The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced nearly $83 million in funding to 44 projects that will lower Americans’ energy bills by investing in new energy-efficient building technologies, construction practices, and the U.S. buildings-sector workforce. DOE’s Building Technologies Office competitively selected these projects from its Buildings Energy Efficiency Frontiers and Innovation Technologies (BENEFIT) funding opportunity announcement.

The following 23 projects were selected under Topic Area 1: Building Technology Research, Development, and Field Validation:

Advancing Innovative Manufacturing and End-of-Life Processing of Efficient Building Energy Technologies

  • University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland) will develop an adhesive-based hybrid manufacturing method for next-generation air-to-refrigerant heat exchangers. These heat exchangers will be 50% cheaper and use 36% less energy in manufacturing, making them ideal for use in affordable heat pumps.

Thermal Storage Research, Development, and Field Validation

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Massachusetts) will develop a thermal energy storage device that uses a hydrogel/salt composite to achieve high energy densities, low costs, and the potential for scalable fabrication. This device can be integrated with HVAC, water heating, or other applications to provide energy savings and building load flexibility.
  • North Dakota State University (Fargo, North Dakota) will develop a novel thermochemical absorption material for energy storage by embedding a framework of nanocellulose with hygroscopic salt. This material will serve as the basis for economical and highly efficient thermal energy storage systems and could potentially be used in other applications such as adsorption cooling.
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Champaign, Illinois) will develop and optimize a polymer hydrogel that incorporates stable nucleation sites for low-cost salt hydrates, for use in phase-change thermal energy storage systems. If successful, this project will provide a comprehensive framework to manufacture thermal energy storage technology at scale.
  • University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland) will develop an integrated heat pump and thermal energy storage system that can provide thermal energy storage for both heating and cooling and provide ideal performance throughout the year, independent of outdoor conditions. This system has the potential to achieve more than 50% demand reduction during on-peak hours in commercial buildings.

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Research, Development, and Field Validation

  • Baryon Inc. (Wilmington, Delaware) will develop a novel air-conditioning system based on a new method of evaporative cooling combined with dehumidification through a new type of ionic membrane. Due to its unique arrangement, the proposed system can consume 50% to 85% less energy than traditional air conditioning systems, generate water for its own operation, and remain highly effective in humid climates.
  • Palo Alto Research Center Inc. (Palo Alto, California) will engineer, construct, and demonstrate a packaged 5-ton HVAC system using a liquid desiccant that returns to a liquid phase at ambient temperature, and is capable of shifting load to reduce grid demand.

Refrigeration and Water Heating Research, Development, and Field Validation

  • Emerson Commercial and Residential Solutions (Sidney, Ohio) will design, fabricate, and validate a highly efficient refrigerated display case for use in supermarkets. The display case will also integrate with HVAC systems to serve as a flexible grid resource.
  • Ultrasonic Technology Solutions (Knoxville, Tennessee) will develop a vibrational defrosting system to remove ice from the evaporator in a refrigerator. By replacing current refrigerator defrosting technology that uses heat, this system will reduce energy use and allow the refrigerator to maintain a more consistent temperature.
  • University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland) will develop an isothermal compressor that can reduce the energy consumption of refrigerators by an average of 40%.

Integrated HVAC, Refrigeration, and Water Heating Research, Development, and Field Validation

  • Electric Power Research Institute (Palo Alto, California) will combine a thermoelectric heat pump with a direct expansion air-to-air heat pump, creating a system with improved efficiency and heating capacity in cold outdoor temperatures at low cost. The project will develop and demonstrate the heat pump and measure its energy savings.

Lighting Technology Research, Development, and Field Validation

  • Eaton Corporation (Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin) will validate a new design methodology that applies automated luminaire design and additive manufacturing to optimize light-emitting diode (LED) lighting for the built environment. This methodology will allow manufacturers to reduce part counts and produce custom LED optics while avoiding some of the expenses and long lead times of traditional manufacturing.
  • OSRAM Opto Semiconductors (Portland, Oregon) will develop cadmium-free quantum dot color converters that are robust enough to endure the typical operating conditions of solid-state lighting devices. These converters will allow a wider color range in solid-state lighting, improving occupant well-being.
  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richland, Washington) will update state-of-the-art software tools for lighting design, informed by laboratory and field work, to include the capabilities of solid-state lighting technology and their interactions with occupants’ environments.
  • Palo Alto Research Center Inc. (Palo Alto, California) will develop a manufacturing process to place LEDs on a thin sheet at high-precision, via roll-to-roll printing building lighting platform composed of thin, bendable sheets of solid-state light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that are more efficient, affordable, and lightweight than current organic LED lighting sheets. These lighting sheets will also feature distributed electronics throughout the lighting system to optimize energy efficiency and function.
  • Pennsylvania State University (University Park, Pennsylvania) will develop a framework for measuring lighting application efficiency (LAE), the relationship between electrical power consumed by lighting hardware and the amount of generated light that is useful to building occupants.
  • Pennsylvania State University (University Park, Pennsylvania) will develop OLEDs on substrates that enable luminance equal to existing devices with lower current density, enabling improvements in efficiency and OLED lifetime.
  • Regents of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Michigan) will produce longer-lived white organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) by developing techniques to extend the lifetime of the shortest-lived component of white OLED assemblies – blue OLEDs – to 50,000 hours of operation or more.
  • Thomas Jefferson University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) will strive to demonstrate that the light emitted by solid-state lighting can improve the health and well-being of hospital workers and patients over the light of conventional fluorescent lights.
  • University of California, Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, California) will develop light-emitting diodes with improved energy efficiency, to address long-standing challenges hindering highly efficient, color-mixed solid-state lighting.

Energy and Demand Data, Modeling, and Analytics

  • Fraunhofer USA, Center for Manufacturing Innovation (Brookline, Massachusetts) will use appliance, thermostat, and weather-station data to train a machine learning model to automatically forecast device loads and perform model-predictive control-based load management.
  • Project Haystack (Glen Allen, Virginia) will create a validation and accreditation framework to standardize metadata templates across grid-interactive efficient buildings and energy management information system platforms.

Comprehensive Electric Load Optimization

  • Otherlab Inc. (San Francisco, California) will demonstrate the effectiveness of battery-integrated appliances to shift electrical loads on utility grids in response to demand.

The following 21 projects were selected under Topic Area 2, Advanced Building Construction:

Mass Produced Highly Efficient Manufactured Homes and Portable Classrooms

  • Systems Building Research Alliance (New York, New York) will collaborate with home manufacturers, product suppliers, and customers to develop cost-effective solutions for net-zero-energy manufactured homes.

Building Envelope Research, Development, and Field Validation

  • Alpen High-Performance Products Inc. (Louisville, Colorado) will demonstrate the ability to fabricate dynamic glazing with insulation performance greater than R-6 in a decentralized fashion, allowing it to access economies of scale that can reduce its price.
  • InventWood, LLC (College Park, Maryland) will engineer new vacuum insulation panels (VIPs) with a novel structure composed of low-cost nanoporous wood chips. These VIPs can potentially deliver an overall panel insulation of R15, minimize edge losses, and increase service life while costing less than $1 per square foot for an inch-thick panel.
  • Liatris Inc. (Bethesda, Maryland) will develop nanocomposite R-10 insulation board using high-volume, low-cost processes, resulting in a total cost per R superior to current insulation products. Liatris plans to collaborate with a manufacturing partner to utilize this isolation in off-site manufacturing of passive homes, improving home performance in cold climates and reducing flammability and embodied emissions.
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology (Newark, New Jersey) will design, prototype, install, test, and evaluate a high-performance residential wall retrofit that can achieve estimated heating and cooling energy savings of 30% or more. The retrofit includes a two-component barrier system that resists temperature differentials, air, and water; a re-engineered window surround; and a high-performance storm window that supplements rather than replaces conventional windows.
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Oak Ridge, Tennessee) will use state-of-the-art simulation tools and machine learning to develop novel insulation materials that exceed R-10/in. without vacuum at a competitive cost per R.
  • Tynt Technologies (Boulder, Colorado) will develop market-ready dynamic windows manufactured with reversible metal electrodeposition. This process is much cheaper than current dynamic window manufacturing methods and has the potential to reduce the sale price of dynamic windows by more than 50%.
  • University of Colorado Boulder (Boulder, Colorado) will develop thin-film monolithic mesoporous metamaterials that can be applied to new ultrahigh-efficiency glazing solutions. These materials can be used to construct windows with insulating capabilities equal to or greater than conventional walls, allowing buildings to take advantage of daylighting without compromising thermal efficiency.

Advanced Workforce for Advanced Technology:

  • The Architectural Solar Association (Boulder, Colorado) will develop a continuing education program for the design, construction, and economics of integrating solar energy generating equipment into a building’s structure. The program will connect solar and building industry stakeholders to promote architectural solar innovation and deployment.
  • The Association of Energy Services Professionals (Phoenix, Arizona) will develop and deliver a series of online courses on grid-interactive, demand-flexible energy technologies for energy efficiency and demand management professionals.
  • Frontier Energy Inc. (San Ramon, California) will create a self-sustaining, replicable program to provide ongoing education on quality HVAC services. The program will provide several different curricula to train students on HVAC installation, maintenance techniques, and the benefits of energy-efficient HVAC products and services.
  • International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology (Denver, Colorado) will develop and validate a new curriculum to train HVAC technicians in the design, installation, and maintenance of cold climate air source heat pumps in existing residential and small commercial buildings.
  • Momentum Innovation Group LLC (Jersey City, New Jersey) will create a Workforce Development Platform to allow individuals entering the building workforce to access training content and job opportunities. The Workforce Development Platform will be scalable nationwide, integrate classroom and hands-on training, and allow potential employers to easily connect with students.
  • New Buildings Institute Inc. (Portland, Oregon) will develop educational resources to help design and construction professionals design and install building electrification technology. The resources will specifically target electrified space and water heating systems, and the project team will engage with partners at the local and national level to tailor their resources to the needs of building professionals.
  • The New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (Santa Fe, New Mexico) will develop, deliver, and evaluate continuing education and training on New Mexico’s updated energy efficiency codes and policies. This training will allow the state’s energy workforce to adapt to the new policies and better take advantage of the increasing demand for energy-efficient building technologies.
  • Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (Lexington, Massachusetts) will collaborate with several partner organizations to produce on-demand training tools for the building workforce and issue a new “Total Energy Pathways” certification to workers through the Building Performance Institute.
  • Northeastern University (Boston, Massachusetts) will develop a 14-hour curriculum that teaches entry-level building operators about the operation of grid-interactive efficient buildings. The curriculum will include a hands-on building operation demonstrator that integrates building energy simulation with real-world building automation system hardware and interfaces to simulate the effects of automated systems on building energy dynamics.
  • Pennsylvania State University (University Park, Pennsylvania) will create a multi-institution consortium to develop building engineering curricula, including fundamental skills in programming and data science and training in the use of modeling technologies such as EnergyPlus and Modelica.
  • Slipstream Group Inc. (Madison, Wisconsin) will develop an advanced-level college curriculum on smart building technologies for architectural engineering and other building technology-related programs. The course will use hands-on tools including building energy modeling and simulation and an integrated building energy and control testbed with a small-scale automation system to teach smart building system design, control, integration, and interactions with distributed energy resources and the grid.
  • The Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (Atlanta, Georgia) will develop training resources on electrified building systems such as electric heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, electric vehicle charging systems, and battery storage systems. These resources will help members of the workforce learn how to educate consumers on the benefits of these technologies.
  • Washington State University (Pullman, Washington) will develop a curriculum on the design and construction of high-performing, energy-efficient residential buildings. The curriculum will provide students with an interdisciplinary grounding in building science, and address skill gaps in efficient building construction identified by DOE.