Training and Certification for IAQ
Originally published: 04.01.07 by
Programs adhere to accreditation standards that are rigorous and require compliance in three key areas: education, independence, and experience.
Until recently, it was difficult to identify “indoor air quality” as an industry unto itself. Because so many different kinds of consultants and contractors perform IAQ-related work, it was difficult to distinguish what kind of professional or tradesperson to retain, and even more difficult to determine if the individual was qualified.
As the IAQ industry matured, it segmented into two primary markets: assessment and remediation. Assessment includes the investigation of a building and its indoor environment to determine what factors may be causing a problem, as well as making recommendations for remedial action to correct the problems. Remedial work may include services such as hvac system cleaning or replacement, mold remediation, basement waterproofing, or maintenance work such as roof repair, plumbing enhancements, or foundation work.
Individuals who have a solid understanding of building sciences, hvac, microbial issues, and engineering principles primarily perform assessment work. Often assessment is performed by a certified industrial hygienist, consulting engineer, or by another specialist trained and experienced in non-industrial IAQ issues. Remediation work is performed by a variety of contractors, who should be skilled and qualified for the type of remedial work they perform.
Until 2006, third-party accreditation of certification programs for the IAQ industry never took place. Even the most prestigious and commonly held certifications for water damage restoration, mold remediation, and IAQ assessment lacked the third-party accreditation so often sought after by hvac professionals.
The field of mold remediation has attracted many contractors from the cleaning and restoration industry over the last decade. Other companies entering the business have roots in hvac system cleaning, IAQ consulting, or asbestos and lead abatement. As the mold-remediation industry grew, several programs to train and certify contractors and professionals emerged over the last decade.
Today, IAQ and mold-related training and certification is offered by numerous non-profit and for-profit organizations, both online and in the classroom. Some programs are one-day or less and give virtually “instant” certification. Others are several days in length, and certification requirements extend into education and experience. The sheer number of different programs and the similarity in the credentials they bestow can leave consultants, contractors, and consumers baffled about which programs are the most credible and reliable. This situation has caused the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA) and the American Indoor Air Quality Council (AmIAQ) to look toward third-party accreditation for certification to differentiate themselves.
What Does Third-Party Accreditation Mean?
Two organizations that accredit certification programs are the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB). They set standards, followed by hundreds of organizations, for how certification programs are conducted.
IAQ-related certifications that are CESB accredited include the ABIH Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), the Board of Certified Safety Professionals’ Certified Safety Professional (CSP), the AmIAQ Council-Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant (CIEC), Council-Certified Mold Remediation Supervisor (CMRS) and Council-Certified Microbial Consultant (CMC). These programs adhere to accreditation standards that are rigorous and require compliance in three key areas: education, independence, and experience.
Education: Accreditation standards typically forbid a certifying body from accrediting any particular education course or requiring the certification body’s own course as a prerequisite. A program that requires a candidate take a course from a single, designated training provider, or to take a series of courses from its own approved schools, would not meet accreditation standards. Likewise, programs that allow instructors to proctor or score examinations do not comply with NCCA and CESB rules.
Independence: Another essential accreditation standard of both CESB and NCCA is the requirement that the certifying body operate with administrative autonomy, free from interference by vested interests. For instance, the majority of elected or appointed officials of the certification organization cannot be affiliated as instructors or owners of the organization’s schools. The certification body must operate with autonomy and independence.
Experience: NCCA and CESB require experience pre-requisites for programs they accredit, and require that the certification body verify candidate experience. Training class attendance cannot be substituted for experience, and a certification program with no experience pre-requisite falls far short of CESB and NCCA standards.
IAQA and AmIAQ: Separating Certification from Education
Until the end of 2005, IAQA, AmIAQ and the Indoor Environmental Standards Organization were competing organizations with certification courses taught by association-approved instructors. Last year the organizations consolidated their programs and emerged Jan. 1, 2006, as separate non-profit organizations with clearly defined scopes that do not overlap. Today IAQA exists as a 6,200-member association offering education courses and a variety of other benefits. AmIAQ is an independent certification body, and IESO is a standards-making body.
The consolidation, and the accompanying division of labor, has allowed AmIAQ to achieve CESB accreditation for all eight of its IAQ and mold-related certifications. AmIAQ conducts all of its certification programs in compliance with CESB rules.
The consolidation has allowed IAQA to finish the development of a dynamic, multi-level training program. Each of three training tracks — Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) Consulting; Microbial Assessment; and Mold Remediation — contains one or more courses for persons with varying levels of experience and education.
IAQA courses are the only “authorized” preparatory courses for AmIAQ certifications; however, IAQA, its Education Committee, and its course providers have no say in the development of AmIAQ policies and pre-requisites, exam content, certification fees, or any other program elements. Per CESB requirements, AmIAQ is “administratively independent in matters pertaining to certification.”
IAQA’s Training Courses
The IAQA courses for indoor environmental consulting, microbial consulting, and microbial remediation offer sophisticated training to those who seek AmIAQ Council certification. IAQA’s Education Committee is responsible for defining and continuously updating the content of each IAQA course. IAQA approves third-party course providers to deliver IAQA’s education courses. IAQA course content includes reference material from which AmIAQ creates its certification exam questions, and also expands beyond these texts to include other areas essential to the field.
You don’t have to attend an IAQA course to apply for AmIAQ certification or take an AmIAQ exam. But those who do attend an IAQA course prior to testing have a dramatically higher pass rate than those who don’t.
As HVAC engineers and contractors become more frequently recognized as indoor environmental professionals, the need for third-party accredited IAQ certification has emerged. Consumers are better educated than ever about IAQ and understand that a truly qualified person is needed to solve complex problems.
From IAQA’s perspective, for IAQ consultants and remediators, the necessity for accredited certification is reality today. With the liability associated with IAQ assessment, mold remediation, insurance requirements for consultants and contractors, and the health and safety consequences for workers and customers, the IAQ industry demands a stronger set of standards for its certification programs.
For more information about IAQA training courses, visit www.iaqa.org. To learn about AmIAQ certification requirements, visit www.iaqcouncil.org.
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