Weatherization training program at U of I earns accreditation

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[October 08, 2013]  CHAMPAIGN -- University of Illinois training programs for energy auditors and quality control inspectors have been awarded accreditation by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council. The U of I Indoor Climate Research & Training energy conservation training programs are the first to earn accreditation in Illinois.

Successful completion of such training programs prepares workers to obtain home energy professional, or HEP, certification under the U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program. There are 35 local agencies delivering weatherization services in the state of Illinois, including CEDA in Chicago, which is the nation's largest weatherization agency.

"It means we are recognized as having a high-quality curriculum that meets all the requirements of DOE's home energy professional certification for energy auditor and quality control inspector," said Paul Francisco, director of the ICRT training center. "Someone who successfully completes our training program can feel confident that he or she has everything they need to pass the HEP examination."

Indoor Climate Research & Training is part of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois. It operates a training center for weatherization contractors and assessors and develops training curriculums for the national home performance industry. ICRT also performs research into issues related to residential energy and indoor air quality.

Accreditation affects the certifications for energy auditor and quality control inspector now offered under the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program. The quality control program was granted provisional accreditation since it has been available for less than a year.

There are a limited number of accredited weatherization training programs in the U.S., according to Francisco. The next goal for Indoor Climate Research & Training is to seek accreditation for its training program for retrofit installers, he added.

Also a research engineer at Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, Francisco's research focuses on energy efficiency, indoor air quality and their interactions in residential buildings. His work emphasizes principles of building science and understanding the "house as a system" approach, which includes both energy and the indoor environment. He is a member of the ad hoc Health and Safety Committee for the Department of Energy's low-income Weatherization Assistance Program and is a member of the board of directors of the Building Performance Institute. He is also vice chair of the Environmental Health Committee for the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers and chair of the society's standard on residential ventilation.

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Congress created the Weatherization Assistance Program in 1976 to decrease residential energy expenditures, particularly of low-income Americans. The program has distributed $200 million to $250 million to weatherize about 100,000 homes per year nationwide. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 allocated $5 billion through March 2013 to weatherize some 300,000 homes per year and to stimulate the economy by providing new jobs in the weatherization field.

Accreditation of training programs helps drive the effectiveness of the Weatherization Assistance Program's energy savings and health and safety goals, in addition to overall cost-effectiveness of the program, Francisco noted. He estimated that the Indoor Climate Research & Training program trained 300 workers and 300 contractors in Illinois during the period of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

[Text from Illinois Sustainable Technology Center news release]

The Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the home of the Illinois State Scientific Surveys: Illinois Natural History Survey, Illinois State Archaeological Survey, Illinois State Geological Survey, Illinois State Water Survey, and Illinois Sustainable Technology Center. It was established by statute in 2008 and builds on the Surveys' reputations for basic and applied research and service.

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center was established in 1985 and joined the Prairie Research Institute with the other surveys in 2008. Its mission is to encourage and assist citizens, businesses, and government agencies to prevent pollution, conserve natural resources, and reduce waste to protect human health and the environment of Illinois and beyond.

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