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IGERT Trainees Take National Lead on Incorporation of Indoor Air Quality Issues into National Weatherization Assistance Program


Trainees of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program in Indoor Environmental Science and Engineering at The University of Texas (UT) are educating others on indoor air quality impacts of the United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). Their goal is to promote the energy savings benefits of weatherization while at the same time (a) assuring that weatherization practices are done in such as way as to not make homes less healthy, and (b) to use the weatherization program to educate the public and weatherization workers about how to actually improve indoor air quality, particularly in affordable housing.

Five IGERT trainees from environmental engineering, architectural engineering, and community and regional planning formed an initial working group to explore pathways for their involvement in the WAP. They drafted a position paper of recommendations for certification, training, and reporting requirements related to indoor air quality to be used in the WAP. Thirteen trainees are also developing IAQ information to be disseminated during home weatherization. They have designed a pamphlet that will hopefully be used by weatherization workers and disseminated as part of the weatherization assistance package provided to homeowners in the Texas WAP. This process will be facilitated in Austin by the emergence of Trainee Elizabeth Walsh as a local leader in weatherization. She now chairs the Austin Housing Repair Coalition’s Weatherization Sub-Committee. This group meets weekly with Austin Energy, a public utility charged with investing $6 million to create a “whole-home” approach to weatherization.

And trainee efforts are being noticed at the national level. The United States Environmental Protection Agency asked trainees Brent Stephens and Elizabeth Walsh to review a 200-slide national training presentation and to recommend changes to include IAQ. Stephens and Walsh were then flown to Maine to assess a pilot training session based on those slides.

Finally, trainees Walsh and Stephens plan on incorporating weatherization and indoor air quality as primary (Walsh) or secondary (Stephens) components of their dissertation research. Thus, what began as an IGERT trainee-initiated work group has led to a substantial effort to positively affect the weatherization assistance program, and also to serve as dissertation research for trainees in environmental engineering and community and regional planning.

Address Goals

These activities to date have involved learning in so much as several IGERT trainees and affiliates have become well educated on the DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program, and have also begun development of educational materials for weatherization workers and the public. There is also great potential for these activities to lead to discovery as two trainees will include weatherization and indoor air quality into their dissertation research.