Homes Doubling as Laboratories

Four East Tennessee homes will be showing researchers how scientific research can help minimize the cost of heating and cooling our homes.

The four homes were built over two years, the first ZEBRAlliance project, in public-private partnership with the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Schaad Companies, and will start their life as a research project and a multi-faceted energy-efficiency education campaign before being offered for sale to the public after 30 months.

“These homes are a great example of what can be done when we partner with industry to provide scientific solutions to real problems,” ORNL Director Thom Mason said.

Unoccupied but Useful

Located in the Wolf Creek subdivision in Oak Ridge, the houses use about 55 to 60 percent less energy than conventional housing, but still maintain a similar level of comfort.

The houses won’t actually house any human occupants for the 30 month research project, but appliances, lighting and water usage will all be automatically run to simulate an average family’s energy use. New technologies will be switched in as they become available, and the data collected will help determine which technologies – either on their own or as a group – deliver the best “bang for your buck.”

Vision and Drive

“Our vision has always been to drive innovation into the marketplace,” said Jennifer Banner, CEO of Schaad Companies. “The bigger question is which innovative technologies can be cost-effective for consumers who want to improve their existing home or build a new one. We hope to gain that knowledge from the ZEBRAlliance project.”

“Because of the ongoing involvement from builders, designers, component manufacturers and utilities, projects like ZEBRAlliance have the ability to identify solutions and implement them with speed and scale,” said Roland Risser, program manager of the Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Program.

“TVA is engaged in measuring and analyzing energy usage for homes built with varying energy-saving construction practices and appliances,” said Rudy Shankar, TVA vice president of Technology Innovation. “The homes built under the ZEBRAlliance and other TVA-sponsored projects represent the full spectrum of housing from basic to high end, and various state-of-the art building envelope and equipment utilization in a controlled setting to develop verifiable and defensible database for wide-spread implementation.”

“The example we see today – a partnership between government, business and industry – will help us meet similar energy challenges in other areas such as transportation, in our electric grid, and in protecting and preserving our environment,” said Johnny Moore, assistant manager for science, DOE Oak Ridge Operations.

Source: Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Image Source: ZEBRAlliance

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