Building America Update – May 9, 2014

May 9, 2014

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Top Innovation Spotlight: Building America Solution Center and New Features

Whole House Performance
This month's Top Innovation focuses on the Building America Solution Center, a Web-based tool connecting users to fast, free, and expert building science and energy efficiency information based on Building America research results. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory garnered a 2013 Top Innovation award for this tool, which delivers resources on advanced framing, installation of ducts, insulation, HVAC, and more than 150 specific measures for constructing high performance, energy-efficient buildings. On May 9, the Solution Center capabilities will expand to support the U.S. Department of Energy's Zero Energy Ready Home (formerly Challenge Home) program and introduce new mobile apps to enhance user experience.

The Solution Center currently provides technical support for ENERGY STAR® for new homes. Now, it offers a new checklist tool that will match the Zero Energy Ready Home checklist stride for stride to provide technical information for meeting each step. In addition, the Solution Center will include checklists for Environmental Protection Agency's Indoor airPLUS and WaterSense programs.

The Solution Center is also introducing exciting new mobile apps, called Solutions, to provide more tools for registered user access and customization. Registered users can organize relevant content into Field Kits and synchronize Field Kits to their mobile devices with the push of a button. Once synchronized, users can access their customized content anytime, anywhere, with or without cell or Wi-Fi coverage.

Solutions mobile apps are available for Android tablets and smart phones running Android 4.0 or higher, and for iPad and iPhone devices running iOS 7.0 or higher. Android users can download the installer and iOS users can download from the Apple App Store.

Learn about all the Building America Top Innovations.

Student Design Competition for Zero Energy Ready Homes: A Win-Win for Students, Industry, Environment

Group photo of the participants in the Race to Zero student design competition.
Twenty-eight teams from U.S. and Canadian universities competed in the inaugural DOE Challenge Home "Race to Zero" Student Design Competition, hosted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on April 26-28, 2014. The goal of this competition is to inspire the next generation of architects, engineers, construction managers, and entrepreneurs to design affordable homes that are zero energy ready—meaning their high performance features sharply reduce energy use and all or most of the remaining energy use can be offset with renewable energy. Teams presented their zero energy ready home designs to panels of industry experts, who evaluated teams on their design and construction packages, project plans, and energy-saving strategies.

Two teams tied as Grand Award winners: Ryerson University from Toronto, Ontario, for the "Urban Harvest" design, and the combined student team from Onondaga Community College, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and Syracuse University, all of Syracuse, New York, for the "Montage Builders Northern Forest" project. "Applying the building science and design principles we learned in the classroom to a real-world project was an incredible learning experience," said Michelle Tinner, member of the Montage Builders team. "Also, as our team came together from several schools, a key lesson for us was learning how to collaborate to achieve the best design solution within the parameters of the competition." Read details about the winners in several categories and see photos from the competition at the U.S. Department of Energy's news release and blog.

2014 Housing Innovation Awards: Application Period Open

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Housing Innovation Awards recognize the very best in innovation on the path to zero energy ready homes. The 2014 Housing Innovation Awards ceremony will be held on September 23, 2014, at EEBA's Excellence in Building Conference in St. Louis, MO. The awards will recognize leaders from a number of DOE residential building programs, including the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®, and Building America Top Innovations. In addition, DOE will team with the National Consortium of Housing Research Centers to provide an Excellence in Building Science Education award

DOE is now accepting applications for its Home Builder Awards, which will be selected for each of three categories: Custom Builder, Production Builder, and Affordable Home Builder. A single National Grand Award Winner will be announced for each of these categories at the Housing Innovations Award ceremony. Applications are due by June 30, 2014.

Register Now for May Building America Webinar

Building America brings you free monthly webinars highlighting the latest advances in residential building technologies and practices, presented by Building America research team experts. Please join us for the May webinar:

High Performance Building Enclosures: Part I, Existing Homes

Date/Time: May 21, 2014; 3:00 PM EDT
Description: The webinar will focus on specific Building America projects that have implemented technical solutions to retrofit building enclosures to improve energy and durability. Presenters will answer tough questions, such as:

  • How can builders deal with increasing exterior foundation insulation without an excavator?
  • What strategies can be used to improve energy performance of building envelopes while dealing with issues such as ice damming during exterior "overcoat" insulation retrofits?
  • How can deep energy retrofits be conducted with spray foam strategies; what works and what doesn't?

Presenters include:

  • Tom Schirber (NorthernSTAR Building America Partnership), providing strategies for retrofitting exterior foundation insulation without an excavator.
  • Steve Schirber (NorthernSTAR), presenting "Project Overcoat, A Robust Energy Upgrade for 1 1/2-story Homes." This presentation will explain specific techniques that ensure a low-risk, high performance overcoat upgrade on existing homes.
  • Anatasia Herk (IBACOS), presenting strategies for exterior insulation without removing old cladding. This presentation will focus on a project between IBACOS and GreenHomes America that studied different strategies for exterior wall insulation in Syracuse, NY.

Register now! Visit the Building America Meetings website to keep informed about other upcoming webinars.

This Month's Residential Successes: Pacific Northwest New Construction and Retrofit

Each month, Building America highlights examples of high performance home building for new and existing homes across the nation. The May 2014 successes hail from the Pacific Northwest area and show how Building America teams and builders tackle specific challenges in the marine climate zone.

  • Technology Solutions for New Manufactured Homes: The Building America Partnership for Improved Residential Construction team worked with manufacturers in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington to prototype and assess a package of readily available, cost-effective, high performance building assemblies and mechanical systems not commonly deployed in the manufactured home sector.
  • Deep Energy Retrofit of 1910 House: This historic home had no insulation, an unfinished basement, old appliances and air leaks everywhere when purchased by its current owner in 2010. The owner performed a full deep energy retrofit, including air sealing and insulating exterior walls and attic and installed new, efficient appliances, achieving a HERS score of 68.

See more case studies on the Climate-Specific Guidance pages of the Building America website.

Building America in the News

Read the May/June 2014 issue of Home Energy magazine's article titled Effective Strategies for Dealing with Ducts in Unconditioned Spaces by William Zoeller, member of the Building America Consortium for Advanced Residential Buildings team.

DOE Challenge Home Technical Webinars and Trainings

The Challenge Home program offers three DOE Zero Energy Ready technical training webinars in May:

Building Energy Optimization Tool (BEopt) Training

Date/Time: May 15, 2014; 12:00-1:30 PM EDT
Description: This webinar will provide an overview of BEopt™ (Building Energy Optimization) tool. Presenters Scott Horowitz and Craig Christensen from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory will focus on opportunities for builders to improve their home designs by finding the best efficiency measures for their climate and costs. Register.

Leadership Recognition with Housing Innovation Awards

Date/Time: May 21, 2014; 12:00-1:00 PM EDT
Description: Imagine how much your marketing and sales would benefit from being recognized as a national award winner for constructing homes that live better, work better, and last better? Now take action. The U.S. Department of Energy Housing innovation Awards will prominently feature builders in custom, production, and affordable categories who are leading a major housing industry transformation to zero energy ready homes that take the homeowner experience to a whole new level. Learn about the application process and get tips on competing and winning to earn recognition that truly differentiates your homes and your business. Register.

Low-Load HVAC

Date/Time: May 27, 2014; 12:00-1:00 PM EDT
Description: Zero Energy Ready Homes have advanced insulation and draft sealing that reduce energy consumption and enable the design and installation of an engineered comfort system that is significantly smaller than those installed in houses just 10 years ago. This webinar will discuss key issues associated with designing these systems, including the appropriate load calculations (and how they can be manipulated), selection of equipment, duct layout strategies, selection of supply and return air locations, and proper register selection for air mixing in rooms. Register.

Check the Zero Energy Ready Home Events Calendar for trainings in your area, continuing through 2014. This 3.5-hour training provides builders with a comprehensive review of zero energy ready home construction, including the business case, detailed specifications, and opportunities to be recognized as an industry leader.

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 as 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 some of our most recent publications:

Measure Guideline: Combustion Safety for Natural Draft Appliances Using Indoor Air
This measure guideline describes how to assess and carry out the combustion safety procedures for appliances and heating equipment that uses indoor air for combustion in low-rise residential buildings. Only appliances installed in the living space, or in an area freely communicating with the living space, vented alone or in tandem with another appliance, are considered here. This document is for inspectors, auditors, and technicians working in homes where energy upgrades are being conducted, whether or not air infiltration control is included in the package of measures being applied.

Technology Solutions Case Study: Impact of Infiltration and Ventilation on Measured Space Conditioning Energy and Moisture Levels in the Hot-Humid Climate
Air infiltration and ventilation in residential buildings is a very large part of the heating loads, but empirical data regarding the impact on space cooling have been lacking. Moreover, there have been few data on how building tightness might relate to building interior moisture levels in homes in a hot and humid climate. To address this need, BA-PIRC conducted research to assess the moisture and cooling load impacts of airtightness and mechanical ventilation in two identical laboratory homes in the hot-humid climate over the cooling season.

Advanced Envelope Research for Factory Built Housing, Phase 3—Whole-House Prototyping
The Advanced Envelope Research effort will provide factory homebuilders with high performance, cost-effective envelope designs that can be effectively integrated into the plant production process while meeting the thermal requirements of the 2012 IECC standards. This work is part of a multiphase effort; this report describes Phase 3, which was completed in two stages and continued the design development effort, exploring and evaluating a range or methods for applying continuous insulation to factory built homes. The scope also included material selection, manufacturing and cost analysis, and prototyping and testing.

Additional reports published recently are:
Evaluation of Modeled and Measured Energy Savings in Existing All Electric Public Housing in the Pacific Northwest
Measure Guideline: Combustion Safety for Natural Draft Appliances Through Appliance Zone Isolation
BEopt-CA (Ex): A Tool for Optimal integration of Energy Efficiency, Demand Respond, and Photovoltaics in Existing California Homes
Disaggregating Hot Water Use and Predicting Hot Water Waste in Five Test Homes

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 new 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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