Lead Performer: Home Innovation Research Labs Inc. – Upper Marlboro, MD
-- Oak Ridge National Laboratory – Oak Ridge, TN
-- NanoPore – Albuquerque, NM
DOE Total Funding: $500,000
Cost Share: $125,000
Project Term: July 1, 2020 – September 30, 2021
Funding Type: Advanced Building Construction FOA Award

As part of the ABC FOA topic Integrated Building Retrofits, this project is one of a cohort of Phase 1 projects that will design and prototype a technology or approach that provides a deep energy-saving retrofit solution for one or more building energy systems. Once completed, BTO will conduct a competitive review of this project, along with all Phase 1 projects, to down-select recipients for Phase 2 awards that focus on a whole-building deep energy retrofit solution. Phase 2 awardees will develop and field-validate their retrofit solution from Phase 1 on at least two occupied, operational buildings.

Project Objective

This project will develop a thin, lightweight, highly efficient retrofit wall panel that takes advantage of vacuum insulated panel (VIP) technology, which can increase insulation R-value by a factor of five using the same material thickness. The primary deliverable for this project is the integration of VIP technology with off-site fabrication of high-R/thin-profile façade retrofit wall panels that can be delivered to the job site ready for immediate installation: clad and insulated, complete with windows, doors, and outside trim. A recent process simplification called Modified Atmosphere Insulation (MAI) has nearly halved the cost of VIP technology.

VIP-integrated wall panels are a potential game-changer for whole-building retrofits, advantageous for several reasons:

  • Fewer personnel to handle each panel at all locations (factory, transportation, site storage)
  • Storage at each location requires less area
  • Delivery trucks can carry approximately twice the number of wall panels in each load
  • Thinner panels can span on-site transition areas with fewer profile implications
  • Thin, lightweight panels, pre-fitted with windows and the majority of architectural details, can be installed more quickly, reducing site disruption time and enclosing the building faster for protection from inclement weather

The project team will explore multiple solutions, and one or more VIP retrofit wall panel configurations will be developed, analyzed, optimized and presented as prototypes for final development. The design solution will protect VIPs during panel fabrication, transportation, installation, and in use to retain R-value throughout the lifecycle of the panel at a cost that can be absorbed by the financing mechanisms envisioned for the total building retrofit.  A broad range of possibilities for panel fabrication will be explored in consultation with a group of fabricators, including NanoPore, Kingspan and Foard Panel. Initial evaluation of retrofit panels will include brainstorming and comparing multiple approaches, followed by simulation, laboratory prototypes and feasibility demonstrations. The outcome of this project will include a validated retrofit panel design and a method for fabrication, transportation, installation, and inter-connections for attachment to -- and integration with -- the existing building.

Project Impact

This project will integrate VIPs with off-site fabrication of high-R/thin-profile retrofit wall panels for 50% less thickness and 25% less weight than current offerings with the same or better performance and durability, pre-fitted with windows and most architectural details for deep retrofit strategies.


DOE Technology Manager: Sven Mumme
Lead Performer: Patricia K. Gunderson, Home Innovation Research Labs Inc.

Related Publications

Kaushik Biswas, Rohit Jogineedi, and Andre Desjarlais, “Experimental and numerical examination of naturally aged foam-VIP composites,” Energies, June 2019.

Kaushik Biswas, Rohit Jogineedi, Andre Desjarlais, Douglas Smith, “Thermal and aging characterization of stand-alone and foam embedded VIPs for building applications,” 14th International Vacuum Insulation Symposium (IVIS 2019), September 2019.

Kaushik Biswas, Tapan Patel, Som Shrestha, Douglas Smith, and Andre Desjarlais, “Whole building retrofit using vacuum insulation panels and energy performance analysis,” Energy and Buildings, September 2019.

Kaushik Biswas, Andre Desjarlais, Anthony Gehl, Jerald Atchley, John Letts, Jennifer Yao, Mike Hubbard, Russell Glowner, and Douglas Smith, “Installation demonstration and performance evaluation of composite foam-vacuum insulation boards in an occupied building,” ASHRAE Buildings XIV Conference, December 2019.

Andre Desjarlais, Kaushik Biswas, Chris Johnson, Douglas Smith, “Improving the energy efficiency of insulated siding by a factor of five,” ASHRAE Buildings XIV Conference, December 2019.

Patti Gunderson, Vladimir Kochkin, Xiping Wang, “Extended Plate and Beam Demonstration Home," U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory General Technical Report FPL–GTR–250, January 2018.