How HPXML Transformed NYSERDA’s Home Performance Program
April 9, 2019
Since the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® (HPwES) program initiated its HPXML – supported Express Contract workflow in 2015, nearly 8,500 projects have been completed. The approval time for the majority of home performance projects, which before the implementation of Express Contract may have taken up to eight business days, is now completed within one business day.
Express Contract uses a business logic framework to automatically validate and approve projects that meet criteria defined by NYSERDA’s home performance program. When a home performance contractor submits a workscope to the program, the Express Contract workflow triggers a series of actions designed to automate the review and approval processes of projects that had previously been manually reviewed by staff.
Today, nearly 45% of workscopes submitted by the program’s contractors are automatically approved without staff intervention on the first attempt. For workscopes that require some level of manual review, more than 80% are approved on the first attempt. Express Contract has enabled the HPwES program to operate more efficiently, reducing administrative costs for contractors and the program, and increasing contractor satisfaction with the program.
The Road to HPXML Compliance
NYSERDA recognized early on that the adoption of a standard data transfer protocol (HPXML) could facilitate the collection of higher quality data, increase interoperability between data platforms and software, and reduce the costs of gathering and sharing data.
NYSERDA was an early adopter of HPXML and is a long-standing member of the Building Performance Institute’s (BPI) HPXML Working Group, the stakeholder group that develops and manages the standards that comprise HPXML, BPI 2200-S-2013 Standard for Home Performance Related Data Collection and BPI 2100-S-2013 Standard for Home Performance Related Data Transfer.
HPXML initially provided NYSERDA’s HPwES program with the option of opening the contractor software market (as opposed to requiring the use of a single tool), and in 2015, NYSERDA approved four HPXML – compliant energy modeling tools for use in the program.
Because HPXML standardizes how data is defined, formatted, and transferred, contractors can use any software tool that is able to demonstrate compliance with the standard and support some or all of data elements defined in the standard HPXML reporting templates for home performance programs. Not every tool approved for the HPwES program has to support all measures; but if a software tool does support a measure, it must be described in a way that is compliant with the data standard.
To assist contractors with choosing the energy modeling software that best suits the services they provide, NYSERDA created a software compatibility matrix, which allowed contractors to see at a glance the functionality of the approved energy modeling tool and its ability to support program measures.
Workflow Benefits for Contractors
In addition to providing participating contractors with more choice in the selection of energy modeling tools, NYSERDA leveraged HPXML and the functionality of its program management software to pilot a new project submittal process called Express Contract.
The purpose of developing an automated workflow was to reduce the period that contractors and customers have to wait to receive the go-ahead from NYSERDA for their energy efficiency improvements. Automated workflow processes also enable NYSERDA to operate the program more efficiently, allowing staff to spend less time on data entry and more time on other facets of the program.
NYSERDA developed and implemented Express Contract, in phases, from 2015 to 2017, with program management staff initially focusing on testing simple job types, and adding more complex projects over time as the workflow was expanded. During the design and implementation process, NYSERDA worked closely with the program’s participating contractors, energy modeling software vendors, and program implementers to address issues with validating, interpreting, and parsing HPXML files.
Contractors that submit projects via the new workflow can receive automatically generated feedback on their project submittal if data is incorrect, unexpected, or represent “out of bounds” values, for example, unreasonable energy savings estimates. Contractors receive targeted messaging that provides guidance so that they can amend their HPXML file without the need for time consuming e-mail exchanges or phone calls with program administrators.
The current iteration of Express Contract also validates files automatically for HPXML compliance, valid software vendors, customer name and address, compliance with BPI-2400, missing required data, and ineligible measures.
Expanding to Low Income
NYSERDA continues to explore the benefits that the adoption of HPXML can bring to other residential programs. NYSERDA is looking to make similar process improvements to its high-volume, low-income program, EmPower NY. It expects to see a new group of program administrators, contractors, and customers reaping the rewards from the use of HPXML and the automation it enables.
Bill Keating is a Project Manager on the Single-Family Residential team at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). He has 20 years’ experience working in a variety of capacities in the residential energy efficiency sector including program implementation, technical support, training and contractor outreach.