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13. Joint Topic: Advanced Building Construction Technologies

Maximum Phase I Award Amount: $200,000

Maximum Phase II Award Amount: $1,100,000

Accepting SBIR Phase I Applications: YES

Accepting STTR Phase I Applications: YES



The Advanced Building Construction Technologies topic seeks proposals that integrate energy-efficiency solutions into highly productive U.S. construction practices for new buildings and retrofits. This is a joint topic sponsored by the EERE Building Technologies Office (BTO) and the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO), bringing together BTO’s focus on buildings technologies with AMO’s manufacturing materials, processes, and product focus.


This topic supports DOE’s Advanced Building Construction (ABC) initiative, the objective of which is to help realize the vision of a modernized U.S. construction industry that delivers high-performance, low-carbon new buildings and retrofits at scale. ABC approaches are intended to result in residential and commercial buildings that have ultra-efficient energy performance, fast on-site construction, and renovation timelines, and are affordable and provide additional value to owners and tenants through improved aesthetics, comfort, resilience, and occupant health.


ABC technologies and practices focus on a variety of innovations intended to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and the productivity of building construction processes, including: new building materials, 3D printing and other new fabrication methods, offsite manufacturing of building components, robotics applications for construction, next-generation building envelope, HVAC and water heating, and digitization.


There are four sub-topics for the Advanced Building Construction (ABC) R&D topic. Please note that awards may not be made in all subtopics, and the distribution of awards in this topic will depend on the quality of proposals received. In all cases, project benefits should be demonstrated and validated as part of the proposed project structure, and clear demonstration of product or technology capabilities is required for consideration for advancement to Phase II funding.


In addition, all proposals to this topic must:

·         Propose a tightly structured program which includes advanced building construction-relevant technical milestones that demonstrate clear progress, are aggressive but achievable, and are quantitative.

·         Provide evidence that the proposer has relevant advanced building construction experience and capability.

·         Include projections for cost and/or performance improvements that are tied to a clearly defined baseline and/or state of the art products or practices.

·         Explicitly and thoroughly differentiate the proposed innovation with respect to existing commercially available products or solutions.

·         Include an energy savings impact as well as a preliminary cost analysis.

·         Report all relevant performance metrics.

·         Justify all performance claims with theoretical predictions and/or relevant experimental data.


Applications must be responsive to the following subtopics. Applications outside of these subtopic areas will not be considered.


a.      Diagnostic Technologies and Tools

This subtopic solicits proposals for innovative technologies and tools critical for design and manufacturing of retrofit solutions for buildings.


Technologies that can characterize the key energy and moisture performance-related properties of existing opaque envelopes could facilitate retrofit adoption and aid offsite manufacturing by quantifying the benefit of retrofits, pinpointing specific areas to retrofit, determining if an envelope retrofit can be safely conducted, and verifying post-retrofit performance.


Novel nondestructive testing and sensing technologies; simplified, lower-cost physical testing platforms; and novel, low-computational expense data acquisition and synthesis software have the potential to significantly expand the impact and reach of envelope diagnostic technologies. For more information, applicants should review BTO’s DRAFT Research and Development Opportunities Report for Opaque Building Envelopes [1] and ASHRAE’s Review of Non-Destructive Techniques for Building Diagnostic Inspections [2]. Proposals must include supporting data acquisition and processing software that delivers actionable insights to testing personnel. All solutions should minimize setup and teardown effort and time, as well as avoid disruption to building operations or occupants during testing.


Specifically, DOE seeks proposals in areas that include, but are not limited to:

·         Development of novel air leakage diagnostic metrology that delivers accurate and fast results regardless of outdoor weather conditions and provides location and quantified extent of infiltration/exfiltration. Technologies that reduce the complexity and effort required to test medium and large commercial buildings are also of interest.

·         Development of novel diagnostic metrology for envelope moisture performance without needing to remove exterior cladding. Detection of pre-existing moisture and water intrusion issues within envelopes (e.g., exterior wall assemblies) is an important step when considering envelope retrofits, such as those envisioned by BTO’s ABC Initiative.


Questions – Contact: Sven Mumme,


b.      Low-cost, High-R Insulation

This subtopic solicits proposals for development of low-cost, high-R factor insulation (targeting under $0.05/inch*R and no greater than $1/square foot per inch) using readily available and scalable manufacturing processes.


Proposed solutions should be compatible with existing tooling at the construction site or incorporate a substantial change in installation method that yields lower overall cost, labor effort, and installation time.

High R-value per inch insulation materials that could reduce the cost and complexity of envelope retrofits could make fa├žade retrofits of existing buildings much more feasible and accessible. For more information, applicants should read BTO’s DRAFT: Research and Development Opportunities Report for Opaque Building Envelopes report [1].


Proposals for sustainable insulation material innovations must meet the cost target and have an R-value/inch of 8 or greater are of interest. Potential areas of for research and development include, but are not limited to, the following:

·         Development of durable aerogel insulation using continuous, high-throughput production methods (e.g., in bead form, 3D printing, etc.) at atmospheric processing conditions and in practical building insulation form factors. Aerogels often are very brittle, use very expensive material feedstocks, and utilize complex and expensive manufacturing processes. DOE seeks innovations that result in significant cost reductions of 3-5 times compared to current aerogel costs.

·         Development of durable, ultralow-cost vacuum insulation panels (VIPs) using high-throughput production methods. VIPs are often regarded as one of the most promising state-of-the-art building insulation solutions given their potential to achieve ultra-low thermal conductivities. While commercially available, VIPs are very expensive, relegating them to niche applications. To make VIPs truly affordable for the building sector, costs need to be cut by a factor of >3-5 times current VIP cost. Dialing back the thermal performance (e.g., to whole panel thermal resistance of R10-15/inch), for instance, could offer extra degrees of freedom on the material, barrier film, vacuum creation, and processing side to enable new cost curves and deliver truly low-cost VIPs.

·         Development of novel form insulation (spray foam and rigid foam board) that offer improved insulation values at comparable costs.


Questions – Contact: Sven Mumme,


c.       Advanced Building Equipment Technologies

This subtopic seeks proposals for the design of new energy efficient advanced building equipment technologies.


The ABC Initiative focuses on several key areas for building equipment technologies. HVAC and water heating technologies influence the design of new buildings and retrofit opportunities, and by taking these technologies into consideration will allow DOE to expand the ABC R&D portfolio beyond existing state-of-the art integrated heat pump (IHP) solutions. DOE is particularly interested in proposals that leverage previous building equipment R&D to make solutions that are relevant to ABC. For example, IHP technology and multi-functional space-conditioning unit with water heating function can facilitate whole-building, deep energy retrofits in the residential sector by integrating the solution into the building itself, like variable refrigerant flow systems. These technologies lead to significant energy savings (greater than 50%) by recovering condensing waste heat in the cooling season and providing dedicated or desuperheating heat pump water heating. This type of heat exchanger utilizes the high temperature of the superheated refrigerant gas to heat water. For more information, applicants should read BTO’s Energy Savings Potential and RD&D Opportunities for Non-Vapor-Compression HVAC Technologies report [1].


This subtopic seeks proposals in the following specific areas:

·         Energy and work recovery technologies that significantly advance the state-of-the-art for HVAC and water heating equipment. DOE is particularly interested in technologies that do not rely on passive and expensive materials but could use active (non-vapor compression) technology to transfer waste heat for preheating use. Applicants must demonstrate how the technologies could be incorporated into equipment design.

·         New approaches, technologies, and concepts that address air and water distribution systems with improved energy efficiency and occupant comfort.


Given the wide range of ABC building equipment technologies suitable for this subtopic, specific cost targets are not defined in the subtopic; however, applications must outline expected costs of the proposed design, providing analysis to support claims made. Applicants should also consider system approaches at the whole building level.


Applications must demonstrate greater than or equal to 30 percent energy efficiency as compared to state-of-the-art or Energy Star equipment, little to no increase in physical size, or little to no increase in difficulty to clean to maintain as-new performance as compared to state-of-the-art or Energy Star equipment, as well as a payback period less than or equal to 5 years.


Examples of product or technology advancement include energy savings in HVAC and water applications, including but not limited to general discrete HVAC and water heating equipment, increased productivity, enhanced comfort, and reduced environmental impacts. 


Questions – Contact: Fredericka Brown,


d.      Advanced Building Construction Digitization Solutions

This subtopic solicits proposals that identify and encourage development of innovative information technology solutions that support the objectives of the ABC Initiative and construction digitization, including but not limited to, the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning.


According to a 2017 report by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), the construction industry and its associated manufacturing sector sorely underinvest in the technology and digital tools that would enable significant productivity gains [1]. MGI analysis suggests that lower digitization in the construction industry has contributed to productivity decline, which leads to cost/price escalation, which in turn is a well-documented deterrent to energy efficiency measure adoption. BTO believes that increased digitization and improved construction productivity will lower barriers to energy efficiency and building performance improvements, increase building affordability, and improve building reliability.


Complex software and faster computing power, combined with artificial intelligence and machine learning, allow for the rapid intake and processing of information. For energy-efficient construction, machines can intake visual images, energy analysis and modeling, and other inputs to directly translate data into the fabrication of building components including walls, roofs, or interior design features. This process, also known colloquially as "art-to-part," can help bridge the gap between a traditional building and a high-performance building with smarter, energy-efficient components.


Research areas being considered under this topic include but are not limited to “Building Information Modeling (BIM) to fabrication” applications, construction process digitization for process improvement (4D/5D CAD applications), automated QA/QC applications, and automated Building Commissioning solutions.


Preference will be given to technology solutions that are applicable to both new and existing buildings. While modest feasibility studies are appropriate for Phase I funding, applications for this subtopic should be transitioning to manufacturing by Phase II to be considered for further funding.


Questions – Contact: Eric Werling,



1.      U.S. Department of Energy. “Advanced Building Construction Initiative.” U.S. DOE, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 2020,


2.      U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Monthly Energy Review.” Table 2.1. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Energy, 2019,


3.      U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Electric Power Monthly.” Table 5.1. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Energy, 2019,


4.      U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Natural Gas Summary.” Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Energy, 2019,


5.      U.S. Department of Energy. “Building Technologies Office Multi-Year Program Plan: Fiscal Years 2016-2020.” U.S. DOE, Office of Energy and Renewable Energy, 2020,


References: Subtopic a:

1.      U.S. Department of Energy. “Research and Development Opportunities Report for Opaque Building Envelopes.” U.S. DOE, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy., 2020,


2.      Masri, Y.E., and Rakha, T. “Review of Non-Destructive Techniques (NDTs) for Building Diagnostic Inspections.” ASHRAE, Building Performance Analysis Conference and Simbuild co-organized by ASHRAE and IBPSA-USA, 2020,


References: Subtopic b:

1.      U.S. Department of Energy. “Research and Development Opportunities Report for Opaque Building Envelopes.” U.S. DOE, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 2020,


2.      Goncalves, M., Simoes, N., et al. “A review of the challenges posed using vacuum panels in external insulation finishing systems.” Applied Energy, Vol. 257, 3.5. Economic viability (Page 9), January, 2020,


References: Subtopic c:

1.      U.S. Department of Energy. “Energy Savings Potential and RD&D Opportunities for Non-Vapor-Compression HVAC Technologies.” U.S. DOE, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, March, 2014,


References: Subtopic d:

1.      McKinsey Global Institute. “Reinventing Construction: A Route to Higher Productivity.” Executive Summary, February 2017,

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