Kevin Kennedy MPH, CIEC & Larry Zarker – CEO of BPI – Healthy Housing Principles Reference Guide

Air Date: 9-11-2020|Episode 598

This week we look forward to an enlightening discussion on the “Healthy Homes” movement and a new related document called Healthy Housing Principles Reference Guide. We are thrilled to have Kevin Kennedy and Larry Zarker joining us to discuss how the building performance world is getting more and more involved in indoor environmental quality.

Z-Man’s Blog:

Healthy Homes

Kevin Kennedy is an Environmental Hygienist and the Program Director of the Environmental Health Program at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. The center works in patient homes, schools and childcare facilities providing environmental health assessments, consulting, training, education and performs research in indoor environmental health. Mr. Kennedy has worked in the environmental health science field for over 30 years. He is a Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant and teaches courses on the healthy housing principles, environmental assessment and investigation, environmental measurement and sampling and building science.

Larry Zarker is the CEO of the Building Performance Institute, the professional standards setting and credentialing organization for both the weatherization and home performance contracting industries. He oversees BPI’s national network of over 12,000 certified professionals and BPI GoldStar contracting companies. He helped found and served on the Board of Directors of Efficiency First, the trade association for America’s home performance workforce. Prior to BPI, he worked for nearly twenty years with the NAHB Research Center and was the Vice President of Marketing for over a decade, serving both the new home and remodeling sectors with innovative product development and research.

Nuggets mined from today’s episode:

How did the HHP Reference Guide come about?

Larry – The HHP Reference Guide is new. It is for the new Certificate of Knowledge that BPI has developed and made available. The intent is that people can read the book, maybe take a training course on the HHP and sit for an exam that provides a certificate of knowledge. This is of value to a variety of professions.

Kevin – Ongoing research into the importance of Healthy Homes is going on in the US and other countries. In the last ~5 years, The US Dept. of Energy (DOE) has broadened its interest from energy efficiency and building performance to include more emphasis on IAQ, comfort and health.

Kevin – Changing ventilation, air sealing improves the ability to better control and improve IEQ.

Kevin – Energy Performance + Healthy Homes is trendy, even healthcare and health insurers are on board.

Kevin – Healthcare takes an average of 17 years to adopt a new practice. Dr. Jay Portnoy, MD has pioneered the connection between health and environment in the allergy world and has been advocating the importance of healthy homes and home assessments for over 20 years.

Kevin – Social determinants of health. Medicare and medical managed care systems are discussing how to support having programs screen their patients about housing and other issues that might impact health. Only Missouri has adopted a policy to reimburse for home environmental assessments related to asthma. In MO, docs can refer to a state registered assessor to visit a home.

Kevin – There is a movement toward prevention and preventative care. Any health insurance or managed care company could technically pay for healthy home assessments as a preventative program.

Larry – COVID shutdown the BPI network. Fieldwork ground to a halt. Some trades such as: HVAC, plumbing and electrical were deemed as essential. Others are returning to fieldwork now with COVID safe practices.

Larry – Job one for Steve Skodak the new CEO of the Building Performance Association (BPA) was to cancel their live conference. Fortunately, he had the skillset to take the event virtual. 1700 people participated. Some sessions had 700-800 attendees. Bob Krell, ran the event.

BPA is keeping the momentum going by pivoting from one national conference to 4 regional conferences.

Larry – Health and Safety was always part of BPI’s work. BPI was well ahead of the curve, creating a Healthy Home Evaluator program which the market wasn’t ready for, there are 400 Healthy Home Evaluators. The Healthy Housing Principles Guide broadens the scope of the program. Options to purchase the book or take the Certificate exam online. Holders of a BPI certification can take the course and receive 8 CEUs. In Washington State’s, Tacoma Pierce county groups of community health workers and weatherization grantees with the BPI HHE certification have collaborated to document quality of life improvements in homes of asthmatics.

Kevin – For new people entering the field Building Science and Healthy Homes share the concept of “house as a system”. Wouldn’t it be great if your homebuilder was aware of this concept and the health and environmental impacts of all their processes?Improved ventilation systems allow occupants to super control indoor air quality.

Kevin – 8 “Keep it” principles:

  1. Keep it Clean
  2. Keep it Dry
  3. Keep it Pest Free
  4. Keep it Contaminant Free
  5. Keep it Safe
  6. Keep it Ventilated
  7. Keep it Maintained
  8. Keep it Comfortable. – Comfortable, or Thermal control was a later addition to the keep it principles.

In homes, comfort is a better term for describing the health impacts. Extreme temperatures are a major cause of death for seniors worldwide. The Healthy Housing Principles Guide teaches about heat transfer and what to do about it.

Predicts that in the future that everything indoors (including energy efficiency) will fall under the umbrella of healthy housing.

Larry – E4 The-future ( provided funding for the guide. Support of Healthy Home Training Centers and Guidebook, Pub Health and Building codes.

A Steering Committee oversaw the process. Kevin Kennedy was the principle author.The book features: plain language, clear graphics and photos, good explanations, some history and current context. One plan is to develop a streamlined version for consumers that can serve as a Healthy Home Owner’s Manual.

Healthy Housing Reference Manual Link:

Kevin – Referrals from the healthcare world tell homeowners that it is important and valuable for them to talk to Children’s Mercy Environmental Health. Children’s Health Mercy provides pro bono Healthy Home Assessments as a community benefit. The program provides assessments for asthma/allergy, immunocompromised, lead poisoned and complex medical patients.

Some clients referred to Children’s Mercy for Healthy Home Assessment are anxious, fearful or embarrassed.The communication skills of Children’s Mercy Staff are very important. It’s important to build rapport and trust. The Children’s Mercy Staff Pros are really good at putting clients at ease, preparing them for the assessment and getting people to confide. The Children’s Mercy Staff shows they care, want to help and not judge.

Do BPI members use success stories in their marketing?

Larry – Some BPI contractors capture information and use it in their marketing. Told story of a woman who was scheduled for thoracic surgery with two asthmatic children on inhalers who lived in a leaky house next door to a home heated with wood. The BPI member air sealed, installed an ERV with filtration. The kids are off inhalers and the woman cancelled her surgery. The member used an Air Advice product to provide data on the effect of the upgrades. He cautioned that one house is tiny data that cannot be extrapolated to the population as a whole.

Kevin – The sheer size of the number of people living in unhealthy houses is stunning. Unhealthy houses are found in all economic groups. Low income people cannot afford to fix them. American Housing Survey now asks questions about moisture, mold, smoking and pests. The immune system is like a glass of water, it can overflow from a combination of things.

Larry – Wildfires, tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke, vaping, wood smoke. What’s in the smoke? Smoke from pre 1978 houses contains lead and cadmium.

Kevin – Heating home to higher temperatures (>85˚F) can potentially expose occupants to re-volatized chemicals. Third-hand smoke is residual nicotine and other chemicals left on indoor surfaces by tobacco smoke. People are exposed to these chemicals by touching contaminated surfaces or breathing in the off-gassing from these surfaces.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s) are a class of chemicals that occur naturally in coal, crude oil, and gasoline. They also are produced when coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage, and tobacco are burned. PAH’s generated from these sources can bind to or form small particles in the air.

Joe Medosch text comment – No ventilation systems in homes except bathroom and kitchen exhausts.

Kevin – Children’s Mercy’s Healthy Homes work has been shutdown since March 13th. No outside activities. Were not allowed to work with patients until late summer. Initiated virtual clinic visits based on the telehealth practices already in place. The Healthy Homes team now make virtual home assessments. In-person visits are planned but will develop slowly.

Larry – BPI is working with Paul Francisco (the Senior Coordinator of the Indoor Climate Research & Training (ICRT) group at the Illinois Applied Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) on how to go safely back into homes, including novel use of blower doors that involves purging of homes of existing indoor air and replenishing it with fresh air.

Larry – BPI members don’t focus on mold, they focus on determining leak sources and how moisture gets into buildings. DOE Weatherization Reauthorization language will let grantees address health and safety. Housing deficiencies that were previously deferred are now allowed.

Kevin – There is grant money now for weatherization and lead healthy homes collaborations with more funding coming next year.

Respiratory and Allergic Health Effects of Dampness, Mold, and Dampness-Related Agents: A Review of the Epidemiologic Evidence

Final comments:

Larry – Learn more about BPI at

Kevin – Rather than technical jargon, we need to use common language like the healthy home “keep it” principles to make our community a better place.

Z-Man signing off


Name the group responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the US?

Answer: Al Qaeda

Answered by Don Weekes