News & Updates

May 21, 2018

Did you know that you can create a customized field guide for your state or agency, based on the Standard Work Specifications (SWS)? This feature was piloted by the Weatherization Assistance Network and is now available to the industry at large. The SWS Field Guide template allows users to create a step-by-step guide for implementing a vast array of weatherization measures and includes a list of necessary tools and materials, illustrated instructions, before/after photos, and additional notes. For more information on how this functionality works and to request access to the template, please contact workforce.guidelines@nrel.gov

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March 26, 2021

Any comments or inquiries that have a direct impact on life safety are considered through an expedited review process by the Standard Work Specifications (SWS) administrators to ensure any life safety issues are mitigated as soon as possible. Two life safety inquiries were received by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) during the field guide review process, which triggered the life safety process. The purpose of this letter is to inform the SWS network of the comments submitted, and the actions taken to address them.

The specifications and comments are as follows:

Life Safety Comment #1

Title

4.0401.1f – Rim and Band Joist – SPF Insulation - Ignition and thermal barriers
Specification 

If foam is no more than 3 1/4" thick and the space is not permanently habitable no thermal barrier is required


If foam is thicker than 3 1/4", does not meet the flame and smoke index, or is not between 0.5 and 2.0 lb./ft3 density, separate foam from the subspace with a suitable thermal barrier covering or coating as indicated in manufacturer's specifications and applicable building code


If code requirements are unclear, consult local code officials for clarification

Comment It contains the requirements that if the space is "permanently habitable" then the thermal barrier is required regardless of the foam's thickness, density, or fire rating. This is above the 2018 IRC (R316.5.11), which allows the foam to remain uncovered as long as it is no more than 3 ¼" thick, between 0.5 and 2.0 lb./ft3 density, and has a flame and smoke spread of 25/450 or less, regardless of the use of the space

 

Two proposed solutions were suggested:

  • Delete the language that requires a thermal barrier if the space is "permanently habitable" to align the specification with the current version of the 2018 IRC (R316.5.11); or
  • Keep the language that requires a thermal barrier in space defined as “habitable” (2018 IRC R202) defines habitable as: "a space for living, sleeping, eating, or cooking" and exempts "bathrooms, toilet rooms, closets, halls, storage or utility spaces and similar areas")

Life Safety Comment #2

Title 3.0102.2c Specific Air Sealing - Sealing High Temperature Devices - Clearance and Isolation
Specification 

Maintain a minimum clearance of 3" between combustible materials or sealants and any portion of the high-temperature device (e.g., chimney, vent, flue), unless the venting material is listed and labeled for less clearance


Install a rigid, fixed dam higher than the insulation that maintains the required clearance between high-temperature devices and combustible materials


Do not allow combustible insulation between a high-temperature device and a dam unless insulation material is rated for contact with the device

Comment A WAP Grantee has expressed concern that this may lead to incorrect clearances or treatment of some metal venting materials with a less than ideal clearance from combustibles (e.g., wood stove, fuel-oil, or gas vented through single wall venting). The specification does maintain that this is a "minimum clearance" so anything more than this is allowable if the installer should so choose, but it does not allow for less clearance if the manufactured vent material allows for less (e.g., "B-vent", or triple-walled "Z-vent").

 

One proposed solution was suggested:

  • Revise the minimum clearance 3" value to 6" while the rest of the language of the specification remains the same. 

Next, recommendations for these two life safety comments were brought to the SWS Air Sealing and Insulation Committee for review.

Life Safety Comment #1

  • SWS Air Sealing and Insulation Committee accepted the first proposed solution and added additional language to this specification (4.0401.1f) and 4.0401.1g (Insulation-onsite documentation)
Title 4.0401.1f Ignition and thermal barriers
Old Specification 

If foam is no more than 3 1/4" thick and the space is not permanently habitable no thermal barrier is required


If foam is thicker than 3 1/4", doesn’t meet the flame and smoke index, or is of less than  0.5 lb./ft3 density, separate foam from the subspace with a suitable thermal barrier covering or coating as indicated in manufacturer's specifications and applicable building code


If code requirements are unclear, consult local code officials for clarification

Revised Specification

If foam is no more than 3 1/4" thick, is between 0.5 and 2.0 lb./ft3 in density, and has a flame spread/smoke development index of 25/450 or less when tested in accordance with ASTM E84 or UL 723, no thermal barrier is required


If foam is thicker than 3 1/4", does not meet the flame and smoke index, or is not between 0.5 and 2.0 lb./ft3 density, separate foam from the subspace with a suitable thermal barrier covering or coating as indicated in manufacturer's specifications and applicable building code


If code requirements are unclear, consult local code officials for clarification

 

Title 4.0401.1g Insulation-onsite documentation
Old Specification  Post a dated receipt signed by the installer that minimally includes: Installed insulation type, coverage area, installed thickness, and installed R-value
Revised Specification

Post a dated receipt signed by the installer that minimally includes: Installed insulation type, coverage area, installed thickness, installed R-value, manufacturer product name, manufacturer supplied material density, and flame spread and smoke development index as tested per ASTM E84 or UL 723

Life Safety Comment #2

SWS Air Sealing and Insulation Committee did not accept the proposed recommendation but updated the language in the specification. 

Title 3.0102.2c – Clearance and isolation
Old Specification 

Maintain a minimum clearance of 3" between combustible materials or sealants and any portion of the high-temperature device (e.g., chimney, vent, flue).


Install a rigid, fixed dam higher than the insulation while that maintains a minimum 3" clearance between high-temperature devices and combustible materials


Do not allow combustible insulation between a high-temperature device and a dam unless insulation material is rated for contact with the device

Revised Specification

Maintain a minimum clearance of 3" between combustible materials or sealants and any portion of the high-temperature device (e.g., chimney, vent, flue), unless the venting material is listed and labeled for less clearance


Install a rigid, fixed dam higher than the insulation that maintains the required clearance between high-temperature devices and combustible materials


Do not allow combustible insulation between a high-temperature device and a dam unless insulation material is rated for contact with the device

 

SWS Air Sealing and Insulation Committee approved the revised language of 4.0401.1f (Ignition and thermal barriers), 4.0401.1g (Insulation-onsite documentation), and 3.0102.2c (Clearance and isolation) specifications.

The SWS was updated on March 23, 2021, to address the above comments. Users are encouraged to either submit a comment through the SWS site or submit messages through the Contact Us link.

February 13, 2020

The Standard Work Specifications (SWS) Maintenance Charter and Procedures was updated in February 2020 in preparation for the 2020 SWS full update. The document outlines the SWS maintenance process and clarifies the roles, responsibilities, and selection process for the maintenance committees. Updates to the document include the revised 5-year update cycle that will begin in fall 2020. Download this document.

March 18, 2019

The SWS administrators conduct a periodic review of comments submitted to the SWS to identify comments that have a direct impact on life safety. These comments are considered through an expedited review process to ensure the life safety issue is mitigated as soon as possible. A life safety comment was identified during the most recent comment review period which triggered the life safety process. The specification and comment are as follows:

Title 2.0201.2.c CO detection and warning equipment
Specification CO detection or warning equipment will be installed outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms in accordance with ASHRAE 62.2 and authority having local jurisdiction
Comment The current text in this specification conflicts with 2.0301.2, which points to ASHRAE 62.2 and IRC requirements.

ASHRAE points to NFPA 720, which requires CO detection equipment be installed on all occupied floors, which is the most stringent of the standards pointed to. The SWS Executive Committee reviewed the comment above and proposed the following recommendation: •

  • 2.0201.2c completely removed from the SWS as it is not related to adding combustion air and is dictating measures to be installed.

The SWS was updated on March 7, 2019, to address the above comment. Users are encouraged to either submit a comment through the SWS site or submit messages through the Contact Us link.

December 19, 2018

The Standard Work Specifications (SWS) was updated to SWS Version 2017 (SWS v.2017) in September 2017. This was the first major update to the SWS and reflects all adjudication efforts since its launch in 2014. The next content update to the SWS is SWS v.2020. In the interim however, the SWS will continue adjudication of submitted comments annually via a published redline document. The 2019 SWS Redline will capture user-submitted feedback and edits received prior to January 25 and be displayed as “proposed changes” in the SWS. The redline documents are integral to maintaining the SWS and capturing users input.All new comments must be received by Friday, Jan. 25, 2019 to be reviewed for the 2019 SWS Redline. All comments submitted after this date will be reviewed during the SWS v.2020 maintenance procedure.More information on the comment adjudication process can be found on the SWS Maintenance page.

May 18, 2018

Through industry best practices, the Energy Auditor (EA) and Quality Control Inspector (QCI) certifications have gone through an extensive revi­sion process. It is recommended that certification schemes be updated every 5–7 years, and the current certifications schemes for these two professions were last developed/updated in 2011/12. Through reviewing the QCI and the EA Job Task Analyses ( JTA ) side by side, the certification scheme committee subject matter experts, assisted by professional psychometricians, determined that there was a great deal of overlap. It was jointly decided to retain EA as the main certification and reduce QCI to just those tasks and skills that were not already represented in the EA JTA . The result is that the EA remains a full-scope, ANSI -accredited certification and the QCI becomes a micro-credential.The exams will be updated and improved as part of the overall update of the JTAs and certification scheme. Pilots of these updated exams will be available at participating Building Performance Institute ( BPI ) test centers throughout the country from August through the end of September 2018.Subsidy for pilot exam takers: To encourage weatherization staff to take part in this critical part of the process, DOE will be offering to subsidize the exam fees of those currently employed by WAP by paying 100% of written exam fees for the first 100 test takers of each the EA and QCI written exams and paying 50% of the field exam fees for the first 100 people to take the EA pilot field test. Eligibility for the subsidies will be included in the application process. Continuing Education Units (CEU) cannot be applied for recertification during the pilot exam period.Once enough qualified applicants have taken the pilot exams, there will be an “interim” period when only the 2011 EA and QCI exams are available. This interim period is used to analyze the results of the pilot exams to determine if they are adequately measuring competency. It is scheduled to take place from October 2018 to March 2019. It is during this period that pilot test takers will learn their results and successful candidates will be awarded the new credential(s). Those that fail the pilot exam can attempt the 2011 exams during the interim period. As of March 2019, the updated EA and QCI exams and certifications schemes will be available, and the EA and QCI schemes and exams developed in 2011-2012 will be retired.What this means for current QCIs: Most questions should be answered in the Frequently Asked Questions which is on the last page of the GHEP brochure located in the link below. Some key points for current QCIs:

  • You will need to maintain your QCI certification to continue working as a final inspector or technical monitor in WAP
  • Continue acquiring Continuing Education Units (CEUs) as available
  • If your current certification is set to expire between now and February 2019, consider taking part in the pilot phase. BPI will extend current certification periods to allow participation in the pilot phase
  • Review the EA prerequisites in the GHEP brochure located in the link below. If you do not already meet the prerequisites required for EA, work to attain those trainings or other skills needed

More information can be found here:

April 5, 2018

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is currently seeking enthusiastic industry practitioners who are interested in discussing, evaluating, and voting on proposed changes/updates to the Standard Work Specifications (SWS) for single-family, multifamily, and manufactured housing energy upgrades.Individuals who are interested in serving on the SWS maintenance committees are invited to submit their credentials via an online application. The appointed SWS maintenance committees meets annually over a webinar conference call to discuss content changes and maintenance to the SWS site. Committee members will be asked to adjudicate comments for at least three-adjudication cycles culminating in an in-person meeting, typically held in conjunction with the Home Performance Coalition (HPC) conference. The application will be open until Friday, April 13, at 5 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

March 21, 2018

Recently, the Standard Work Specifications and the Home Energy Professional Certificates have undergone updates and changes. To stay updated on these changes, sign up for our newsletter for our project updates. Click on "Sign up for project updates" and enter your email address.

March 8, 2018

The SWS were recently updated to SWS Version 2017 (SWS v.2017). This is the first major update to the SWS and reflects all adjudication efforts since its launch in 2014. The next content update to the SWS is SWS v.2020. In the interim however, the SWS will continue adjudication of submitted comments received prior to April 13, using a redline document. The 2018 SWS Redline will capture user-submitted feedback and edits and be displayed as “proposed changes” in the SWS. The redline documents are integral to maintaining the SWS and capturing users input.All new comments must be received by Friday, April 13, 2018, to be reviewed for the 2018 SWS Redline.All comments submitted after this date will be reviewed in next year’s redline document.More information on the comment adjudication process can be found on the SWS Maintenance page.

December 19, 2017

On behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is seeking volunteers to participate on the Guidelines for Home Energy Professionals (HEP) Retrofit Installer (RIT) and Crew Leader (CL) Job Task Analysis (JTA) and Scheme Committee for the continuation of these certification programs. NREL is interested in single-family home performance professionals who have the experience and vision to help define and promote a national certification for the current workforce.

If you are interested in being considered for this effort, please apply online. The deadline is Jan. 26, 2018.

Since 2010, NREL and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) have worked to develop foundational workforce resources through the HEP project to support a high-quality weatherization and home performance industry. NREL has developed the Standard Work Specifications and the advanced HEP Certification schemes for four single-family residential building energy professionals and the required JTAs, in accordance with the International Standards Organization (ISO) 17024 standard for personnel certifications.

The application process is for one committee: Crew Leader. It is assumed that a Crew Leader performs, or is able to perform, all the tasks of a Retrofit Installer in addition to Crew Leader-specific tasks such as tracking inventory and scheduling the work scope. This committee will serve two functions. First, it will review the JTA-validation process and revise the existing RIT and CL JTA’s, developed in 2011. Second, it will maintain the scheme components in the continuing effort to ensure the scheme aligns with current industry best practices specific to the RIT and CL job classification.

If you are interested in being considered for this effort, please apply online. The deadline is Jan. 26, 2018.