Lead Performer: Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) – Oak Ridge, TN
-- Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) – Berkeley, CA
-- National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) – Golden, CO
FY16 DOE Funding: $600,000
Project Term: October 1, 2015 – September 30, 2018
Funding Type: Direct Lab Funding

Project Objective

ORNL, alongside LBNL and NREL, will evaluate the performance of novel air barrier systems and aid the market adoption of air barrier systems with a high potential of reducing the energy losses in buildings due to air leakage. This will be conducted through field tests of approximately 25 buildings and homes where buildings constructed with newer air barrier systems will be evaluated with blower door testing. This work will examine the relationship between energy efficiency and costs associated with commonly used and novel air barrier systems, including variability in the performance of these air barriers to due workmanship and natural product inconsistencies.

ORNL is also supporting the development and validation of the Fraunhofer Attic Thermal Model (FATM), which is an attic and roof deck heat transfer model. The computer code for FATM will be merged into the physics engine in EnergyPlus to enhance EnergyPlus estimates of heat gains and losses in building attics and thus improve the accuracy of energy and cost savings estimates from various interventions for new construction and building retrofit that aim to improve attics.  Evaluation of winter and summer conditions in cathedralized attics will be incorporated into FATM in FY16 and FY17, respectively.

Building off of work conducted in collaboration with several industry partners, ORNL is developing an insulated vinyl siding with integrated low-cost vacuum insulated panels (so called “modified atmosphere insulation” panels) to be used for residential buildings at siding replacement to significantly increase the overall insulation value of the walls. The proposed design will offer R-20 insulation performance in 2 inches of overall thickness.

Project Impact

Air leakage in buildings is responsible for about 4 quads of energy use per year, the largest contributor to heating energy loss in the residential and commercial sectors. Consequently, DOE’s 2014 Windows and Building Envelope Roadmap lists air sealing technologies as a top priority research area that has the technical potential to save 1,600 TBtu by 2030. Since traditional air barrier systems may be limited in reducing energy loss, researching and testing novel air barrier systems is critical to the development of more energy efficient air barrier technologies. Improved air tightness of building envelopes is also a growing requirement in voluntary and mandatory codes, which will affect the pace of market growth for energy-efficient building envelope and window technologies.


DOE Technology Manager: Sven Mumme
Lead Performer: Andre Desjarlais, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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