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Building Technologies Office Projects Honored at Prestigious R&D 100 Awards

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) researchers have won 41 of the 100 awards given out this year by R&D World Magazine. The annual R&D 100 Awards are given in recognition of exceptional new products or processes that were developed and introduced into the marketplace during the previous year. Two Building Technologies Office projects won R&D 100 Awards this year, with a third project listed as a finalist.

“These awards recognize the incredible value our National Laboratories deliver in the form of groundbreaking ideas that, if successful, stand to transform how we live our lives,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “We are enormously proud of our labs’ ability to continually redefine what’s possible, helping to ensure a more prosperous and secure future for our nation.”

The two winners and finalist are all in the "Software/Services" category. For decades, BTO has funded word-class research and development of building energy analysis software and has produced a suite of trusted and useful tools. These tools enable stakeholders including design professionals, owners, operators, building code and efficiency program administrators, policy analysts, product designers, and researchers to better understand energy efficiency and how it can be improved at levels that range from individual buildings to whole building stocks. With these advanced energy analysis tools, stakeholders can optimize efficient designs and technologies to achieve cost-effective building energy-efficiency goals.

Winner: ResStock, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

ResStock models the energy use of entire building stocks like large corporate portfolios, utility service territories, cities, and even whole countries. It is used to evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of individual energy-efficiency measures, or combinations of measures, at scale to support development of energy-efficiency codes and programs.

Traditional building stock models are coarse, often relying on a few prototype models to represent a single building type in a single climate zone. For some analyses, such coarse granularity can average out relevant details and return “all-or-nothing” results that miss significant opportunities. ResStock is a residential stock modeling framework that combines data from multiple sources to create high-resolution, conditional probability tables for home characteristics like floor area, attic and wall insulation levels, the type of heating and cooling systems used, and the efficiency of those systems. By sampling these tables, researchers can create stock models for populations of buildings that are far more representative than traditional building stock models and have sufficient diversity to support robust measure analyses.

Initially targeted at residential buildings, ResStock has integrated enough data sources to analyze communities across the United States, save for Alaska and Hawaii where data set sizes are too small. NREL is also currently applying the ResStock methodology to commercial buildings.

Winner: Commercial Building Energy Saver (CBES) Toolkit, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

In the United States, small- and medium-sized commercial buildings under 50,000 square feet consume 44% of the primary energy in the building sector.Projects involving these buildings are typically too small to afford architects or energy consultants. The owners of these buildings and their contractors lack easy, low-cost access to tools that can identify cost-effective, energy-efficient retrofit opportunities. The CBES addresses this need by providing access to deep energy retrofit and zero-net energy strategy recommendations for these underserved buildings.  

CBES is built on a large database of pre-run models that covers prototypical buildings within baseline configurations and with a wide range of retrofit measures, both in isolation and in packages. Measures and measure packages include energy-efficiency, advanced HVAC, renewables, storage, and even demand response. Measure and measure packages are evaluated in terms of energy savings, energy cost savings, and payback, taking available incentives and rebates into account. CBES takes a small number of inputs describing the existing building, uses these to find the closest configuration in the database, and uses that starting point to find cost-effective upgrade packages.

Originally built for use in California, CBES has been extended to support 2030 districts across the country.

Finalist: Building Science Advisor, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)

Building envelopes must be designed and constructed to safely control the flows of heat, air, and moisture. Mistakes often lead to moisture and durability issues. However, modern residential envelope assemblies have become less tolerant of design and installation flaws, due in part to demand for increased levels of thermal insulation. Meanwhile, the building envelope hygrothermal expertise needed to help mitigate these risks is limited to a few specialized researchers and consultants.

The ORNL Building Science Advisor helps to mitigate market uncertainty regarding the durability of high-performing wall systems. It leverages the knowledge of today’s most prominent experts in the field and makes it available as an open web-based tool. The Building Science Advisor gives builders, designers, and others confidence in selection of durable, energy-efficient wall systems.

Congratulations to the teams at the National Laboratories for this great success!