A new standard on the way from the Building Performance Institute (BPI) will help standardize and clarify how to conduct a whole-building, science-based energy evaluation of residential homes. The standard, BPI-1100-T-2010 (formerly BPI-101): Home Energy Auditing Standard will not replace BPI's long-standing Building Analyst (BA) Professional Standard; instead, it expands upon the energy auditing components of a home analysis (to view the standard, visit www.bpi.org/standards_review.aspx).

"The Building Analyst Professional standard has been out there for a long time, and until it was created there was no standard for that specific place in the market," says John Jones, BPI’s national technical director. "As such, the BA standard has fulfilled multiple roles. Not only has it prescribed requirements for performing energy audits and assessing the health and safety of a building, it also includes best practices, installation requirements, and so on. It really has everything except the proverbial kitchen sink."

It was the broad scope of the BA standard, however, that led to the need for BPI Standard 1100. According to Jones, the BA standard was driven towards a program atmosphere, and trying to deploy it uniformly across the country was difficult. That led to many in the contracting and home retrofitting industry asking BPI to create a new standard that strictly focused on the energy auditing aspects of the BA standard. BPI's Standards Technical Committee began working on Standard 1100 several years ago, and it has now been published as a standard under review.

Standard 1100 not only supports the evaluation of an existing home (defined as a residential low-rise building of three stories or less) in terms of energy usage, durability, and occupant health and safety, but also provides a comprehensive, prioritized written scope of work to improve the home through the use of computer analysis.

BPI notes that as with the publishing of any new or revised standard or code in which there is an existing publication in place, there is the potential for conflicting or competing information. In cases in which new programs choose to reference a BPI standard for the purposes of conducting energy audits, Standard 1100, not the BA standard, should be the reference standard for the program.

"The BA standard is still valid, but as far as the audit, the new standard is where we want programs to be looking towards the future," Jones says.

As with any standard that follows the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards-writing criteria, Standard 1100 has faced a rigorous approval process. First, the standard is written and sent out for public comments. Then, after the initial public comment period, the comments received are either incorporated or rejected. Depending upon the number of comments incorporated and the significance of any changes made to the original document, a second public comment period may follow.

Standard 1100 has been published as a "standard under review." Bruce DeMaine, BPI's director of certifications and standards, says that Standard 1100 generated 500 responses and more than 700 comments during its public comment period. By way of comparison, another recent BPI standard generated 45 comments. "It's a huge undertaking to review that many comments,"” he says.

DeMaine explains that BPI will send out responses to everyone who submitted a comment, letting them know whether their comment was approved into the standard, changed, or rejected. If it was rejected, the submitting organization or individual has the right to appeal the rejection.

Then, BPI's standards management board will make the final vote on whether to approve the standard or not. It would then go to ANSI for approval.

The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) submitted a number of comments regarding the proposed standard. These included "over arching concerns" about incongruence of the title and scope of the standard, a lack of specifics about criteria for undertaking an energy audit, vagueness of certain statements, and — at least in the initial draft of the standard — a lack of specification that a heat loss/heat gain calculation must be performed to determine a home's heating and cooling requirements. In addition to its concerns, ACCA also sent a list of specific recommended changes for BPI to consider adopting to improve the standard.

Wes Davis, director of ACCA's Quality Assured (QA) program, said ACCA had not yet heard back from BPI regarding whether the association’s comments and suggestions had been adopted or rejected.

"I can tell you that we're concerned about the HVAC portion of the proposed standard from BPI," Davis told Contracting Business.com. "Once a document like this enters the HVACR sector, ACCA pays a lot of attention to ensure that the standard's requirements are consistent industry practices. Our goal is to promote harmony, with minimal confusion between the weatherization community and the trades."

Davis says ACCA has always encouraged HVAC contractors to look at proposed standards — from BPI, other standards-writing bodies, and even ACCA itself — and provide their input.

Davis adds that the comments and suggestions made by ACCA were based on the first version of the standard. "The comments that we made were on a specific document," he says. "To the extent that they've received 700 comments and presumably incorporated some changes, that’s great. If there's a new document, we're happy to approach it as a clean slate."

Despite the arduous process that Standard 1100 has endured, Jones is confident that it will greatly benefit HVAC contractors and others who see the value of conducting energy audits in their customers' homes.

"I think users of this standard will find that there's a lot more that goes into it than just energy efficiency," Jones says. "It encompasses the safety and the comfort of the occupants in the home. The goal is to make every home durable, healthy, safe, and by the way, you also get energy efficiency with that.

"This standard helps clarify the message for users, so they can go in and do their job to the best of their knowledge, and provide customers with the best available options," he adds. "We're trying to clarify the message and the process for contractors, because contractors won't use it unless it's practical and understandable."