Energy Dept. Announces $19 Million in Building-Efficiency Investments

July 20, 2016
The U.S. DOE is investing $19 million in advanced building technologies intended to lower utility bills, reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and create jobs.

The U.S. Energy Department recently announced it is investing $19 million in advanced building technologies intended to lower utility bills, reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and create jobs.

“Improving the efficiency of our nation’s buildings presents one of our best opportunities for cutting Americans’ energy bills and slashing greenhouse-gas emissions,” Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said. “These innovative technologies will make our buildings smarter, healthier, and more efficient, driving us toward our goal of reducing the energy-use intensity of the U.S. buildings sector by 30 percent by 2030.”

The 18 selected projects span multiple technology areas, targeting a variety of building-efficiency improvements:

Sensors and Controls

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) (Berkeley, Calif.) will develop a platform for the design and specification of HVAC control sequences that operates with both whole-building energy simulation and automated control implementation. OpenBuildingControl will eliminate the manual translation steps currently associated with HVAC control design, reducing effort and error.

Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh) will develop a sensing and control system that can save significant energy by accurately estimating the number of occupants in an area and adjusting HVAC operations accordingly.

PARC (Palo Alto, Calif.) will develop a wireless system of peel-and-stick sensor nodes powered by radio-frequency hubs that relay data to building-management systems.

Clemson University (Clemson, S.C.) will develop low-cost digital, plug-and-play, passive radio-frequency identification sensors for measuring indoor and outdoor temperature.

The University of California-Berkeley (Berkeley, Calif.) will create a low-cost open-source, wireless sensor system that will be integrated with building-management systems, their components, and smartphones to enable installation of secure and easily deployed building energy-efficiency applications, such as demand response.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) (Oak Ridge, Tenn.) will develop system-level architecture for a plug-and-play multisensor platform that can use peel-and-stick sensors less than a quarter of an inch thick powered by indoor, high-performance, flexible photovoltaics.

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (Menlo Park, Calif.) will develop a toolkit for the department’s open-source VOLTTRON platform, which supports a wide range of building energy-management and grid-integration applications. The toolkit adds testing and simulation tools to cut costs by as much as 30 percent for systems-integration, distributed-energy, and microgrid-development projects.

Columbia University (New York) will use metering and automated personalized feedback to encourage occupants of multifamily buildings to save electricity by reducing appliance use or shifting use to non-peak hours.

HVACR and Joining Technologies

Optimized Thermal Systems (Beltsville, Md.) will develop a manufacturing procedure for a serpentine heat exchanger for HVACR systems that has 90 percent fewer joints than current heat exchangers. Joint leaks can release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and reduce system efficiency.

Ingersoll Rand (La Crosse, Wis.) will reduce refrigerant leaks and enhance HVACR-system efficiency by improving the strength and quality of brazed joints.

ORNL will develop adhesive chemistries for bonding aluminum and copper during heat-exchanger manufacture.

ORNL will integrate its Ground-Level Integrated Diverse Energy Storage (GLIDES) system with HVAC systems to provide efficient building-integrated electrical- and thermal-energy storage.

ORNL will develop a residential gas-fired split heat pump that uses an ammonia refrigerant and can convert chemical energy to heating and cooling without use of moving seals.

Windows and Building Envelope

LBNL will develop insulation that is two to four times more efficient than conventional materials at a comparable installed cost.

LBNL will extend its detailed envelope heat-transfer model, THERM, with moisture-transfer modeling capabilities.

Iowa State University (Ames, Iowa) will develop an infiltration diagnostics system that uses a laser to locally heat a portion of a building's envelope and uses an infrared camera to pinpoint air leaks.

Glint Photonics (Burlingame, Calif.) will develop a stationary, roof-mounted concentrating daylighting system.

Energy Modeling

The University of Miami (Miami) will integrate several existing energy-modeling packages to create a tool customized for the design and operational requirements of data centers and large computer rooms.