Decades of Experience Bridging the Gap Between Energy and Health Help RPC's Newest Division Serve the Community's Low-Income Households

Decades of Experience Bridging the Gap Between Energy and Health Help RPC's Newest Division Serve the Community's Low-Income Households

With a history stretching back nearly eight decades, Indoor Climate Research and Training (ICRT) in Champaign has facilitated home performance improvements intended to lower energy costs and improve the healthiness of homes. Designed to provide job training and serve low-income households in Illinois by conducting energy and indoor air quality research, ICRT officially joins the RPC in July as the agency’s newest division.

“I am very excited to be joining the RPC,” says ICRT Director Paul Francisco. “We have extremely well-aligned missions, with a primary focus of supporting low-income households to have better homes. Joining the RPC will empower ICRT to better support these households in Illinois and across the country, through both our training and research efforts.”

ICRT’s current mission statement is “Bridging the gaps between energy & health, and between research & practice, to improve real outcomes for residents.” They are focused on using sound principles of building science to advance the performance of homes, maintaining a state-of-the-art training center, and administering the training program for the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides weatherization services to low-income Illinois residents and households.

“The RPC is continuing to grow and diversify by acquiring programs that are aligned with its mission of helping people and communities maximize opportunities for a better quality of life through education, planning, and support services,” comments RPC Chief Executive Officer Dalitso Sulamoyo. “While the ICRT will be providing training throughout the state and beyond, the fact that it is located right here in Champaign makes it an important asset for our community. An asset that provides training and technical skill building on energy efficiency as well as research on healthy homes.”

ICRT staff are involved in setting national policy and standards for residential building energy efficiency and indoor air quality through membership on committees and advisory boards. ICRT also partners with academic institutions, research and advocacy groups, and government agencies to execute research and translate those results and feedback from the field into actionable practices and policies that benefit the community. Current ICRT research projects include studies on indoor air quality, ventilation, and the health consequences related to indoor air quality. Sponsors include federal and state governments, non-profits, and industry organizations.

Accredited by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council for its Energy Auditor and Quality Control Inspector training programs, the new RPC division is also certified as a Building Performance Institute test center and trains and certifies employees from all local community action agencies throughout Illinois. Graduates of the ICRT program perform weatherization work such as energy audits, quality control inspections, insulation, air sealing, and HVAC work, which includes cleaning, repairing, and upgrading equipment.

ICRT aims to:

  • Perform applied research intended to improve housing conditions.
  • Provide strategies for maintaining healthy environments without sacrificing energy efficiency.
  • Positively influence policy/standards through participation in committees, societies, and boards.
  • Integrate research and practice through joint projects and educational outreach.
  • Increase the number of active research grants while collaborating with other energy efficiency constituents.
  • Continuously apply innovation to research and educational opportunities, as well as departmental operations.

ICRT tracks its origins to the end of World War II when the University of Illinois established the Small Homes Council to perform applied research on economically producing efficient and high-quality homes for returning veterans. The Small Homes Council transitioned into the Building Research Council in the early 1990s, when they expanded their scope to include commercial building research. In 2010, while still part of the Building Research Council, ICRT received a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to establish the state’s first weatherization training center.

Becoming the RPC’s sixth division, ICRT and its 10 staff members join Early Childhood Education, Community Services, Planning and Community Development, Data & Technology, and Police Training. ICRT also works with four contract trainers to deliver the training program.