DOE Awards $32 Million to Accelerate Next-Generation Building Upgrades

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $32 million to fund over 30 next-generation building retrofit projects that will dramatically improve affordable housing technologies. Seven awardees will test renovation techniques that reduce disruption to tenants while upgrading the energy and environmental performance of buildings more quickly, affordably, and effectively. These techniques, such as prefabricating walls and drop-in replacements for heating, cooling, and hot water systems, can revolutionize construction and renovation. They can also provide the means to decarbonize America’s 130 million buildings at the rate needed to address the climate crisis and meet President Biden’s goals of a net zero carbon economy by 2050.  

“We’re in an all-out sprint to beat the climate crisis, and that race runs straight through our nation’s building sector,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Faster and more efficient construction and renovation methods that improve our nation’s supply of affordable housing are the kinds of transformative innovations we need to lower costs for working families and build a better America.” 

Today, U.S. buildings use 40% of the nation’s energy and 75% of its electricity, making the building sector responsible for 35% of America’s carbon emissions. Today, with off-the-shelf equipment, buildings can readily save 30% by replacing windows, putting in insulation, and using high-efficiency equipment. With innovations like the ones these teams will develop, the U.S. can lead the way with industrialized solutions that could cut thermal energy use in buildings by 75%.   

To make this vision a reality, the Building Technologies Office (BTO) in DOE’s Office and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) created the Advanced Building Construction (ABC) Initiative to reinvent the “ABCs” of building construction and renovation. Given the lack of change in techniques since the 19th century, builders and contractors need solutions that deliver sustainable and appealing buildings faster and more affordably. The projects announced today are among the first whole-building demonstrations of the ABC Initiative’s efforts to not only drive the development of new technologies, practices, and approaches, but ensure these highly efficient and low-carbon innovations are widely deployed and shape the construction industry’s modernization efforts.  

With this funding, these demonstration projects will apply innovations developed through previous funding from DOE’s 2019 Advanced Building Construction with Energy-Efficient Technologies & Practices Funding Opportunity. These technological breakthroughs are tackling one of our most difficult challenges – developing appealing, widely-applicable, and effective low carbon solutions for our existing building stock. The majority of these projects will demonstrate large-scale renovations in the affordable housing sector, including public housing, manufactured housing communities, privately owned affordable housing, and student housing. However, many of the innovations can also be applied to existing commercial buildings. Read complete descriptions of each selectee below. 

The selectees are: 

Fraunhofer USA Center for Manufacturing Innovation (Massachusetts) will test prefabricated, super-insulated wall retrofit panel blocks with a suite of high-performance building technologies across four locations in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Pennsylvania. (Award Amount: $4.9 million) 

Home Innovation Research Labs, Inc. (Maryland) will test an innovative wall system with vacuum insulated panels in three residential, multi-family public housing buildings in Albany, New York. (Award Amount: $4.5 million)

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Colorado) will use software tools to properly size and install retrofit packages in two residential low-income, multi-family buildings in Arvada, Colorado. (Award Amount: $4.4 million)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Tennessee) will demonstrate 3D-printed modular overclad panels with heat pump systems in 8 to 12 single-family attached public housing homes and one commercial building in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Award Amount: $5 million)

Rocky Mountain Institute (Colorado) will demonstrate an integrated retrofit package of envelope panels, a heat pump pod, and innovative financing in a mid-rise, 120-unit low-income multifamily building in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Award Amount: $4.4 million)

Syracuse University (New York) will pair overclad panels with real-time performance monitoring capabilities and an “HVAC pod” in single-family attached dormitories in Syracuse, New York. (Award Amount: $5 million)

The University of Central Florida Board of Trustees (Florida) will demonstrate a solar photovoltaic-integrated multi-functional heat pump system for space and water heating in 4 single-family homes and 8 manufactured homes across numerous locations in six states. (Award Amount: $3.6 million) 

“To fight the climate crisis and protect our country long-term from upheaval caused by the global fossil fuel market, we need to invest in domestic clean energy and in energy efficiency. This is why I am excited that DOE is supporting demonstration projects like Fraunhofer USA Center for Manufacturing Innovation’s work on wall insulation retrofits. Programs like the Advanced Building Construction Initiative are exactly what our country needs to improve energy efficiency technologies and save families money, save energy, and save the planet all at the same time,” said U.S. Senator Edward Markey (MA). 

“I applaud the Department of Energy for making these important updates to Syracuse University housing,” said U.S. Representative John Katko (NY-24). “Through these upgrades, Syracuse housing will become more energy-efficient and help reduce its carbon footprint. This represents a huge win for Syracuse University and the Central New York community.” 

These selected teams will also advance the DOE-funded Advanced Building Construction Collaborative, which connects companies working in prefabricated, modular, and other industrialized construction techniques with building owners, developers, financiers, utilities, and researchers to modernize the construction industry and buildings sector. 


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