This summer, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) kicked off their third-annual Innovation Housing Showcase at the National Building Museum with a one-day Pre-Showcase Conference – an event that brought HUD and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) closer together to discuss climate and housing issues. This successful collaboration further supports the working relationship between the U.S. Department of Energy and HUD which utilizes complimentary synergies that help both respective agencies deploy innovative and quality housing solutions faster.
On the Showcase’s first day, industry executives and experts from the White House, HUD, and DOE’s National Labs and Offices of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), State and Community Energy Programs (SCEP), and Electricity (OE) sat down to discuss building sector energy and climate issues; including electrification and electrified housing; federal decarbonization strategies; commercial and utility industry trends; and solar and microgrid energy solutions for housing and communities – all with a comprehensive emphasis on affordable housing. In the days following, the Innovation Housing Showcase moved to the National Mall, where new building technologies and housing solutions were on display for public tours. Between the conference and the event on the mall, thousands of individuals participated.
The National Mall transformed into a ‘HUD hub,’ where Congressional delegates, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, and other VIPs could connect with the public and explore firsthand the latest cutting-edge and cost-effective housing designs and technologies available today. Numerous spin-offs from DOE’s investments were on hand, including those developed by this year’s IMPEL+ cohort and other innovations that have the potential to expand housing availability, reduce construction expenses, enhance energy efficiency and resilience, and lower housing costs for both homeowners and tenants.
Jan Thoren, CEO of NanoArchitech, a woman-owned business that creates non-toxic, sustainable replacements for Portland cement called NanoCeramics, found the event was not only “the perfect time to debut our advanced cementitious composites,” but that they were “encouraged by the enthusiasm for the Neuskyns™ and Fireskyns™ products [we] originally developed at the request of FEMA and HUD,” she said. “The public and constructors are finally ready to Climatize and upgrade public health and safety standards for the challenges we now face.”
Thoren wasn’t the only innovator who found a connection to HUD. Jean Lotus of the U.S. Hemp Building Association was, “delighted when HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge revealed at our booth, she knew all about hemp in building materials, and had encountered industrial hemp about 10 years ago. ‘We thought hemp was a great idea,’ she told us. It shows how HUD and the US Department of Energy are receptive and committed to innovation and nature-based solutions.”
But the showcase wasn’t just for new technologies entering the marketplace for the first time. Critical tools that help consumers make more informed decisions were also featured. Megan Plog, DOE’s Home Energy Score Manager, noted that through her interactions with homeowners, contractors, and policymakers, she was able to educate them on the use cases of Home Energy Score. “These events and interagency conversations are critical towards BTO’s future collaboration with agencies, such as HUD, to provide healthy and affordable homes for all through innovative programs, incentives, and technologies,” she said.
At the pre-conference, Trisha Miller, White House Senior Director for Industrial and Building Emissions, emphasized how important collaborative efforts like the HUD Innovation Showcase are to deliver affordable, resilient, equitable, net-zero, electrified houses. She highlighted the opportunities presented by the Biden-Harris Administration's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, which offer significant opportunities to support climate resilience and decarbonization, with billions allocated towards electrification, home energy rebates, and building performance standards. Miller also acknowledged the need to focus on new construction buildings, as 10 million homes are expected to be built by 2030, requiring ambitious energy codes and standards to meet the nation's energy and resilience goals.
The pre-conference also included a Fireside Chat featuring representatives from HUD, DOE, and EPA who discussed decarbonization strategies for single-family and multi-family buildings. The panel emphasized a "people-centered" perspective, considering the challenges faced by multi-family homes, such as high upfront technology costs and varying utility programs. Various programs within each agency, such as BTO’s Building America and the Buildings Upgrade Prize, address these accessibility challenges by researching and developing cost-effective retrofit solutions and working with disadvantaged communities and financing organizations to mobilize and leverage policy and decarbonization strategy programs. Financial incentives at different levels of government were recognized as motivators for consumers to adopt new technologies, benefiting contractors through workforce development resources and reducing costs while enhancing building value and occupant comfort.
Following this event, the connection between DOE and HUD has only continued to grow. Though this relationship is not new, the phase in which it is entering could not be more salient. More than ever, the challenges of housing the American people continue to grow in complexity and variety, and the inextricable link between housing and quality of life will only continue to strengthen as the world faces more climate disasters and environmental uncertainties. The nation’s ability to provide shelter that is healthy, safe, resilient, and efficient is our first, last and primary means to thriving in this changing world, and DOE and HUD are committed to leading the way.