Funding will advance low-carbon building materials, processes, and technologies through the 2021 BTO Laboratory CRADA Call

U.S. homes and commercial buildings consume a staggering 40% of the country’s total energy. To help decarbonize the built environment without sacrificing occupant comfort, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Building Technologies Office (BTO) has awarded $8.6 million to accelerate the commercialization of 20 research projects through a recent laboratory cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) call.

“We cannot meet clean energy goals without addressing building technology,” said Erika Gupta, acting manager of the BTO Emerging Technologies program. “This investment will accelerate the commercialization of U.S. building technologies and create new, clean energy jobs for Americans in construction, skilled trades, and engineering professions.” 

The 2021 BTO Laboratory CRADA Call leveraged the expertise of its national laboratories by funding collaborative projects that involve one or more national laboratories and non-lab partners. The awards announced today will fund the following projects across six areas of interest (AOI):

AOI 1: Automated and Continual Commissioning of Building Energy Management Systems

  • Rapid, Low-Cost, Dynamic Commissioning and Integration of Sensors
    Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and PARC, A Xerox Company
    ORNL and PARC will develop and test a novel technology for low-cost, high-speed sensor commissioning in commercial and residential buildings by using augmented reality and mesh networking. This technology is intended to enable energy savings and the adoption of new control systems while significantly reducing installation time and the cost of sensor commissioning.
  • Compressor is a Sensor
    ORNL and Emerson Commercial and Residential Solutions
    ORNL will partner with Emerson to develop an accurate charge fault detection and diagnosis (FDD) technology that can be embedded in existing compressor sensor boards. This real-time technology automatically identifies refrigerant charge fault during regular heat pump commissioning operation and makes refrigerant charge value available at the technician’s fingertips.
  • Scalable Digitized Design and Deployment of Control and FDD for Commercial Buildings
    Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Carrier Corporation, and Automated Logic Corporation
    This project will establish a workflow for model-based development, deployment, and automatic configuration of next-generation control solutions and system-level FDD. Carrier will have the opportunity to pioneer and commercialize controls through a repeatable process that can be scaled across industry through an open, digital format to address energy efficiency, indoor air quality (IAQ), resilience, and grid flexibility. 

AOI 2: Advancing Optimization-Based Autonomous Building Energy Management

  • Autonomous Energy Management Software (AEMS) System for Small Commercial Buildings in Support of Decarbonization
    Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and R&B Technology Group
    PNNL and R&B Technology Group will work to develop and validate a system to continuously optimize energy consumption and maximize decarbonization benefits within small commercial buildings. Key objectives include increasing operating efficiency, reducing energy costs, improving occupant comfort, providing resilient operations during extreme weather events, reducing emissions, automating load shaping, and developing a pathway for commercial deployment in small commercial buildings.
  • A Low-Cost, Scalable Control Solution for Grid-Interactive Small and Medium-Sized Commercial Buildings
    LBNL, ActiveBAS, and Community Energy Labs
    This partnership will develop a low-cost, fully automated, and highly scalable control solution for small and medium-sized commercial buildings. Research will be aimed at developing an affordable control solution for grid responsiveness, reducing greenhouse gas and utility cost, and rapid adoption in the marketplace. The work will include assessing the business potential of the solution at multiple sites as well as performing commercialization efforts. 
  • Smart Electrical Panel-Based Home Energy Management System
    National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Span.IO
    NREL will collaborate with Span.IO to develop, validate, and demonstrate a smart electrical panel-based home energy management system to enable high-value applications such as utility bill reduction, decarbonization, enhanced resilience, automated FDD, and auto-calibration and self-learning. 

AOI 3: Envelope Technologies 

  • Prototyping A New Bio-Based, High-Performing, and Low Carbon Hemp-Fiber Continuous Insulation Sheathing Product
    Argonne National Laboratory, ORNL, and Hempitecture
    This project will test, evaluate, and optimize prototype designs to provide American consumers with a cost-competitive, nontoxic, and low-embodied carbon continuous insulation sheathing product to increase a building's energy efficiency.
  • Evaluating the Energy Savings Potential of Buildings Constructed with Mass Wood Building Envelopes
    ORNL and International Mass Timber Alliance
    ORNL and the International Mass Timber Alliance will seek to demonstrate the effective thermal performance of mass timber building components in multiple climate zones. The project will help optimize the design of energy-efficient mass timber buildings, ultimately contributing to the decarbonization of building construction and design optimization of energy-efficient mass timber buildings.
  • Developing a Database of Bio-Based Materials Used in Building Envelope Applications
    ORNL and Passive House Institute US
    This project will produce and publish a database of key material properties of bio-based materials that would be used in building envelope applications. Data will be made available to the designer community to encourage the substitution of bio-based materials for traditional building products, aiding in the decarbonization of the buildings sector.
  • Packaged Integrated Heat Pump Coupled with a Two-Stream Liquid Desiccant System for Sensible and Latent Energy Storage in Building Envelope
    ORNL and Emerson Commercial and Residential Solutions
    ORNL and Emerson will perform laboratory verification and field demonstration of a 1.25-ton packaged vertical integrated heat pump to meet occupant comfort needs and provide energy storage to shift peak load. The integrated heat pump will use a cost-effective three-stage scroll compressor, coupled with a liquid desiccant dehumidification system. Capabilities will include space cooling, space heating, water heating, and chilled water production while providing an optimum solution for decarbonization and grid-responsive building energy management.
  • Integration of Thermally Anisotropic Building Envelopes with Thermal Energy Storage and Advanced Controls to Tailor HVAC Loads
    ORNL and MCA
    ORNL and MCA will further the deployment of a thermally anisotropic building envelope (TABE) system by investigating a method for prefabricating TABE panels and integrating them with thermal energy storage and advanced controls. The work will accelerate TABE system deployment and maximize energy savings benefits and grid services.

AOI 4: Advanced Water Heating Technologies and Energy Efficient Appliances 

  • Thermoelectric Heat Pump Water Heater Priced for Mass Market Deployment with 30% Less CO2
    ORNL and A. O. Smith Corporation 
    This project will develop a mass-market-ready packaged prototype heat pump water heater based on thermoelectric heat pump technology that delivers a Uniform Energy Factor (UEF) of 1.25, which is 30% higher than the best available electric resistance heater. Innovative packaging of readily available technologies will result in a product with an approximate retail price of $525, offering a one-year payback, and suitable to compete in the 5 million unit-per-year mass market of electric resistance units.
  • Low Charge Heat Pump Water Heater Using Propane
    ORNL and Rheem Manufacturing Company
    Rheem Manufacturing Company and ORNL will develop a low-charge heat pump water heater (HPWH) that uses propane to potentially replace gas water heating while achieving a 24-hour UEF higher than 3.3. The propane HPWHs will feature a compact double-wall submerged condenser and microchannel condenser. The use of lower-cost propane as a refrigerant would also position U.S. manufacturers to better compete in the global water heating market.
  • MaxTech Heat Pump Water Heater Using Ultra-Low Global Warming Potential Refrigerants
    ORNL and A.O. Smith Corporation 
    ORNL will work with A.O. Smith Corporation to develop a 110-volt HPWH with a UEF higher than 3.7, featuring ultra-low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant and an acceptable charge for safety. The major objectives include the evaluation of packaged and split configurations in terms of performance, footprint and refrigerant charge, and modifications at the component and system levels to maximize the performance and reduce the total refrigerant charge in the system.

AOI 5: Building Electric Appliances, Devices, and Systems (BEADS) 

  • Grid-Interactive, Resilient Lighting and Plug Load Management System Using Direct Current Power 
    LBNL and Legrand
    Legrand and LBNL will develop forward-looking direct current (DC) power distribution standards with integrated data and power communications and flexible storage architecture. Through market analysis, storage architecture analysis, development of use cases, prototyping, testing, and validation, this project will pursue one of only a few viable options to fully integrate lighting and plug loads with control systems and grid flexibility.  
  • A Self-Standing DC Home Network that Simultaneously Reduces Standby Losses and Powers Critical Loads During Power Outages
    LBNL and Belkin International 
    Belkin and LBNL will construct a stand-alone DC Home Energy Router (HERo) to provide resilience during outages with flexible distributed energy resources (DER) power delivery options (PoE, USB, 48-V DC, and AC). The fully fabricated HERo system with optimized power negotiation protocols may be used to meet high consumer demand for products to help withstand power outages.

AOI 6: Scale-Up and Manufacturing of Emerging Building Technologies 

  • Evaluation of Low Environmental Impact “Distributed Scroll Booster” Technology for Supermarket Refrigeration
    ORNL and Emerson Climate Technologies
    ORNL and Emerson Climate Technologies will evaluate a novel scroll booster system for refrigeration applications using ultra-low GWP refrigerant. The project will demonstrate the system’s feasibility and CO2 emissions reductions, enabling the commercialization of environmentally friendly supermarket refrigeration systems.
  • Next-Generation Hydronic Heat Delivery for High-Efficiency Heating Systems
    Brookhaven National Laboratory, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and SlantFin Corp.
    This project includes analysis and demonstration of a forced-flow baseboard convector retrofit that can be added to an existing hydronic baseboard unit to allow it to provide its rated heat output with substantially lower water temperatures. This easy-to-install retrofit option incorporates low-voltage DC fans and high-performance flow distributors to increase the airflow through traditional baseboard devices.
  • Al-Ce Alloy-Based Compact Heat Exchanger for Refrigerant Charge Reduction and Unprecedented Durability
    ORNL and Eck Industries
    ORNL and Eck Industries will develop a die-casted Al-Ce heat exchanger with excellent performance and 50% lower material cost than state-of-the-art condensing heat exchangers used in commercial furnaces. This project aims to provide a more durable replacement for costly microchannel heat exchangers with a reduction in manufacturing costs of at least 50% through a scalable manufacturing process. Work includes lab-scale and field demonstration of the heat exchangers, which will use emerging refrigerants for an unprecedented reduction in refrigerant charge inventory, manufacturing cost, and footprint with an extended operational life. 
  • Real-Sim: Enhancing Energy-Aware Real Estate Decisions via Climate-Informed Building Simulation
    ORNL and LightBox
    This project will combine building models from ORNL’s Automatic Building Energy Modeling (AutoBEM) and parcel data from LightBox’s county-level tax assessors’ databases with climate change scenarios to enhance energy-aware, climate-informed real estate decisions for over 350,000 existing users. 

Awardees were selected based on peer review by outside scientific experts. Projects announced today are selections for negotiation of financial award. The final details for each project award are subject to final negotiations between DOE, national labs and project partners.  

BTO develops, demonstrates, and accelerates the adoption of cost-effective technologies, techniques, tools, and services that enable high-performing, energy-efficient, and demand-flexible residential and commercial buildings in both the new and existing buildings markets. 

For more information about BTO initiatives, visit the Building Technologies Office.