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Federal Agencies

Department of Agriculture
Department of Commerce
Department of Energy
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Department of Labor
Environmental Protection Agency
Federal Emergency Management Agency
National Science Foundation
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

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Department of Agriculture
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is a valuable Federal PATH partner. Three USDA agencies are especially active in housing: the Forest Service; the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) and the Rural Housing Service (RHS).

USDA Forest Service
The Forest Service's Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, WI, serves the public as the nation's leading wood research institute. Research concentrates on pulp and paper products, housing and structural uses of wood, wood preservation, wood and fungi identification, and the finishing and restoration of wood products. In addition to traditional lines of research, FPL responds to environmental pressures on the forest resource by using cutting-edge techniques to study recycling, develop environmentally friendly technology, and understand ecosystem-based forest management.

A multi-year inter-agency agreement between HUD and FPL calls for the development of a national durability conference and implementation of three residential construction research projects over the next four years. The 1999 Forest Products Research Conference, "Durability and Disaster Mitigation in Wood Frame Housing," will be held November 1-3, 1999 at the Monona Terrace Convention Center, Madison, WI. Co-sponsors are PATH and the Wood Frame Construction Consortium whose members include the USDA Forest Service, universities with forest products curricula, the American Forest and Paper Association, the National Association of Home Builders' Research Center, and the APA-The Engineered Wood Association in cooperation with the Forest Products Society of Madison, WI.

The agenda features presentations and panel discussions on housing durability and disaster mitigation; national trends; moisture; codes, standards and regulatory issues; new technologies and products; and builder practices. A national workshop will attempt to finalize a protocol for durability assessment of innovative wood building products and systems. Registration information will be available in early August. For more information on the conference please contact Karen Martinson (608-231-9450, kmartinson/fpl@fs.fed.us).

FPL-PATH research projects are designed to develop:

  • improved design of wood frame houses subjected to high winds and severe storms;

  • a grading standard for lumber from existing buildings to increase its marketability and reuse by the construction industry; and

  • greater understanding of the susceptibility of wood products to decay when subjected to repeated wetting and drying.

USDA Cooperative State Research, Education,
and Extension Service

CSREES works with land-grant universities and their county extension services to improve economic, environmental and social conditions throughout the United States. CSREES helps direct the research, higher education and extension expertise of its university and extension service partners toward meeting the needs of both rural and urban citizens. The land-grant educators convert good research into language that consumers can understand. They deliver the information through local county agents who are employees of the university or of local governments. State and county staff provide consumers with information on indoor air quality, pollution prevention in and around the home, disaster mitigation, and the role of housing in rural community vitality. These CSREES partners carry out extensive homebuyer education and counseling activities often in conjunction with others such as HUD, the Federal Reserve, USDA's Rural Housing Service, Fannie Mae, the National Association of Home Builders, the Consumer Information Center, and state and local agencies and groups. CSREES also conducts wood products research and extension programs aimed at transferring technology to builders and producers of building materials.

CSREES's Cooperative Extension Service, with offices in the land-grant universities and in every state and territory and offices in many counties, maintains one of the country's most extensive research and educational networks. The Extension Service works with more than 130 agricultural colleges, 59 agricultural experiment stations, 57 cooperative extension services, 63 forestry schools, 42 family and consumer sciences schools, as well as many institutions that have traditionally served African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans. The agency's network is expected to become a key outlet for PATH's findings on housing quality, affordability, durability, and energy efficiency.

USDA Rural Housing Service
The Rural Housing Service in Washington, DC is primarily a housing finance agency for rural areas. It also carries out demonstrations of innovative housing technologies. The agency's current demonstrations include a steel-frame envelope house in New Mexico; a super-insulated house in Minnesota; a zero-lot line unit development in North Carolina; a low-cost house (with smaller foundations and a truss roof) in Massachusetts; and a simple, so-called "warm and dry house," with minimal amenities in Kentucky.

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Department of Commerce
The Department of Commerceís National Institute of Standards and Technology has numerous programs relevant to PATH goals. NISTís Building and Fire Research Laboratory is the national laboratory dedicated to enhancing the competitiveness of U.S. industry and public safety by developing performance prediction methods, measurement technologies and technical advances needed to assure the life cycle and economy of constructed facilities. Its products are used by those who own, design, construct, supply or provide for the usefulness, economy, safety or environmental quality of constructed facilities.

BFRL studies building materials; computer-integrated construction practices; fire science and fire safety engineering; and structural, mechanical, and environmental engineering. Products of the Laboratory's research include measurements and test methods, performance criteria, and technical data that support design and construction changes, building and fire standards and codes, and innovations by industry.

BFRL, with industry, has initiated the Performance Standards System for Housing program aimed as the development of national and international performance standards that hasten the development, evaluation and acceptance of innovative housing products and systems. This effort is focused on creation of national and international performance standard guides for one- and two-family homes, and the identification and conduct of high priority research projects.

BFRL has two PSSH Structural Safety and Serviceability research projects. The "Analytical Performance Prediction of Single Family Housing" project is developing ways to predict and evaluate the performance of single family dwellings built with traditional and non-traditional construction materials. The "Next Generation Design Standard for Wind Loads" project is assembling data for an improved standard for improved wind-resistant dwellings.

The Laboratoryís PSSH-Indoor Atmosphere research activities focus on data collection and modeling related to measurements needed for new housing and building contaminants and ventilation rates. PSSH Durability research is developing a mathematical model to predict bulk and surface moisture contents of different types of coated or painted structures under different weather conditions. Water in residential building materials is a primary cause of degradation.

Economics research, under the PSSH program, is developing software tools for decision-making that incorporate life-cycle costing techniques and introduce methods for considering other performance variables. Specific activities include the development of standard economic methods and software that help the housing industry choose the most cost-effective designs, materials, and equipment that also satisfy housing performance standards and the development of a standard methodology for designing buildings to achieve the most appropriate balance among life-cycle environmental, economic and technical performance.

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Department of Energy
The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Building Technology, State and Community Programs (BTS) supports a variety of PATH-related activities. Working with industry, BTS develops, promotes, and integrates energy technologies and practices to make buildings more energy efficient.

BTS works toward this goal by accelerating the introduction of highly efficient technologies and practices through research and development; increasing the minimum efficiency of buildings and equipment through codes, standards, and guidelines; and encouraging the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and practices through technology transfer and financial assistance.

Partnership opportunities for builders and designers include BTS's Building America program, which provides assistance to PATH's National Pilot Projects. The Building America Program works to reduce energy use by as much as 50 percent. Participants adhere to a systems engineering approach to homebuilding that unites segments of the building industry that traditionally work independently of one another.

The systems engineering approach recognizes that features of one component in a house can greatly affect others and it enables teams to incorporate energy-saving strategies at no extra cost. The program aims to facilitate the adoption of a systems engineering approach in 70 percent of the new housing market within 10 years.

DOE/BTS-funded research also produces advances in lighting, windows, insulation, building materials, appliances, weatherization, and whole-building design. The General Accounting Office estimates more than $33 billion in potential savings from BTS technologies. BTS researchers, in partnership with the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, have developed a 20-cubic-foot refrigerator-freezer that uses only 1.04 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day, half the current standard.

Building engineers and architects are also using BTS-developed software design tools to increase the efficiency and lower the environmental impact of new and retrofitted construction. Computerized modeling tools such as "Designing Low Energy Buildings" and "DOE-2" help designers integrate energy-efficient and renewable-energy components and systems into building plans at the blueprint stage. Data on all aspects of a building's site (climate, shading, orientation), materials (wood, brick, insulation, windows), and equipment (chillers, lighting, computers) go into calculations to optimize building performance and occupant comfort and productivity.

DOE's Building Codes & Standards Program works with states and localities to update and implement building energy codes. Appliance standards on air conditioners, furnaces, and dishwashers help consumers save money. In some cases, manufacturers have developed innovative, energy-efficient products in anticipation of future revised standards, making energy awareness a competitive factor in the marketplace.

DOE's State and Community Partnerships Program has a Weatherization Assistance Program that has improved the energy efficiency of 75,000 existing homes by 23 percent. The Weatherization Assistance Program can serve as the basis for meeting PATH's goal of achieving a 30-percent reduction in energy use in 15 million existing homes.

DOE's Solar and Renewable Energy Program includes the President's Million Solar Roofs initiative with a goal to place 1 million solar energy systems on U.S. buildings by 2010.

DOE websites are not just for researchers. With a click of a mouse, builders and homeowners can access information on everything from Using Solar in Your Home to materials to consider when building an addition to the old homestead to Tips on Saving Energy Money at Home.

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Department of Housing and Urban Development
The Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal agency responsible for national policy and programs that address America's housing needs, administers the PATH Secretariat. HUDís Office of Policy Development and Research undertakes research and related regulatory and policy analysis to reduce the cost of producing, rehabilitating and operating a home or dwelling. Activities include research into new and innovative technologies and construction methods; reform of codes, standards and product evaluation and acceptance systems; methods to accelerate technological transfer and acceptance of innovation. PD&R; also works to eliminate or reform duplicative or excessive regulatory requirements that raise the cost of both private market and publicly assisted housing.

In a cooperative agreement with the NAHB Research Center, the Division is currently reviewing technologies that can provide cost-effective alternatives to wood in home construction. The project is investigating insulated concrete forms, concrete block and steelframing. In the area of rehabilitating existing housing stock, the Division is working with model code organizations to eliminate many of the regulatory barriers to rehabilitation. In addition the Division is developing a series of guides for using new technologies in rehabilitation.

PD&R; also conducts research to improve the substance and administration of Departmental standards and requirements affecting the structure and land development including: HUD Minimum Property Standards; Section 8 Housing Quality Standards; and HUD Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards. It also sponsors research to assure that the interests of consumers, especially the elderly and disabled, are adequately and cost-effectively considered in the construction and rehabilitation of housing.

Under its Manufactured Housing Program, HUD directly regulates the construction of the more than 350,000 manufactured housing units (mobile homes) produced annually in the United States. The PD&R; Division is also developing plans with industry for a "next generation" manufactured home.

HUD also coordinates the National Homeownership Strategy. The goal of this initiative to lift the homeownership rate to an all-time high. Sixty-two national private and public organizations are members of the Partnership including: National Association of Home Builders, Manufactured Housing Institute, Fannie Mae, American Institute of Architects, Council of American Building Officials, and the Mortgage Bankers Association. As part of their efforts, the Partners have committed to working on "a public-private effort to accelerate adoption of technological innovation in the homebuilding industry."

HUDís Operating Programs provides subsidies and/or insurance for a wide range of programs that result in new or rehabilitated housing including Federal Housing Administration insurance, public housing, Section 8 assistance, HOPE VI, Community Development Block Grants (see also http://www.hud.gov/progdesc/cdbg-st.html) and HOME housing subsidy program. HUDís "technical suitability of products" program evaluates new and innovative building systems and products for the builders of these housing developments.

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Department of Labor
The Department of Laborís Occupational Safety and Health Administration promotes and enforces workplace safety and health. Efforts to reduce injuries and illnesses not only avert pain and disability for workers, but also save builders money, making housing more affordable. The fatality rate for construction workers is three times the rate for workers in other industries. The high rate, combined with above average on-the-job injuries and illnesses, leads to workersí compensation costs totaling about $5,000 per unit or 30 percent of payroll for builders of single-family housing, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. To combat this toll, OSHA has awarded grants to groups such as the National Association of Home Builders, the National Safety Council, and the Occupational Health Foundation on behalf of AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades to develop and provide safety training to contractors and workers. In addition, OSHA is working with residential buildersí associations to encourage partnerships and other cooperative efforts with builders to promote safe work practices and effective safety and health programs.

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Environmental Protection Agency
The Environmental Protection Agency has instituted numerous programs to advance building technologies that improve energy efficiency, offer economical housing options, improve indoor air quality or reduce pollution. The EPAís voluntary, market-based ENERGY STAR Program aims to promote products that use less energy than other products, save money on utility bills and help to protect the environment. The ENERGY STAR label can be found on household appliances, home electronics, office equipment, windows, lighting fixtures, HVAC equipment and even homes. The ENERGY STAR Homes Program focuses specifically on transforming the new homes market by working with builders, utilities, and industry to develop the market for and construction of homes that are at least 30% more efficient than the national Model Energy Code. The means to achieve these high performance homes include improved insulation, advanced windows, tightly-sealed ducts, high-efficiency heating and cooling and reduced air infiltration. The program benefits builders as they experience increased profits, more satisfied customers, less call-backs, more referrals, all while offering a better more energy efficient products. The benefits to homeowners include improved comfort, air quality, and construction quality along with lower utility bills and higher resale values.

Other initiatives within the EPA to integrate construction, efficiency and environmental health include the Radon-Resistant New Construction Program which serves to help prevent the threat of radon to human health by developing and promoting model standards and building techniques which significantly reduce the risk of radon contamination; the Construction Research Program which concentrates on methods to reduce construction waste and to recycle building materials; Brownfields Economic Redevelopment Initiative designed to empower States, communities, and other stakeholders in economic redevelopment to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably rehabilitate brownfields; Indoor Environments Program which uses the best science available to develop and disseminate information, guidance, and solution-based technologies to ensure that the air quality in all indoor environments will protect and promote human health and welfare; and the Green Builder Program which strives to promote building practices that conserve energy, water, and other natural resources while strengthening the local economy and preserving the environment.

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Federal Emergency Management Agency
Federal Emergency Management Agency provides leadership and support for the nationís emergency management system so that States, local governments, and others can effectively prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of natural disasters. FEMA is interested in helping people and communities build safer and stronger buildings, strengthen existing infrastructure, facilitate the development and adoption of hazard-resistant building codes and ordinances, and plan for future development so that it is better protected from hazards of all types.

The Agencyís priority initiative is Project Impact, which provides technical assistance and seed funding to selected communities to help them identify their risks, develop local priorities on how to address that risk, and initiate measure that will help them become more disaster resistant.

FEMA leads the multi-agency National Earthquake Program, which promotes research in order to develop data, resource information, and training materials for designers, regulators, and standards writing organizations to improve the ability of new and existing buildings to withstand earthquakes.

The National Flood Insurance Program supports local and State floodplain management activities, and makes available flood insurance in communities that adopt and enforce floodplain management ordinances that meet at least minimum standards. As part of the Program, FEMA may provide cost-shared grants (known as Flood Mitigation Assistance) to States and localities for mitigation planning, risk reduction actions and technical assistance.

The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program includes grants for implementation of cost-effective projects that will reduce the risk of future disaster damages. These grants are only made available within a State after the issuance of a Presidential disaster declaration.

FEMAís U.S. Fire Administration collects data, conducts research and provides training and education on fire prevention and control. Data collection, research and advocacy for improved fire protection in residential housing (including the use of fire detectors and sprinkler systems) are among its activities.

The FEMA website boasts an extensive collection of How-to Factsheets. These Factsheets provide easy step-by-step instructions, making it easy for you to take protective "steps" to minimize damage to your home and property during a hazard event. See the How-to Series Index for more information.

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National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundationís Civil and Mechanical Systems Division seeks to advance fundamental engineering knowledge and supports PATH-related construction, materials and systems research at universities and in partnership with industry. Key word searches of award abstracts and all NSF documents are facilitated through the NSF web site.

Division includes three cluster programs. The Construction/Geotechnology/Structures Program emphasizes basic knowledge that supports the design, construction, maintenance and rebuilding of the constructed environment, above and below ground. The program funds research that leads to new materials, new technology and innovative applications that will improve flexibility, decrease life cycle costs, improve performance and energy efficiency, and enhance the sustainability of structures and infrastructure systems.

The NSF Control/Mechanics/Materials Program focuses on basic research to improve the efficiency, reliability, and performance of machines, structures, transportation systems and information storage systems. Efforts to understand the fundamental properties of materials and innovations in techniques of analysis will assist efforts to improve design engineering and facility performance. Research into dynamic behavior of material components and systems will lead to greater efficiency and increased noise and vibration control.

The NFS Hazard Reduction Program is focused on research leading to reduce the impact of extreme events such as earthquakes, floods and droughts, tsunamis, hurricanes and tornadoes, accelerated erosion, wind, landslides, subsidence and expansion soils. The emphasis is on new knowledge necessary to mitigate the impact of natural and technological hazards on infrastructures, the natural environment and societal institutions. The Hazard Reduction Program is one component of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program as well as the broader National Earthquake Loss Reduction program.

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White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, played a critical role in the creation of the PATH initiative. The Office of Science and Technology Policy provides expert advice to the President in all areas of science and technology. Through the National Science and Technology Council, OSTP helps the President coordinate science, space, and technology policy and programs across the federal government.

OSTPís Technology Division helps to develop and implement Federal policies for harnessing technology to serve national goals such as global economic competitiveness, environmental quality, and national security. The Division's priorities include: sustaining U.S. technological leadership through partnerships to promote the development of innovative technologies; R&D; and policy initiatives for advanced computing and communications technologies; advancing technologies for education and training; and redirecting the U.S. space and aeronautics program, including the space station.