How Do We Decarbonize the U.S. Housing Stock?

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The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Building America Program, through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), opened a request for proposals (RFP) for multidisciplinary expert teams to address hard-to-solve technical challenges of decarbonizing the existing U.S. housing stock.

“This new generation of Building America industry teams will put building science experts on the ground in communities that are tackling the hardest challenges of decarbonizing homes in their region,” said Eric Werling, Building America director. “The Building America Retrofit Solutions Teams will leverage technical expertise and grassroots community knowledge to create collaborative research and demonstration projects in real-world homes that will accelerate local deployments of highly energy-efficient, durable, and healthy home upgrades. Building America has done it before with new homes. The program is now focused on scalable retrofit solutions needed to meet President Biden’s goal of cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.”

Building America, which receives technical support from NREL, has worked closely with industry experts to make homes more energy efficient for more than 25 years. NREL provides scientific leadership and building science expertise to Building America that ensures rigorous quality standards and high-impact results from research and projects. NREL develops and manages a portfolio of field validation and demonstration projects and strengthens research quality by providing technical expertise from project scope development to experimental design and project execution. Along with the new retrofit initiative, NREL currently manages Building America’s subject matter expert program, funding opportunity announcement projects, and other lab work.

“This effort will help communities meet their decarbonization goals by developing and validating scalable retrofit solutions,” said Lena Burkett, a building science research engineer with NREL who provides technical research management for the Building America Program. “We are connecting people on the ground who know the housing needs of their communities best with the capabilities to implement scalable, impactful housing retrofit solutions that will meaningfully reduce carbon emissions around the country.”

Projects that result from the RFP will be executed locally at a grassroots level, empowering local organizations to meet the needs of their own communities while also demonstrating solutions that can be replicated in other communities. Applicant teams will consist of community organizations, research institutions, utility and industry trades, and other appropriate experts. Teams selected through the RFP will develop projects focused on reducing carbon emissions from homes through retrofit solutions. They will collaborate with DOE, national laboratories, and other industry experts to support community-focused retrofit projects. These projects will address technical challenges through field validation and demonstration, measurement and verification, and workforce training. This work will demonstrate equitable and scalable residential retrofit solutions and will produce guidance for broader implementation in communities across the country.

“To meet the goal of net-zero carbon emissions, we need proven and replicable solutions to reduce energy use and decarbonize the existing housing stock,” Burkett said. “This requires understanding and centering the needs of underserved households and communities. Our success depends on meaningfully integrating energy justice throughout our work.”

The retrofit RFP is open through May 31, 2023.

Teams consisting of the following should apply:

  • Team lead: Engage with multiple communities to identify needs and appropriate solutions to challenges; lead and coordinate retrofit demonstration and validation projects
  • Research member: Apply energy and building science expertise; modeling, design, analysis, and best practice expertise; conduct data collection
  • Implementation member: Provide extensive knowledge of programmatic levers, models, and limitations; demonstrated capabilities in retrofit deployment; navigate finance mechanisms and incentive structures
  • Industry member: Provide perspective informed by market conditions on integration and installation challenges and opportunities; align technical solutions with business models.

By Patrick Hayes. Courtesy of National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

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