DOE Research Invests in the Building System and Sustainability Technologies
Looking out beyond “design ready,” the
DOE prepares for the economy’s sustainable recovery
is approximately $130 billion allocated for building and construction
funding in the American Recovery
and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) economic
stimulus package. Much of this money funds the construction of previously
designed buildings—“shovel-ready” projects
that are meant to stimulate the economy and create jobs immediately.
Of more interest to architects (and advocated by the AIA’s
and Renew advocacy plan)
are the “design ready” initiatives that will create new
opportunities from conception to construction for architects.
As part of the continually
increasing portion of this stimulus money aimed
at long-term investments in transportation, energy, the environment,
and community development, the Department of Energy (DOE) is spending
billions on buildings systems research and alternative energies
that will support architects’ mission
to create a more sustainable economy and world. Call it “research
ready”—the ARRA’s longest-term interest in providing
design professionals with the tools, resources, and information to
do their jobs better and more sustainably.
From the DOE’s $38.7 billion of economic stimulus funding,
the agency is spending $1.6 billion for investments into its own
laboratory infrastructure and $400 million on advanced research projects.
The DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) department
received $16.8 billion from the ARRA, a significant portion of which
will be used to research, develop, and deploy sustainable building
systems and alternative energy technology. This money (mostly in
the form of grants to university labs or private sector companies,
including design firms) will fund projects most closely supportive
of architects’ work.
Building Efficiency Initiative
Of most interest to architects is
the DOE’s $346 million Building
Efficiency Initiative. This grant money will investigate building
envelopes, lighting, photovoltaics, advanced sensors and control,
The $100 million Advanced Building Systems
Research fund will focus
on researching how sustainable building systems can best be integrated
into whole buildings. This money will also support and accelerate
the agency’s research on net-zero energy buildings. Currently,
the EERE department has as its goal the construction of net-zero
energy homes in all five domestic climate zones by 2020 on a cost-neutral
basis for consumers.
Seventy million dollars will be distributed via the Residential
Building Development and Deployment program. This initiative will
develop business models for neighborhood-scale energy efficiency
home retrofits, helping such nascent business models gain traction
in the marketplace. The DOE’s Builder’s Challenge will
be supported and accelerated by the funding as well. This program
signs on builders to construct homes that are at least 30 percent
more energy efficient than typical homes.
The Commercial Building Initiative will allow the DOE to create
more public-private energy efficiency partnerships. Currently, the
agency maintains 23 partnerships with private sector companies that
own and operate large fleets of sizable commercial properties, like
Home Depot, Wal-Mart, or PNC Bank. In these partnerships, the DOE
provides companies with technical and design expertise, and the private
firms agree to retrofit existing buildings to make them 30 percent
more energy efficient than the ASHRAE 90.1 standard. They also agree
to design and build new facilities that are 50 percent more efficient
than code. The ARRA’s $53.5 million will allow the DOE to add
40-60 more partnerships.
Among other things, the $72.5 million Buildings
and Appliance Market Transformation fund will train commercial building operators on how
to use their buildings more efficiently.
Alternative energy research
The EERE department is receiving funds
for advancing geothermal, solar, biomass, wind, and utility-scale
community renewable energy projects.
million for geothermal energy, including:
$117 million for solar energy, including:
- $51.5 million for photovoltaic technology research that will
aim to make solar energy more cost-competitive with traditional
forms of energy
- $25.6 for solar power research and development that will focus
on improving the reliability of concentrating solar power technologies
- $40.5 million for solar energy technology deployment that will
focus on non-technical barriers prohibiting solar power use, like
grid connection, market barriers to solar energy adoption in cities,
and the shortage of trained solar energy installers.
$800 million for biomass energy, including:
- $480 million for biomass demonstration and pilot program projects
- $110 for biomass energy research, including $50 million to support
the research of algae biomass energy.
$93 million for wind energy, including:
- $45 million for wind turbine drive train research, development,
- $14 million to research the use of lighter weight, advanced materials
for turbine blades, towers, and other components, as well as process
controls for lamination, blade finishing, and painting
- $24 million for wind power research and development for partnerships
between universities and private industry that will focus on material
design and performance measurements
- $10 million for the National Wind Technology Center in Colorado,
which will use the funding to perfect wind turbine drive train
million for utility-scale community renewable energy projects that will examine how multiple types of alternative energies can
be deployed at a neighborhood-scale.