So much information about residential construction exists today that builders and other contractors might say it’s become a cottage industry unto itself. The challenge today isn’t finding information; it’s finding the right information. That’s why the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Building Technologies Office (BTO) established the Building America Solution Center through its Building America program a decade ago. It sets the record straight with vetted, researched, and proven building science concepts and technologies that users can trust.
The nation needs access to high-quality building science education and practices. For example, as new building codes are introduced to meet the increasing demands for enhanced home energy performance and quality, it is critical that stakeholders be equipped with information and an understanding of high-performance home benefits. The on-demand availability of building science resources also supports workforce development, informing the current and future generation of builders of ways to properly execute modern building envelope and retrofit strategies.
Introduced nearly 30 years ago, Building America continues to be an innovator in residential building energy performance, durability, affordability, and comfort. Industry organizations, contractors, builders, program implementers, manufacturers, DOE’s national laboratories, research teams, and subject matter experts are just some of the stakeholders Building America has reached and bring the program’s vision to life. The research led by industry teams and builder partners advances cutting-edge innovations, practices, and resources to the market to decarbonize homes while centering equity and benefits in communities across the country. As measured today, Building America demonstrations were instrumental in the growth and adoption of the ENERGY STAR® Homes program, which has certified well over 2,000,000 homes to date. Furthermore, many provisions of the latest building energy codes (e.g., IECC 2021) were first demonstrated through Building America projects in previous decades.
To help foster and accelerate market adoption by residential building professionals – including builders, remodelers, installers, code officials, designers, raters, sales professionals, teachers, and students – Building America offers no-cost, building science web-based tools and resources for the public through the Building America Solution Center (BASC). The Building America Solution Center is a community-driven, web-based tool that distills Building America’s research work and provides access to expert information on hundreds of high-performance construction topics like air-sealing and insulation, heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) components, windows, indoor air quality, disaster resilience, and much more. Users are encouraged to submit comments for feedback and content suggestions to help continuously improve the Solution Center. The BASC includes construction guides, building science reports, energy-efficiency specifications, and sales tools for new and existing homes. Today, the BASC has over 1 million registered users and over 8 million site visits since it came online in 2013.
“I love the idea of a one-stop shop for well-vetted and research-based information on how to make our homes more efficient, durable, and healthier to live in. The organization, format, and language makes it useful for builders and contractors, yet quite accessible for a homeowner,” said a university professor teaching building science to architecture and engineering students.
The BASC has experienced tremendous growth in the past five years, including a 25% annual increase in new users and webpage visits. The tool continues to prove itself as an invaluable resource with a robust library of vetted research and expert guidance on high-performance construction topics to the community.
A director of a nonprofit that builds low-income housing uses BASC “for a number of reasons: Number one, we use it in our training center to expand upon building science training principles. Number 2, we use it to help make our contractors more aware of the concepts used in designs and projects. Number 3, we encourage our architects and engineers [to use BASC], and number 4, I use it to research details to reinforce building solutions we routinely use with code officials and skeptics.”
This year, Building America introduced Building Science Advisor (BSA), Building America’s newest web tool developed by researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Building Science Advisor provides expert guidance on the moisture durability and energy efficiency of new and retrofit wall assembly designs. BSA’s simple, intuitive user interface helps architects, designers, contractors, and builders specify energy-efficient, moisture-durable wall systems. BSA can also be used as a fun and informative educational tool to accelerate workforce training on building science and moisture durability. The tool leverages expert knowledge and a database of thousands of pre-simulated hygrothermal models to provide rapid feedback and expert guidance on wall assembly design that’s tailored to the user’s location.
For three decades, Building America has been an innovative go-to resource for enhanced home energy performance and quality for the residential construction community. This program continues to raise the bar of accessible building science education through cutting-edge building science research that aims to develop the solutions, best practices, and resources needed to advance energy efficiency in homes. But the builders and contractors who follow Building America’s guidance give residents more than an energy-smart home. They’re getting a healthier home to live in and one that’s more resilient to power outages and the growing consequences of climate change. And the industries who build them benefit, too; new technologies open new business models for builders and installers, which help them differentiate themselves from the market with a superior product.
Resources such as the Building America Solution Center and the Building Science Advisor are some of the easiest and most accessible ways industry workers can access building science information. The steady increase in new users, webpage visits, and user testimonials demonstrate the growing success of these tools, as well as Building America’s commitment to building science education and high-performing residential buildings.
Learn more by visiting the Building America homepage.