A recent letter to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is requesting that ANSI withdraw Building Performance Institute Inc.’s (BPI) accreditation as a Standards Development Organization for “repeated violations of BPI’s approved operating procedures and specific requirements of the ANSI essential requirements.”

Putting it in Writing

The letter, authored by 13 industry organizations, including the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA); the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI); and Heating, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI), among others, raised eight specific allegations toward BPI, six of which questioned BPI’s due process procedures.

BPI sees this as a public relation stunt to discredit their organization as ACCA attempts to get in the whole-home contracting and building-performance sector.

Contractors, on the other hand, are concerned about their ability to adhere to multiple standards and are simply seeking consistency.

Questioning the Process

A Standards Development Organization (SDO) is a group governed by ANSI that, by definition, “works cooperatively to develop voluntary national consensus standards.”

The authors of the Feb. 28 letter contend that BPI’s accreditation should be stripped due to repeated violations. Frank Stanonik, chief technical advisor, AHRI, said in more than three years of submitting comments on BPI draft documents, both through the review process and directly to BPI staff members, he’s never received a direct response.

“Our experience is that BPI’s standards process is not transparent and not being conducted to achieve a consensus of all stakeholders,” he said. “We have significant concerns with provisions regarding HVAC and water-heating equipment that have been included in BPI draft standards.”

Glenn Hourahan, senior vice president, technical, accreditation & educational policy development at ACCA, said that the claims made in the letter were based on interactions the organizations had with BPI at various points over the last several years. He said one looming issue centers on BPI not responding to commenters in a manner he believes is open, transparent, and responsive.

“The purpose of the letter is to point out the difficulties and problems with the manner in which BPI is propagating its standards development activities,” Hourahan said. “There is no contention with BPI having ANSI standards. But, ANSI-intended documents have to follow certain procedures and practices so that they are vetted by the industry and all stakeholders have an opportunity to be heard and have their comments, warts, and wrinkles ironed out.”

That was a big reason why Talbot Gee, executive vice president and COO at HARDI, signed on to the letter.

“Our industry, and many other industries, rely on the credibility and integrity of ANSI standards since they are frequently referenced in regulation and legislation, and, any standards impacting our industry need to be transparent, consensus-based, and inclusive of expert input,” Gee said. “The failure of the latter in this case is threatening the entire ANSI brand and HARDI believes it is important that every measure is taken to ensure every ANSI-accreditation entity really seeks and obtains broad-based, expert consensus.”

BPI Reaction

Larry Zarker, CEO, BPI, claimed ACCA has repeatedly attempted to stop or stymie the development of BPI’s home-energy auditing standard, BPI 1100, which competes with ACCA’s energy auditing standard, ACCA 12.

“Prior to this public letter to ANSI, ACCA had launched two appeals against BPI’s standards development procedures, both of which were unanimously denied by independent panels,” Zarker said. “The first appeal in 2011 was arbitrated by a panel of objective subject matter experts — all three of whom also happened to be ACCA members. They voted 3-0 against ACCA’s position.”

BPI executives also questioned the letter’s purpose. “ACCA is a standards development organization that is accredited by ANSI,” said John Jones, national technical director, BPI. “They should know that a public letter sent out to the world, including the press, is not a proper ANSI procedure. So why did they do it? I think they did it as a public relations exercise, because they wanted to get something out in the press to try to discredit BPI.”

Anne Caldas, senior director, procedures and standards administration at ANSI, received the letter and told the 13 signature organizations they’d have to file an official appeal before action can be taken, as submitting a complaint letter does not constitute a formal appeal. Hourahan said the organizations are likely to file a formal appeal with ANSI within a month.

Zarker pointed to previous ACCA appeals — which were all denied — when discussing how confident he is that BPI will prevail again.

“Many of these due-process allegations they raised were ones we’ve already responded to before,” Zarker said. “We feel very comfortable in responding to the issues they raised and we will definitely do just that, if they actually file an appeal. We will go through the process of responding to each claim, and we are confident we will win.”

Hourahan noted that the number of industry organizations signing the letter, 13 in total, is significant.

“Thirteen different organizations, who each have a different marketplace focus, signing one letter reflects that it is more than just one sector of the industry that believes that BPI’s public reviews were not correctly implemented under the ANSI process,” he said.

Leslie McDowell, marketing and communications manager, BPI, said the institute is fully committed to an open, transparent process.

“The first public comment period to what was then called BPI-101 (now BPI 1100) received 511 comments, and we responded in good faith to every one of those comments,” she said. “Of the 511 comments, 386 were accepted as proposed by commenter or accepted with modifications, and a large number of those were from them (the signing organizations). All commenters received responses to their comments, as documented in our online tool.”

Part of the reason for this letter, BPI believes, is because ACCA is moving into the whole-home and building-performance fields.

“ACCA has traditionally developed standards in support of the service and installation of HVAC equipment. Now they are attempting to expand the scope of their standards development to focus on whole-house contracting,” Zarker said. “This has been the focus of BPI standards development for the past 20 years, so it is no wonder that they are attempting to push BPI out of this space. But this is a large market and there is room for different models to reach the nation’s 130 million homes.”

Could-Be Collaboration

According to the 13 signature organizations, the letter’s ultimate goal is to force BPI to conform to ANSI standards.

Hourahan said this letter gives BPI an opportunity to fix their deficiencies. “The end game is that if BPI is going to be an ANSI-recognized Standards Development Organization, they have to follow the ANSI rules and procedures,” he said. “If they’re not going to, they shouldn’t be able to propagate standards that are ANSI intended. Clean up your act, or don’t seek ANSI recognition.”

Jones argued that BPI’s standards development process and procedures meet or exceed ANSI protocols. “Our process conforms to our published procedures in BPI-1 Standards Procedures Manual. BPI-1 went through a thorough audit by ANSI in August 2010, which found that it met the ANSI-essential requirements,” Jones said.

“We are concerned that the most recent statements are meant to be divisive, but we’ve worked with contractors for two decades to help them develop their business models, to successfully address whole-house issues for their customers. It’s not about BPI or ACCA. We think this is best done through collaboration and cooperation across industry sectors, and not attempts to control markets and shut out legitimate market players.”

As for collaboration, both sides claim to have worked in earnest to get together and hammer the issue out. Things did not turn out well.

“We are not out to undermine their position and we welcome ACCA to the market,” said Zarker. “We met with them Jan. 8 to discuss harmonization of standards, and they took a very clear position that theirs is the only standard.”

Hourahan said ACCA has attempted to find middle ground with BPI as well.

“We have specifically, if not three or four times, also in writing, during the last two to three years, acknowledged that we would work together on a single standard in this area,” said Hourahan. “Even though the ACCA 12 QH-2011 standard is already ANSI recognized, we’re willing to come together and have one standard. Our issue is that it has to be a credible standard that brings value to the industry and that it must be developed in a responsive manner that allows all stakeholders’ issues to be addressed. That spirit of cooperation still stands.”

BPI said its plan is to fully develop BPI-1100 as an ANSI standard before attempting to go forward with harmonization with ACCA 12.

Contractors Seek Clarity

As the organizations continue their feud, contractors continue to feel the effects on a daily basis.

Ellis Guiles, vice president, TAG Mechanical Systems, Syracuse, N.Y., who is a vice chairman on ACCA’s board of directors and a BPI-accredited contractor, said he hopes for clarity. “What happens for contractors like me as competing standards start to fall into the marketplace — if we want to participate in any given program — we may have to end up training people to multiple certification requirements,” said Guiles. “We will be forced to explain to homeowners why we might be using method A, and the contractor coming in behind us is using method B.

“Maybe these standards are essentially the same, but not quite. So, we just want clarity. We want single standards and concepts we can train our people to that can be referenced back to our clients so we can tell them we are following industry-recognized protocols that have been developed across a broad range of stakeholders. We don’t want to have to explain nuance differences between multiple standards. We want to be able to provide a clear, concise, clarified vision to our clients at the end of the day.”

Jerry Unruh, president, ABC Cooling & Heating, Hayward, Calif., is a BPI-accredited contractor. He said he agrees that BPI-1100 and ACCA 12 should be harmonized, but not until both have been accredited by ANSI.

“We have been involved in HPC [home-performance contracting] res-idential work for a number of years and have done hundreds of homes. We feel that both are good standards,” he said. “We feel that BPI 1100, which is the current audit we offer, is extensive and complete to cover the three critical areas, comfort, safety, and energy savings. Just my thoughts, as a conscientious contractor that wants to give the customer all they pay for with integrity, but still considering the cost effectiveness or bang for the buck for our customers.”

Guiles said that while the process is important, he’s more worried about results. “What contractors, including myself, have said is, ‘let’s all collaborate and create a single standard.’ Each organization and association can take pride in bringing their knowledge and insight to create a single standard. The industry needs and deserves a single standard in the marketplace. We don’t need competing standards.”

SIDEBAR: Authoring Organizations

Thirteen organizations signed the letter submitted to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), including:

• Paul Stalknecht, president & CEO, Air Conditioning Contractors of America;

• Christina Sames, vice president of operations and engineering, American Gas Association;

• Stephen Yurek, president & CEO, Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute;

• Wade Smith, executive director, Air Movement and Control Association International;

• David Karmol, vice president, federal & external affairs, International Code Council;

• Bert Kalisch, president & CEO, American Public Gas Association;

• Talbot Gee, executive vice president & COO, Heating, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International;

• Bob Helbing, president, Institute of Heating & Air Conditioning Industries;

• Alan Veeck, executive director, National Air Filtration Association;

• Bruce Swiecicki, senior technical advisor, National Propane Gas Association;

• Don Frendberg, chairman, North American Technician Excellence;

• Gerard Kennedy, executive vice president, Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association; and

• Mark Lowry, executive vice president, RSES.

SIDEBAR: The Letter’s Eight Claims

1. BPI’s online tool hinders the due diligence process;

2. BPI does not identify its consensus body;

3. BPI’s development and oversight committees lack balance;

4. BPI’s non-adherence to ANSI procedures precludes due process;

5. BPI review instructions impede due process;

6. BPI concurrent reviews caused widespread confusion and hindered due process;

7. BPI guidance limits due process; and

8. BPI’s appeals procedures obstruct due process.

Publication date: 4/8/2013