The Building America Program was created in 1995 by the U.S Department of Energy (DOE). It conducts research on energy efficiency, focusing on the residential building sector. The program has developed over 100 innovations in energy efficient technologies, which continuously help deliver more efficient houses. The technologies delivered by the program improve comfort, durability and air quality, while reducing energy use and carbon emissions.

The Building America program has established the following goals by 2020:

  • Cost-effective deep energy savings of 60% in new homes and 40% in existing homes.
  • Cost- effective savings of at least 5% in key individual technology areas.

Building America has created a three-step strategy to achieve program goals:

  • Step 1: Integrate innovative energy-saving technologies in test homes, to demonstrate reductions in energy consumption.
  • Step 2: Partner with leading developers, to expand the use of energy-saving technologies and prove their market demand.
  • Step 3: Accelerate market-wide adoption of technologies through voluntary programs and energy code moderation.

Some efforts carried out by the Building America program are a solution center, hosted meetings, and research teams  that collaborate with national laboratories.


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Solution Center

The Building America Solution Center is a source of information for building professionals, it includes high-performance designs and other topics related with energy efficiency, such as air sealing and insulation. The solution center also provides an ample database of resources which includes the following:

  • Contracting documents
  • Installation guidance
  • Codes
  • CAD drawings
  • Multimedia: videos, reports and photographs

Meetings

Building America hosts open meetings and webinars for building professionals, industry partners and stakeholders where topics related to residential building research are discussed. This way, the program creates a forum for the building industry, while contributing to ongoing education for construction professionals.

Research Teams

Building America research teams are composed of experts in residential building science. These teams work with DOE research partners, to promote innovations and technologies related with high-performance houses. The end purpose is promoting efficiency and reducing energy use. Some of the main research teams are the following:

  • Building Envelope Materials
  • Building Science Corporation
  • Center for Energy and Environment
  • Gas Technology Institute
  • Home Innovations Research Labs

Building America research projects are held in the US DOE's national laboratories:

  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Building America takes research results to the market, collaborating with the creation of building codes and collaborating with other energy efficiency programs. Some examples are the EPA ENERGY STAR for New Homes, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, and DOE Zero Energy Ready Home program.

Building America Program Outlook

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Building America is focused on developing zero energy ready homes, combined with renewable energy options at affordable prices. As an effort in this direction, the program addresses three key housing technology areas:

  • High-performance moisture-managed envelope solution
  • Optimal comfort systems for low-load homes
  • Optimal ventilation and indoor quality solutions

A 5-year plan has been created, containing one roadmap for each of the three technical challenges. These roadmaps aim towards the following purposes:

  • Capture key industry and market stakeholders in the research process
  • Provide cost-effective, high-performance practical solutions
  • Promote best practices and lessons
  • Manage risks
  • Achieve optimal performance
  • Use code improvements as endpoints

As mentioned before, the main goal of Building America is achieving cost-effective energy savings by researching and developing innovative solutions. The list of innovations delivered by Building America includes the following:

  • Increased insulation in homes through alternative construction techniques.
  • Improvements in heating and cooling systems, through the use of high-efficiency equipment and improved air delivery.
  • Enhanced indoor air quality in homes, through technical solutions and industry guidance (low-cost ventilation).
  • Insulation and air-sealing solutions for attics and basements.
  • Framing systems and packages.
  • High R-value walls
  • Enhanced performance for furnace blowers
  • Simplified duct system layouts
  • Buried encapsulated ducts
  • Outside air ventilation controls

For developers who want to include the latest building technologies in their projects, the best recommendation is working with qualified engineering professionals. They can analyze the specific needs of each building, and propose the combination of energy efficiency measures that yields the highest savings. In the case of new constructions, there is an excellent chance to design high-performance building envelopes, which are more difficult to implement in existing buildings.

 

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