Building America Program – Frequently Asked Questions

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This page presents Frequently Asked Questions about the Building America program, with answers by program managers.

How long has the Building America program been in existence?
Since 1994, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Building America Program has worked to engineer the American home for energy efficiency, affordability, durability, and comfort. Building America works with national laboratories and research teams to develop and implement innovative building processes and technologies that save builders and homeowners millions of dollars in construction and energy costs.

Who are the Building America teams and labs?
The Building America teams are industry consortia of experts in the field of residential building science, and have access to world-class builder partners, and priceless field experience. Currently, there are 10 research teams. Learn more about the teams and their areas of focus.

The Building America national laboratories support the overall mission of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The labs maintain consistent capabilities for the Building America including unique laboratory facilities, decision-making software tools, and key personnel. Learn more about the labs and their areas of focus.

How are the Building America teams selected?
Historically, Building America teams are selected through a competitive process with awards for 3-5 years.

What is the process the Building America program follows from research to implementation?
For innovative building energy technologies and systems to be viable candidates over conventional approaches, it must be demonstrated that they can increase overall product value and quality while significantly reducing energy use cost effectively on a production basis. Systems research is conducted at multiple scales, including individual test houses, pre-production houses, and community-scale developments. There are three levels of market maturity that must be met before a new system can have a broad market impact on new homes:

  1. The system must meet minimum builder and contractor performance and reliability requirements and provides high potential value to builders, contractors, and homeowners.
  2. Design and construction details for integration of the new system into homes must be understood and accepted by builders, contractors, and local code officials. Costs and benefits have been validated based on construction of one or more pilot homes.
  3. Training, quality assurance and quality control requirements for the system must be understood and accepted by suppliers, builders, and subcontractors so that homes using the system can be built on a production basis.

Each maturity level establishes go/no-go requirements that must be met before a system can move on to the next level of maturity. Learn more about this approach by visiting the Research page on the Building America website.

What are the current research projects for this year?
Technology areas include but are not limited to: thermal enclosure, low-load HVAC, efficient water heating, automated home energy management, analysis, and program support. View the research project matrix for 2014, by teamtechnology, or building type.

Does Building America provide consulting advice to individuals or companies about constructing high performance homes?
The Building America program is dedicated to large-scale research and demonstration efforts and as such, is not a technical assistance program. However, you can find real-life examples of research in the field by searching the Building America Solution Center or the Building America Publications Library, and by reading case studies of new and existing homes by climate zone.

I am a builder or a manufacturer—how do I participate with the program to get my house or product tested?
Builders, contractors, and manufacturers who voluntarily participate in Building America projects are referred to as Building America Partners. Partners are selected by Building America research teams and labs that have historically proposed research projects on an annual cycle (with major project development in the May-July timeframe). The research teams and labs are the first source to go to if you would like to be involved in the program, and can quickly assess if your project is a good fit for the Building America program.

Building America Partners are required to provide a written commitment to participate, with a minimum 20% cost share of the total project cost. The commitment to our research goals is absolutely necessary and in some cases, potential partners would prefer to hire some of our teams or labs as consultants outside of the Building America program.

What are some of the most impactful technologies and practices coming out of Building America research?
Building America research has resulted in more than 40 major innovations that are critical to high-performance new and existing homes. These innovations cover every facet of the building industry, including: energy efficient components, whole-house packages for new and existing homes, metrics and research tools, and education, codes, and transaction process improvements. Read about all of the Building America Top Innovations awarded to date.

My company has developed a technology that employs some innovative techniques for home energy efficiency. How do I submit a project for a “Building America Top Innovations” award?
Currently, only participating Building America teams and DOE national laboratories are eligible to compete for Building America Top Innovation awards, presented annually for outstanding Building America research achievements. Building America Top Innovations also recognize the vital contributions of partners, including builders, contractors, and manufacturers who help develop and demonstrate the top innovations. Building America may recognize top innovations from organizations outside Building America in the future. You may subscribe to updates about Building America, which would notify you about opportunities like this as they become available. 

How can I stay informed about Building America news and activities?
The Building America Update is a monthly online newsletter that provides the latest information about technologies, tools, events, and publications. Subscribe now to keep current on program news