&P crews realized that their work includes healthy homes measures, it generated excitement. Weatherization crews already receive training that includes Lead Safe Weatherization and EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (regarding lead paint); enhancing this capacity in the area of healthy homes, crews have been offered cross training through the National Center for Healthy Housing’s Healthy Homes Essentials course. LAMPP and other partners have provided energy efficiency education to their healthy homes crews to show the health and safety work being completed during weatherization. Cross training on both the energy and health sides of this collaborative has strengthened partner engagement.

The Path Forward
CTEHHI’s approach has created a comprehensive strategy for energy, housing, and health. WAP agencies can learn from their example of partner engagement and thinking through potential barriers in expanding program capacity.

Often housed in Community Action Agencies, WAP agencies have a host of partners within their own agencies that they can engage for referral opportunities, intake purposes, and client education. They can also collaborate with utility companies, faith-based groups, and other nontraditional partners to pursue any opportunity to expand client services. To build the program capacity necessary to secure funding for a comprehensive initiative, WAP must engage their partners effectively, plan ways to overcome barriers, start small with achievable initiatives, and tout their successes with data.  Through Weatherization Plus Health and by following the lead of model programs like CTEHHI, WAP agencies can demonstrate their capacity for innovation as part of the nation’s largest program that reduces energy bills and improves health and safety in the homes of low-income families.

For additional information about potential partners in utilities in your state, visit the LIHEAP clearinghouse website at and select “State Snapshots”.

For More Information:
Department Of Energy (DOE) Weatherization Plus Health Initiative, visit :


Posted by: Ryan Ward at 10:34 AM
 | permalink

Tips for Starting a Healthy Homes Program

Monday, April 09, 2012
NASCSP’s healthy homes staff has recently completed its Weatherization Plus Health conference swing to six different regions across the country.  A key component of these conferences was a “Promising Practices” panel session, which provided audience members with an opportunity to question presenters on how they got their initiatives off the ground.   Many presenters were able to motivate attendees to begin work on healthy homes initiatives in their communities, convincing them that creating the capacity to expand their reach and the services they offer doesn’t have to be complicated.  Below are some key points for the creation and sustainability of a successful healthy homes program. 

1. Don’t reinvent the wheel:
One of the most common mistakes organizations make when trying to incorporate healthy homes into their programs is trying to do too much too soon.  Organizations have to take a sober look at what is achievable within their means, and aim for those goals first.  By starting small you can get buy in from staff and those responsible for helping implement new program objectives.  Often these small goals include ramping up client education efforts, and coordinating cross training between partner organizations.  These strategies usually result in an extremely efficient way to provide healthy homes interventions.  By creating cost-effective, comprehensive solutions concerning a few small goals, agencies can improve their capacity to take on a bigger workload, and as a result, plant the seed for future grant money. 
2. Develop Partnerships:
Relying on the knowledge of partners is the best way to create the capacity needed to more comprehensively address the needs of low-income families.  One organization cannot have the expertise in all areas of healthy homes.  In order for a healthy homes initiative to work, it’s critical that the right people perform the right tasks.  Therefore, it is important to partner with as many organizations as possible, creating an effective referral network that can truly provide a hand up to low-income families. Sharing the workload among partners is critical to maintaining buy in and excitement for new initiatives. 

3. Data Collection:
The most compelling way to argue that your initiative is successful is by proving that you are getting significant bang for your buck.  This requires a data collection/tracking system that can measure homes completed and health improvements.  Many of the presenters said they began tracking data with in-depth questionnaires administered to clients prior to providing services.  After homes were serviced, they would then administer a series of follow up calls to track the level of client health improvements over time.  This allowed presenters make the case that they were in a position to ably manage scarce resources. 

4. Start Now:
Some cuts in funding for weatherization and healthy homes grantees are likely for FY 2012. Those programs who can comprehensively meet the needs of clients with fewer resources will shine the brightest.  Since implementing these initiatives takes time for planning, obtaining buy-in from staff and partners, and developing tools to measure the success of new programs, it is best to go ahead and evaluate what can be achieved now, and work toward obtaining those goals.  Integrating a healthy homes component into State and local weatherization programs will be an effective way for the Weatherization Assistance Program to further prove its adaptability and sophistication.  The time to begin is now.

Posted by: Rebecca Stewart at 3:04 PM
 | permalink

One-Touch: Saving Money and Improving Health Through Collaboration

Monday, April 09, 2012

When resources are scarce, leveraging program dollars through coordination of housing-related programs can improve outcomes for clients and programs alike. This is at the heart of One Touch, a model for collaboration between energy conservation services, healthy homes programs, and housing rehabilitation efforts that is generating early successes around the country.

When the National Center for Healthy Housing launched One Touch with the City of Boston in 2005, targeting the neighborhoods of Dorchester and Roxbury, they focused on:

• Well-known causes of ill health and disability in children,
• Low-cost interventions that offer a big return on investment, and
• Improving efficiency through coordinating services delivery, so that a household has one intake or “touch” rather than many interactions with different agencies.

For Boston children, housing-related health and safety issues such as asthma, lead poisoning, and falls in the home could be addressed through relatively low-cost and effective measures.  These included referrals for smoking cessation for residents, integrated pest management instead of using pesticides, weatherization to improve air sealing and insulation, and addressing moisture build up through ventilation and minor home repairs to fix leaks.

The Boston pilot demonstrates the value of the One Touch approach for clients, agencies, and funders. Lowering high rates of asthma and lead poisoning improves the quality of life and life chances of children, while promising cost savings to the state Medicaid program. Installing energy-saving appliances and conservation measures reduces home energy bills, lessening financial burdens on households and improving indoor air quality at the same time.

A great example of the success of One Touch Boston is 7 Sussex Street, a single family brick rowhouse purchased by an income-eligible family using HUD HOME and private financing. Through the Residential Development Program of the City of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development, city program staff and NCHH advisors walked through the development of a rehabilitation work plan, producing a set of specifications that contractors successfully implemented within the budget constraints. Coordination at the point of intake for the housing unit itself –the preparation of a scope of work for rehabilitation –reaped benefits in terms of greater energy efficiency, lower bills, and better health for children. The Boston effort also involved work with the City’s Department of Neighborhood Development to incorporate healthy homes building practices into the City’s rehab specification.

With funding from HUD’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention and support from the US Department of Agriculture, entities are scaling up and piloting One Touch in three new locations: the city of Manchester, New Hampshire, the counties of Merrimack and Belknap, New Hampshire and Omaha, Nebraska. These locations focus on coordination and referrals during intake, using three new tools and approaches:

1. Short checklists, providing an energy and health checkup, that add 15- 40  minutes to intake (varies by project as checklists are tailored to meet local needs);
2. New client education; and
3. Expanded scope of work for housing repairs.

Both New Hampshire community pilots use One Touch checkup forms for homes visited by WAP or Head Start to determine the opportunities to leverage program services through referrals. The chart below details the needs of homes determined in the initial checkups performed by Merrimack Belknap:

Intervention Need  Number of Units 
WAP  91 units
Asthma  24 units (17 with children, 7 with Adults)
Lead  47 units
Pests  12 units
Moisture  63 units
Smokers  12 units

In addition to agreeing to use the energy and health checkups as part of intake, the New Hampshire pilot partners began to negotiate Memoranda of Understanding among the health, housing, and energy programs to facilitate referrals on behalf of clients at the point of intake. Partners also agreed to expand the scope of repairs permitted under selected programs, for example, adding moisture and integrated pest management interventions to weatherization.

Partners at the Omaha site include a mix of public agencies similar to the New Hampshire and Boston pilots (health, housing, and energy), as well as new public partners (the Omaha Public Power District,  and the DOE Better Buildings project), and nongovernmental organizations including the Healthy Kids Alliance, Habitat for Humanity, and Rebuilding Together. The initial group of 40 homes in Omaha’s One Touch project participate in reEnergize, an energy upgrade funded through an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (ARRA and local funds). Over the summer of 2011, an expanded group of partners began using the energy and health checkups together with referrals and coordinated services provision. 

Each year in both New Hampshire and Nebraska, public programs that deliver health and energy services help thousands of low-income families. Publicly administered housing renovation and rehabilitation programs benefit hundreds more. Using the One Touch approach to identify areas where coordination and referrals for healthy homes and energy interventions are cost-effective builds working relationships among partners committed to improving housing for low-income families, promising both economies of scale and program sustainability.  


  • Kate Kuholski, Ellen Tohn, and Rebecca Morley. Healthy Energy-Efficient Housing: Using a One-Touch Approach to Maximize Public Health, Energy, and Housing Programs and Policies. J Public Health Management Practice, 2010, 16(5) E-Supp, S68–S74.

  • Ellen Tohn (Tohn Environmental), Beverly Drouin (NH DHHS), Ryan Clouthier (Southern NH Services).  “One Touch Healthy & Energy Efficient Housing New Hampshire Pilot,” Unpublished The National Center for Healthy Homes with Peggy Hegarty-Steck, NCHH; Naomi Mermin, Naomi Mermin Consulting;  Ellen Tohn, Tohn Environmental Strategies. “Boston One Touch Action Steps for Healthier and Greener Homes for Boston Families”, (2008). Available at
  • Presentation, NASCSP Weatherization Plus Health Regional Conference, Portland, ME (May 2011). Available at .
  • Personal Communication with Ellen Tohn, Tohn Environmental Strategies, October 2011.

Posted by: Lynne Snyder at 2:59 PM
 | permalink

Weatherization Plus Health: The Next Step for WAP

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The connection between health and housing seems clear: we spend most of our time inside our homes, and our surroundings have a great impact on our well-being. What may be less obvious is the connection between health and the home’s energy efficiency. Preventable medical bills, rising energy costs, and wages lost due to illness cost Americans hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Nearly six million households have moderate to severe physical housing problems, placing them at increased risk for illnesses and injuries. On top of that, low-income households are disproportionately affected by high energy bills; these households spend 14% of their income on energy costs, compared with 3.5% for all other households. The lowest of low-income households spend far more than that.

The Weatherization Plus Health initiative, implemented by the National Association for State Community Services Programs (NASCSP) on behalf of DOE, seeks to establish a link between the low-income Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and healthy-homes programs nationwide, ensuring that homes served by these programs are safer, healthier, and more energy efficient by bridging the gap between these complementary services. I work for NASCSP as the project coordinator for energy services, which supports both WAP and Weatherization Plus Health, assisting in this project.

WAP’s mission is to reduce energy costs for low-income families—particularly for the elderly, people with disabilities, and children—by improving the energy efficiency of their homes while ensuring their health and safety. For many years, innovative service providers have creatively leveraged resources to deliver more comprehensive services than are allowed under DOE WAP regulations. For example, the Bellingham, Washington, Opportunity Council has leveraged a wide variety of resources to bundle services and enable employees to address residents’ specific health problems and provide appropriate health-related home retrofits. (See “Case Study: Opportunity Council of Bellingham, Washington.”)

Another leader is the city of Baltimore, Maryland, which must turn away some weatherization applicants because its housing stock is too degraded. To combat this problem, the city launched several projects to partner with health organizations, create a coordination team, facilitate roof replacements, and digitize files to merge applications and ensure that they are reviewed quickly, helping to coordinate resources and services.

Addressing Health and Safety
WAP already considers health and safety when retrofitting a home; it is a cornerstone of the program and is incorporated into the mission statement cited above. The program’s comprehensive whole-house approach recognizes that a house consists of interdependent parts and that any modification of these parts should take into account the interaction between the occupants’ behavior, the building envelope, and the mechanical systems. Modifications to one part of a house can lead to unforeseen consequences in another.

Health and safety was not a main focus of WAP until the early 1990s, when the use of blower doors and advanced air-sealing techniques became common. As WAP technicians developed their expertise in air sealing, the potential impact of these procedures on indoor air quality (IAQ) became apparent, spurring more emphasis on health and safety issues. Significant air sealing can affect IAQ through moisture, by-products of combustion, air pressure and backdrafting, and airborne chemicals and pollutants. Poorly performed weatherization can exacerbate existing problems or even create new ones. Conversely, properly performed weatherization can solve some problems and create a healthier indoor environment by conducting combustion appliance zone (CAZ) testing and ensuring a proper draft.

Using DOE and other WAP funds, weatherization technicians can usually address health and safety issues related to heating systems, work lead safe, solve some moisture problems, correct minor electrical and plumbing problems, add or repair ventilation, and provide educational material to residents. In fact, WAP has been a leader in instituting the widespread use of these techniques and standardizing processes for low-income homes nationwide. Although this approach has led to the safe weatherization of millions of homes over the 30-year history of the program, the focus on energy efficiency restricts the use of funds to address more extensive, comprehensive remediation and mitigation projects, including those for asbestos, lead, radon, or structural deficiencies. The result is that projects of this kind are often deferred.

This is not likely to change any time soon and it is not likely that its mission will be broadened to include major health and safety projects (see “Evaluating DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program,” HE, July/Aug ’10, p. 22). Energy savings, and energy savings per dollar invested, will remain the major focus of all the metrics analyzed in the current national WAP evaluation. Health and safety measures cost money but typically provide no energy savings. In order to qualify for WAP funding, health and safety expenditures must meet a stringent criterion—namely, that it is necessary to eliminate the hazard in question before, or as a result of, the installation of weatherization materials. This restriction is reasonable; funds are limited and WAP’s primary mission is to promote energy conservation.

Case Study: Opportunity Council of Bellingham, Washington
What does a WAP and healthy-homes collaboration look like? The following case study will give you a good idea of how it works.
Ms. Jones applied for energy assistance through the Opportunity Council (OC), a private, nonprofit community action agency serving homeless and low-income families and individuals in Island, San Juan, and Whatcom counties in northwest Washington State. The Opportunity Council offers services that range from addressing immediate and crisis-oriented needs (food, emergency shelter, eviction prevention) to long-term programs that promote self-sufficiency in the community (early childhood education, home weatherization). See “Restoring Indoor Health, One House at a Time,” HE, Jan/Feb ’04, p. 24.

During the eligibility appointment, staff asked whether anyone in the household had asthma, allergies, or other respiratory problems. Ms. Jones responded that both she and her daughter had been diagnosed with asthma. After staff explained the OC’s Weatherization Plus Health program to her, Ms. Jones expressed an interest both in the weatherization program, for help lowering her energy bills, and in a Healthy Home visit, to see if anything could be done that might help with her family’s asthma. She completed the application for the Healthy Home visit, which would schedule her with the OC’s in-home educator trained in conservation education and healthy-home environmental assessment.

The initial education and assessment visit identified several opportunities to improve the indoor environment in Ms. Jones’s house. Later, the OC educator noted high humidity, possible mold staining the bathroom, a leaky roof, incomplete ground cover, old carpet in the bedrooms and living room, and evidence of mice and pesticides in the kitchen and pantry areas.

The OC educator worked with the OC’s weatherization/home repair project coordinator and Ms. Jones to complete the improvements. The OC used home repair funding to repair the roof and weatherization funding to upgrade the ventilation in the bathroom. Weatherization funding was used to complete the ground cover, improve the insulation over the bedrooms, and conduct combustion safety testing of the old and inefficient heating system. The system failed the test and was upgraded using Sustainable Energy Resources for Consumers (SERC) funding. (For more on the SERC program, see “DOE’s WAP: Two New Programs Push the Envelope,” HE Sept/Oct ’11, p. 28.) The crew completed pest exclusion (by plugging holes with copper wool embedded in foam) at the same time as they air sealed the crawl space.

The OC’s privately funded Healthy Homes program changed out the old carpet in two rooms to hard-surfaced, easily cleanable flooring and also provided a HEPA vacuum for the new area rugs. The Healthy Homes funding paid for a green cleaning kit that uses nontoxic cleaning products, walk-off mats at the entryways to minimize dust coming into the house, and dust mite-resistant mattress and pillow covers. The educator and Ms. Jones worked together—the educator gave Ms. Jones a digital humidity gauge to monitor the humidity levels in the house, and she learned the benefit of opening the windows when the indoor humidity rises above 60% in the winter. She also learned the importance of exhausting moisture out of the house and agreed to use her bathroom fan for at least 40 minutes after every shower.

This partnership of funding sources and programs worked. Ms. Jones anticipates lower energy bills, and she and her daughter feel good about the improvements made to their home. From what we know, the work has also reduced conditions known to aggravate asthma symptoms.

WAP and Healthy Homes
WAP providers may be wary of healthy-homes programs, especially since so many health and safety components are taken into account in the course of regular weatherization services. These include, but are not limited to, combustion appliance safety and CO abatement, replacement of unvented space heaters with vented ones, lead-safe work practices, moisture control measures, building tightness assessments, and installation of exhaust fans and added ventilation when necessary. However, with effective partnerships and smart strategizing, WAP and healthy-homes practitioners can work together to achieve the dual goals of health and energy efficiency in the most cost-effective and efficient way possible.

The healthy-homes movement is a comprehensive approach to combating disease and injury in the home. The federal agencies involved include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, EPA, and now DOE. The Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, through its Green & Healthy Homes Initiative™, has initiated community-based, healthy housing intervention programs to test and evaluate combining energy efficiency and healthy homes. The National Center on Healthy Housing, through its National Healthy Homes Training Center, provides evidence-based training and technical assistance, as well as evaluation and hands-on guidance in this field. Scientific evidence links substandard housing to poor health—a finding that has helped to drive the creation of these projects (see “Integrating Energy Efficiency and Healthy Homes,” HE July/Aug ’11, p. 38).

Healthy homes providers take a holistic approach to the coordinated mitigation of housing-related hazards, rather than addressing them one at a time. Drawing from the experience of healthy-homes programs, the Weatherization Plus Health program is developing means to integrate the seven principles of healthy homes into the WAP process. WAP providers will ultimately be able to use a system of referring clients to agencies and programs that may be able to address their health and safety problems better. Services are intended to be coordinated so that the homes can be weatherized properly and safely. The seven principles are as follows:

Keep It Contaminant-Free. Many contaminants pose health threats. The most common of these contaminants are listed below.

  • Lead and lead-based paint can cause learning difficulties and neurological problems. While WAP adheres to the EPA Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule and follows strict lead-safe weatherization work practices, it has little money to spend on lead abatement. Healthy-homes projects can often perform more-extensive remediation measures, such as replacing windows that have lead-painted frames.
  • Environmental tobacco smoke can cause lung cancer, heart problems, and sudden infant death syndrome. Healthy-homes programs often educate clients on ways to stop smoking.
  • Radon can cause lung cancer. In homes where radon may be present, precautions should be taken, based on the EPA Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades, to reduce the health hazards posed by the presence of radon. WAP crews install ground vapor barriers tight to the foundation perimeter where site conditions permit, and are allowed to test for radon in locations where it is likely to be present. While WAP doesn’t usually allow weatherization professionals to perform remediation, the latest DOE guidelines allow remediation where weatherization work is known to have worsened radon levels and when those levels are above the EPA action level of 4 picocuries per liter (4 pCi/l). The remediation work in those cases would probably involve venting the radon away from the house.
  • Asbestos can cause cancer, specifically mesothelioma, a rare cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers the viscera. Energy upgrades can disturb asbestos. Updated DOE WAP health and safety procedures address work on homes with asbestos siding, asbestos pipe insulation, and suspected vermiculite or asbestos in attic insulation. Partnerships with healthy-homes programs can help to remediate situations that may be beyond WAP’s capability to address.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can cause asthma, allergies, and headaches. To control VOCs, technicians must control the source. This can be done by using no- or low-VOC products, sealing containers of VOC products and storing them away from air intakes, removing unwanted VOC products, ventilating the home properly, and ensuring adequate air sealing between the garage and the home.
  • Carbon monoxide can cause headaches, fatigue, and even death. Unvented space heaters should be removed and combustion appliances should be properly tested for spillage, draft, and CO.

Keep It Pest-Free. Pests can trigger or cause asthma and allergies, transmit disease, bite, contaminate food, and lead people to overreact and ignore the directions on pesticide labels. Pesticides also pose many risks. They can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; skin rashes; stomach cramps; and nausea. They can damage the kidneys and the central nervous system, and they can increase the risk of certain cancers. The principles of integrated pest management (IPM) include keeping pests out to begin with, eliminating hiding spots by changing the landscape, storing and disposing of food properly, keeping the kitchen clean, and killing the existing population using traps and appropriate pesticides. Often pests can be prevented from entering the home under the WAP air-sealing measure by blocking holes with wire mesh or concrete before caulking or foaming. (To learn more about IPM, see “Integrated Pest Management in the Home,” HE, Nov/Dec ’04, p. 36.)

Keep It Clean. Clean homes help reduce pest infestations and exposure to contaminants. Strategies for keeping homes clean include installing hard-surface flooring, which is easy to clean, and educating the client on proper and effective cleaning methods and products.

Keep It Dry. Moisture on household surfaces can lead to mold growth, and mold in a home can cause many health problems, such as upper respiratory tract symptoms, including coughing, wheezing, asthma, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Sources of moisture are poorly managed rainwater or groundwater, plumbing leaks, household sources such as cooking, and condensation of moisture-laden air on cold surfaces. WAP typically installs ground vapor barriers and can address some drainage problems—for example, by installing gutters and downspouts to divert water away from the foundation. Healthy-homes programs may address severe mold and moisture problems that WAP cannot mitigate.

Keep It Well Ventilated. Increasing the fresh-air supply in a home can improve respiratory health. This can be achieved through whole-house ventilation strategies and assessment of existing fans and exhaust. The implementation of ASHRAE 62.2-2010 will further ensure proper home ventilation in WAP and in the home performance industry at large.

Keep It Safe. Most injuries to children occur in the home. Falls are the most frequent cause, followed by injuries from objects in the home, such as cuts or scrapes from sharp corners, sharp objects, burns, and poisonings. Prevention strategies include installing grab bars, adequate lighting, and handrails; removing trip hazards; repairing stair treads; and completing minor repairs.

Keep It Well Maintained. Poorly maintained homes are at risk for contaminants, moisture, and pest problems. Deteriorated lead-based paint in older housing is the primary cause of lead poisoning, which affects some 240,000 U.S. children per year. WAP professionals frequently see poorly maintained heating systems, with all the associated problems. Client education on the importance of maintenance is the primary strategy for keeping homes safe.

Helping Collaboration Happen
Healthy-homes programs following the seven principles exist throughout the nation in a loose confederation. Funded through a variety of federal, state, and local sources, these programs vary widely in scope and focus due to regional needs. Locating a provider of a particular service and navigating the web of nonprofits and other entities providing those services can be challenging. This is where the Weatherization Plus Health initiative steps in.

The connection between WAP and healthy homes is clear: WAP already enters hundreds of thousands of low-income homes every year, has a component to address health and safety and a willingness to expand these services, and is a partner with the Community Services Block Grant. This federal antipoverty block grant provides core funding to local agencies to reduce poverty, revitalize low-income communities, and empower low-income families to become self-sufficient. In so doing, it provides a groundwork for leveraging additional resources and funding.

Using the principles of healthy homes, Weatherization Plus Health seeks to connect WAP and healthy-homes providers in an effort to ensure that low-income homes are best served with comprehensive services to address their energy efficiency, as well as residents’ health and safety needs. To do so, NASCSP is creating a number of resources and providing extensive training to facilitate ongoing communication and cooperation between the providers of these complementary services.

A major goal of the project is to identify existing partnerships and then learn how those partnerships can be expanded to serve every county in the nation. NASCSP will produce reports for each state and territory that detail the existing WAP and healthy-homes infrastructure, highlight successful partnerships, and identify possible pathways to future collaboration. These reports will also show where increased cooperation between agencies and providers could improve the provision of services to needy families.

In tandem with the state reports, NASCSP is creating a publicly accessible web site that will map healthy homes and WAP providers nationwide. This interactive application will be available to the general public and will show simply and easily where and how one can get assistance for any particular health, safety, or energy efficiency issue within a specified area.

Training and technical assistance are critical components of Weatherization Plus Health. To that end, NASCSP offers training through conferences, webinars, or other means, to facilitate partnerships and to disseminate best practices throughout the network. These best-practice models and resources will be available publicly online and will detail models of collaboration and proven successes.

In 2011, NASCSP and DOE convened six regional conferences to bring together WAP and healthy-homes providers, identify gaps between existing partnerships, and encourage new opportunities for partnerships. Targeted participants were any interested parties who worked in the fields of energy efficiency or health and safety. They included state directors of WAP, state and local WAP staff, state public health officials, state associations and community action partnerships, Community Services Block Grant staff, community action associations, healthy-homes practitioners, local health departments, health professionals, researchers and advocates focusing on energy efficiency or healthy-homes issues, and housing and community development agencies. These conferences were successful and will be followed up with six additional conferences in 2012 that will track and expand upon the work done at the previous conferences and in the intervening months.

Weatherization Plus Health promises to deliver important resources to the WAP and healthy-homes networks, and to improve housing nationwide. We know that weatherization works to reduce energy usage for low-income consumers. By combining weatherization and healthy homes, the Weatherization Plus Health initiative will work to reduce energy bills while improving the home environment. This will result in healthier homes, healthier families, and ultimately, a healthier nation.

Read the original from Home Energy Magazine at

Posted by: Rebecca Stewart at 10:57 AM
 | permalink

Lead Safe Practices -- Whose Standards do you Follow?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Lead Safe Work Practices are an aspect of WAP that we deal with on a daily basis.  As more funding is dedicated to research programs studying the physiological impact of lead, we are gaining a greater insight into the effects of lead dust and debris.

Although the federal government has clearly established the need to minimize lead dust and debris in homes, different federal agencies have adopted various “de minimis”, or maximum levels allowable in a home.  In WPN 09-06, the Department of Energy expresses the need for comprehensive compliance within local, state, and federal compliance.   As we weatherize homes, it’s important that we thoroughly understand what requirements we should meet as well as what are the best ways to prevent lead paint exposure. 

For example, the EPA’s de minimis consist of the following:

“Minor maintenance projects that disturb no more than 6 square feet of painted surface per room for interiors or no more than 20 square feet of painted surface for exteriors are also exempt, so long as no work practices prohibited or restricted by this final rule are used, the renovation does not involve window replacement and there is no demolition of painted areas.” [1]

While HUD’s de minimis are:

 “De minimis levels. Safe work practices are not required when maintenance or hazard reduction activities do not disturb painted surfaces that total more than:

(1) 20 square feet (2 square meters) on exterior surfaces;

(2) 2 square feet (0.2 square meters) in any one interior room or space; or

(3) 10 percent of the total surface area on an interior or exterior type of component with a small surface area. Examples include window sills, baseboards, and trim [2].”


Although the EPA and HUD have established their own de minimis, some State Plans may have adopted even more restrictive standards.  In WPN 08-06 and 09-06 the DOE, advises Grantees of the importance of staying in compliance with local, state and Level 1 Containment LSWP policies.  Level 1 containment policies consist of the following:

“Level 1 containment is required in pre-1978 homes when less than 6 ft2 of interior painted surface per room or 20 ft2 of exterior painted surface will be disturbed.

Level 1 containment consists of methods that prevent dust generation and contains all debris generated during the work process. The containment establishes the work area which must be kept secure .” 

As someone who spent some time in an extremely regulatory industry, aviation, I have become familiar with ocassional conflicts in manuals, procedures, and federal regulations.  Flight Operation Manuals, Standard Operating Procedures, CFRs, FARs, TERPS, Minimum Equipment Lists, and Aircraft Operations Manuals  are a few of the many manuals and policies pilots have to maintain expert understanding with.  Occasionally, conflicts would arise but the airlines had a very simple way of dealing with manual conflicts, namely,  ”the most restrictive, wins.”

So as the WAP grows and other federal agencies become more involved and overlay amongst other departments increases, it’s imperative that we become as familiar as possible with our program guidance as well as make appropriate command decisions.  In aviation as in weatherization, “the most restrictive” guidance is usually the safest.  Using the most restrictive guidelines will yield not only the safest results but also reduces potential liability exposure.










[1] Environmental Protection Agency, Vol. 73, No. 78 Tuesday, April 22, 2008 (40 CFR Part 745)

[2] HUD Lead Safe Housing Rule, 24 CFR 35, subparts B through R, reflecting changes made by the technical amendment issued June 21, 2004 (69 Federal Register 34262-34276)

Posted by: Ameer Bishay at 10:35 AM
 | permalink