Award-winning programs improve health and cut energy waste

Blog Post | March 26, 2018 - 12:43 pm
By Ronald Denson Jr. , Public Health Analyst, Health and Environment

In a promising trend that connects health and energy, a rising number of organizations have launched initiatives within the past 10 years to mitigate indoor health risks while reducing energy waste. Our new report, The Next Nexus: Exemplary Programs that Save Energy and Improve Health, recognizes the best by announcing the six winners of the new Health and Energy Linked Programs (HELP) Award.

Their work is invaluable because the buildings we live and work in have a direct effect on our health. Air pollution from power plants, allergens such as pollen, and cold and hot air can all find their way into homes, workplaces, and schools where they can exacerbate a host of health problems ranging from asthma to heart disease.

The HELP Award recognizes exemplary programs in this space and highlights their innovative practices and program design.

The 2017 HELP Award Honorees are:

  • Overall Excellence: The Zero Energy Modular (ZEM) Program builds zero net energy modular homes in Vermont using materials that are better for human health than traditional building materials.
  • Overall Excellence: The Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) Asthma Reduction Program, headquartered in Baltimore, addresses the connection between unhealthy housing and occupant health through education and energy efficiency.
  • Overall Excellence: The Bronx Healthy Buildings Program — named for the New York City borough it’s based in — works with tenants and property owners in multifamily buildings to improve residents’ energy savings, health, and safety.
  • Innovative: SystemVisionTM builds new homes and offers guarantees for heating and cooling energy use and comfort in North Carolina.
  • Uplifting Communities: Serving Philadelphia neighborhoods, EnergyFIT Philly seeks to cut energy costs and improve the quality of home health and safety through weatherization, education, and bill payment assistance.
  • Reach: Vermont One Touch collaborates with several government agencies to assist low-income residents throughout the state with energy upgrades, education, and health and social services.

We solicited nominations from across the country and convened a group of public health and energy efficiency experts to judge the 49 programs nominated, nearly 80% of which were founded since 2008. The advisors selected six programs to receive four awards. Programs were recognized based on their reach, replicability, sustainability of funding, innovative techniques, lasting sector improvements, and significant energy savings and health outcomes.

Programs are employing a variety of innovative techniques to maximize their impact. For example, partnerships with local government agencies and community-based organizations result in a broader reach and greater access to resources. Additionally most programs performed pre-intervention audits or assessments. However, while many programs demonstrated the ability to assess energy impacts, many do not evaluate, measure, or verify health outcomes of their interventions in a meaningful way, despite publicly stated goals.

By developing collaborative, innovative, and sustainable health and energy linked programs that measure both energy and health impacts, program managers can substantially reduce energy waste, increase cost savings, and improve health for communities across the country. We will highlight the main themes of this report and discuss the full range of ACEEE’s Health & Environment work at our first Conference on Health, Environment, and Energy, to be held in New Orleans in December.