Building America Technology-to-Market Roadmaps Request for Information: Deadline April 30, 2015

Building America needs your input! The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a request for information (RFI) to gather industry feedback for three Technology-to-Market Roadmaps that address technical challenges for low-load homes in these building systems: moisture-managed envelope; optimal heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning; and indoor air quality and ventilation. Successfully meeting these critical challenges will help transform the market for new zero energy ready homes and boost the energy efficiency and performance of existing homes across the nation. Feedback from this RFI will be used to develop a new Building America Research-to-Market Plan and develop future Building America funding opportunity announcements to encourage industry collaboration. Submit comments by 5 p.m. ET on April 30, 2015.

Building America Research Teams: Spotlight on Home Innovation and PARR Teams

This issue continues our series of profiles about the Building America research teams—multidisciplinary industry partnerships that work to make high-performance homes a reality for all Americans. This month’s issue spotlights Partnership for Home Innovation and Partnership for Advanced Residential Retrofits.

Partnership for Home Innovation

The Partnership for Home Innovation (PHI) is led by Home Innovation Research Labs, a full-service research, testing, and consulting firm that focuses on improving the quality, durability, affordability, and performance of single- and multifamily homes and homebuilding products. Founded in 1964 as a subsidiary of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Home Innovation leverages its premier accredited product testing lab, market research facility, third-party testing and certification credentials, and longstanding relationship with industry to advance the performance, quality, and affordability of new and existing homes. Vladimir Kochkin, director of applied research, explains, “Our team vision is to develop and field-test practical solutions for high-performance homes that builders can implement with confidence. Innovation that works today and adds long-term value to the consumer is the key focus of our efforts and the primary benchmark for success.”

Home Innovation’s technical capabilities bridge science and construction in the areas of energy, durability, structural performance, mechanical equipment, and sustainability. This often results in building code changes that remove barriers to industry-wide implementation of innovations. For example, the team’s laboratory studies of structurally safe and efficient high-performance walls helped establish a design methodology for analysis of walls with exterior rigid foam sheathing under wind pressure loading to improve disaster resistance. This research led to a Building America Top Innovation award and provided a scientific basis for ANSI Standard FS 100-2012 for wind pressure resistance, which is now referenced in model building codes across the United States. The team won another Top Innovation award for its cost-effective advanced framing techniques that improve the thermal performance of an enclosure, reduce building costs, and simplify the construction process. This technology solution drove amendments to the 2015 International Residential Code and was adopted by production builders Winchester Homes and Camberley Homes to help meet the project goals of replicability on production scale and cut whole-house energy use by 30%.

In 2006, Building America set a goal to prove that cost-neutral energy savings of 40% over code were possible for builders of new homes in every U.S. climate zone. To achieve exceptional cost savings, Home Innovation worked with a wide range of production and custom builders to develop standardized and market-ready energy-efficient solutions for building envelope and HVAC systems. PHI engaged Urbane Homes to develop its first home using advanced framing, frost-protected foundations, ducts in conditioned space, and exterior walls with extruded polystyrene rigid foam. This high-performance home cost $36/ft2—well below the local average—and won three major building awards along with a Top Innovation for the team. Home Innovation has been collaborating with K-Hovnanian homes and its trade partners at several test sites across different climate zones on developing optimized HVAC solutions focusing on duct performance improvements. Currently, the team is working with Greenbelt Homes Inc. on multiyear pilot energy-efficiency retrofit project that will upgrade more than 1,500 circa-1930 to 1940 homes. This project features an unsubsidized, market-driven effort of a dedicated community of homeowners that strive to improve the performance of their residence and who see value in energy and durability upgrades. Through a unique vocational program at the Lancaster County Career and Technology Center, the team helps students gain hands-on construction experience in building high-performance homes. This collaboration resulted in the Green Home 3, which achieved a 44% whole-house energy savings and DOE Zero Energy Ready Home and National Green Building Standard Gold-level certifications. Clearly, the team is committed to developing the next generation of building science professionals—the team also serves as the technical lead for DOE's Race to Zero Student Design Competition. As a member of the PHI Team, Southface Institute focuses on advancing energy-efficient technologies in the U.S. southeast region through research, builder and developer engagement, and industry outreach.

Because PHI speaks “builder language” on highly technical topics, it successfully communicates research results and develops strategic tools for the industry. The team won a Top Innovation award for its set of practical quality management resources that smooth the transition to high-performance homes, minimize builder risks, and deliver a consistent message about the value of high-performance homes. Home Innovation developed guidance for the construction quality process from its development for new homes to its application in retrofit of homes. As a tool for communicating best design and construction practices to builders in a short yet effective format, Home Innovation develops Tech Notes on specific issues or technologies. Visit the Home Innovation Research Labs website to learn more.

Partnership for Advanced Residential Retrofit

The Partnership for Advanced Residential Retrofit (PARR), led by the Gas Technology Institute (GTI), represents a unique collaboration between leaders in building science research and energy-efficiency program design and implementation. Since 2009, the team’s goal has been to increase the quality and uptake of residential retrofits by demonstrating innovative, scalable, and cost-effective solutions that enable market transformation. Specifically, the team focuses on cold climates and a systems-based approach to integrating heating and cooling advancements with sound building shell principles. Thus, a significant share of PARR’s research has been devoted to the study of forced-air systems, duct distribution systems, ventilation, and combustion air.

In addition to GTI, PARR’s research and development capacity is amplified by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, Elevate Energy, and the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. Together they wield more than 100 years of combined experience in residential building energy efficiency, encompassing critical roles in regional weatherization training, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program coordination, multifamily building research, and heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems research. Larry Brand, PARR team lead, says, "PARR brings together program expertise, building scientists, field implementation, laboratory testing, codes and standards, and an interconnected network of professionals in a unique way. The team has been pleased to collaborate with other Building America teams and numerous industry partners to address some of the larger questions in the retrofit community."

PARR conducts research, field evaluations, and monitoring of natural gas forced-air furnaces, radon mitigation techniques, combustion safety test procedures, and outdoor temperature-controlled ventilation—then develops practical guidance for industry. For example, PARR’s studies about boosting natural gas furnace efficiency resulted in a measure guideline for HVAC contractors and installers that outlines when to install a high-efficiency gas furnace as a retrofit measure; how to identify and address risks; and steps to take in the selection and installation process. In another study, the team examined the impact of installation practices and equipment degradation on the performance of natural gas furnaces and developed tips for installers to achieve optimal performance. As a leader in combustion safety, PARR developed guidance on how to assess and perform combustion safety procedures for appliances and heating equipment that uses indoor air for combustion. PARR also investigates ways to optimize performance of hydronic heating systems in multifamily buildings in the Chicago area. In one study, the team identified best practices, costs, and savings associated with balancing steam distribution systems through increased mainline air venting, radiator vent replacement, and boiler control system upgrades. Likewise, the team developed a best practice resource for contractors and building owners on ways to upgrade and balance multifamily hydronic systems to improve tenant comfort and lower operating costs. PARR has also developed novel methodologies for characterizing residential housing and evaluating the cost-effectiveness of retrofit measure packages. The team assessed retrofit measure packages in 800 homes that participated in the Illinois Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program and determined the optimal measure mix for each housing archetype using Building Energy Optimization software. The study provides valuable feedback for the current IHP program and guidance into how similar whole-house retrofit programs can use large data sets to improve the cost effectiveness of installed measure packages. PARR’s research and support contributed to the adoption of ASHRAE 62.2, the residential ventilation standard; this effort won a Top Innovation award. Team members serve on ASHRAE technical committees related to forced-air heating and cooling systems, ventilation, and fuels and combustion. Learn more about the PARR team.

ORNL Buildings Crowdsourcing Community Informational Webinar and Deadline

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has launched its new Buildings Crowdsourcing Community website, a new tool to share ideas for innovative energy-efficient technologies for homes and commercial buildings. ORNL invites all innovators—entrepreneurs, designers, buildings scientists, students, and other big thinkers—to submit ideas, comment on posts, and vote on favorite entries by May 31, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Learn more about this opportunity at the webinar, “Participating in the ORNL Buildings Crowdsourcing Community Online,” to be held on Thursday, April 9, 2015 from 2.30–3.30 p.m. ET.

DOE Amends Standards for Water Heaters Effective April 16, 2015

Water heating is, on average, the second largest household energy expense behind space heating, representing about 18% of total household energy consumption in the United States. On April 16, 2015, water heaters will take the next great stride when manufacturers must comply with amended DOE efficiency standards. The most common water heaters manufactured on and after this date will have a modest boost in efficiency; units larger than 55 gallons will shift to next-generation technology, cutting utility bills by one-fourth to one-half depending on the technology. These amended mandatory standards are expected to save $63 billion in energy bill savings and avoid about 172.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions for products manufactured from 2015–2044.

Building America May 20 Webinar: Resolving Codes and Standards Issues to Energy Innovations

Building America brings you free monthly webinars highlighting the latest advances in residential building technologies and practices, presented by Building America research team experts. The May webinar will provide an overview of how Building America has impacted codes and standards in the past through technical and market innovations. Learn about new content on the Building America Solution Center that will help builders meet code requirements and will help code officials apply codes to new and emerging innovations.

Date/Time: May 20, 2015; 3–4:30 p.m. ET
Our presenter for this webinar is Pam Cole, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, who focuses on adoption and compliance of building energy codes work. Ms. Cole is currently involved in Building America’s efforts to resolving codes and standards barriers to innovations and manages the Building Energy Codes program technical support addressing questions about compliance with the residential and commercial energy codes.

Visit the Meetings page to keep current on upcoming webinars and view recordings of past webinars.

2015 Housing Innovation Award Application Period Now Open Through May 31, 2015

The DOE Housing Innovation Awards recognize the very best in innovation on the path to Zero Energy Ready Homes. Applications are now being accepted for homes in the categories of custom, production, multifamily, and affordable homes. Winners will be announced at the 2015 Housing Innovation Awards ceremony held on October 6, 2015, at the EEBA Excellence in Building Conference & Expo in Denver, Colorado. Leading builders who have certified ZERH homes within the last year (April 1, 2014–May 31, 2015) will not want to miss this opportunity for recognition that also includes complimentary registration to the full EEBA conference, a networking poster session following the ceremony, and opportunities to present at the conference education sessions.

Winners receive a customized case study highlighting their winning home that is featured on the Housing Innovation Awards website and in their profile on the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home partner locator. Applications are due May 31, 2015. Contact with any questions about the Housing Innovation Awards or your application.

Building America Solution Center: New Interactive Checklist for EPA Indoor airPLUS Compliance

The Building America Solution Center has added a new feature based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Indoor airPLUS checklist. The Indoor airPLUS program encourages builders to use construction techniques and technologies that can improve the indoor air quality of their homes. The new Solution Center Indoor airPLUS checklist links to guides with step-by-step instructions for meeting each requirement in the EPA Indoor airPLUS checklist. Also, each guide contains scopes of work, climate-specific recommendations, relevant codes and standards, research articles, CAD files, and related photographs and videos builders and contractors can use for training purposes. The new Indoor airPLUS checklist is just one way users can navigate through the Building America Solution Center. The Solution Center also has interactive checklists for ENERGY STAR Version 3.0 and DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home program, an alphabetical listing of guides, a search-by-building component feature, and key word searching and filtering options.

This Month’s Residential Successes: PHI and PARR Research Projects

This month’s residential successes provide examples of impactful research conducted by PHI and PARR teams.

Zero Energy Ready Home News and Trainings

DOE offers two Zero Energy Ready Home technical training webinars in May:

Updates to the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Specs - Rev05

Date/Time: May 13, 2015, noon–1 p.m. ET
Description: In the year since DOE last updated the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home specs, we've continued to track our partner feedback and other industry issues. This brings us to the release of Revision 05, which changes the solar hot water ready provisions to "recommended," incorporates a phase-in period for the new ENERGY STAR window specs, and spells out how the program works in states where the 2012 IECC is in place. This one-hour webinar will cover the key changes in the DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes specs and explain their significance to our builder, rater, and designer partners.

Presenters: Sam Rashkin, DOE; Jamie Lyons, Newport Partners LLC

Lighting Efficiency

Date/Time: May 21, 2015, noon–1 p.m. ET
Description: LED lighting offers efficiency and performance benefits we've never seen in traditional lighting technologies. Commercial buildings have seen rapid growth in LED deployment, and in the residential arena leading builders are now integrating LED lighting packages. And, as with any new building system, there are integration challenges along with the process of consumer understanding and acceptance. This webinar will discuss builder integration of LEDs including specification, costs, design approaches, energy-related benefits, and consumer reactions.

Presenters: David Brignati, architect (Newport Ventures); Brooke Silber, professional lighting designer (Jan & Brooke Luminae)

Be a Citizen Scientist! Help Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory Study Indoor Air Quality

Scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) have spent decades exploring how everyday activities affect indoor air quality. Their recent study, described in Addressing Kitchen Contaminants for Healthy, Low-Energy Homes, found that cooking without proper kitchen ventilation often produces air pollutant levels in homes that exceed outdoor air quality standards.

There is still time to participate in LBNL’s Citizen Scientist Project—the Range Hood Roundup—that gathers information about cooking patterns and kitchen ventilation in U.S. homes. Please help this effort by completing a short survey. LBNL will use the information you provide to develop recommendations for improving indoor air quality and health through better building codes and product standards. The survey will run through September 30, 2015.

Building America in the News (industry trade articles)

Here are recent Building America-related articles in popular national trade publications.

New Publications from Building America

The Building America Publications Library offers an extensive collection of technical reports, measure guidelines, case studies, and other resources to help you boost energy efficiency in new and existing homes. On the library page, you can subscribe to the RSS feed that delivers reports as they are published. Also, the Building America Solution Center links you to expert building science and energy efficiency information based on Building America research results. Here are samples of our most recent publications:

Existing Whole-House Case Study: Sunnyvale Marine Climate Deep Retrofit – Sunnyvale, California
In this project, the Building America team Alliance for Residential Building Innovation and Allen Gilliland of One Sky Homes collaborated on a marine climate retrofit project designed to meet both Passive House and Building America program standards. The scope included sealing, installing wall, roof and floor insulation (previously lacking), replacing windows, and upgrading the heating and cooling system.

Monitoring of Double-Stud Wall Moisture Conditions in the Northeast
Double-stud walls insulated with cellulose or low-density spray foam can have R-values of 40 or higher. However, double-stud walls have a higher risk of interior-sourced condensation moisture damage when compared with high-R approaches using exterior insulating sheathing. Moisture conditions in double-stud walls were monitored in Zone 5A (Massachusetts); three double-stud assemblies were compared.

Apartment Compartmentalization With an Aerosol-Based Sealing Process
Air-sealing of building enclosures is a difficult and time-consuming process. Current methods in new construction require laborers to physically locate small and sometimes large holes in multiple assemblies and then manually seal each of them. The innovation demonstrated under this research study was the automated air sealing and compartmentalization of buildings through the use of an aerosolized sealant, developed by the Western Cooling Efficiency Center at University of California Davis. CARB sought to demonstrate this new technology application in a multifamily building in Queens, New York. The effectiveness of the sealing process was evaluated by three methods: air leakage testing of overall apartment before and after sealing, point-source testing of individual leaks, and pressure measurements in the walls of the target apartment during sealing.

Additional reports and case studies published recently:

Visit the Building America Publications Library to access the entire catalog of publications to help improve the efficiency of new and existing homes.

Want to learn more about Building America or help us spread the word about the program? View the video, “What is Building America?” on DOE’s YouTube channel to learn about how Building America aims to bridge the gap between homes with high energy costs and homes that are healthy, durable, and energy efficient.

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