Dow to Lead R&D for Home Energy Retrofit Solutions

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected Dow Building & Construction, a business group within Dow’s Advanced Materials Division, to lead a multi-year project that will combine research and residential in-home testing to develop enhanced home energy efficiency retrofit solutions and best practices.

Dow will work in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, as well as Michigan State University and Ferris State University, with select contributions from Duke Energy, DTE Energy Corporation and Exelon Corp. Of the 15 research and deployment partnerships named by the DOE, Dow was the only private sector manufacturer asked to lead a research, development and deployment team.

“Today, we know how to build a very energy-efficient new home, but there are still 76 million homes in America that were built prior to modern energy codes,” said Carol Eicher, business group vice president, Dow Building & Construction. “It is critical to establish new product solutions and application practices for retrofitting these homes, and what better partner than Habitat for Humanity, which is committed to making home ownership affordable and serves as a benchmark in this industry.”

The DOE retrofit project is part of a broader effort to reduce both energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and establish national guidelines and standards for retrofit methods, materials and practices. On Earth Day of this year, Vice President Joe Biden announced the DOE’s Retrofit Ramp-Up initiative, which brings communities, government, private sector companies and non-profit organizations together to deliver energy efficiency upgrades—or retrofits—to the country.

Research goals established for the Dow-led Energy Efficiency Insulation Retrofit Program will draw upon the resources and know-how of every partner. The team will conduct pre- and post-retrofit homeowner market research, designed by Michigan State University, to build a stronger understanding of the considerations and concerns consumers have about retrofit costs, procedures and results. Innovative new solutions devised by Dow and Ferris State University’s Granger Center for Construction and HVACR will focus on establishing new products and application solutions in wall and roofing insulations as well as overall building air sealing. The team will also draw upon Habitat for Humanity’s knowledge of lower-income homeowner issues and Dow’s practical marketplace know-how and supply chain strategies to create a business model that results in the commercialization of affordable, prescriptive solutions that can be sold in the retail channel or practiced by retrofit contractors.

The Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies recently reported that of the 116 million houses in America today, approximately two-thirds were built before contemporary U.S. energy codes were adopted – one-third of existing homes are more than 45 years old, and another third are at least 25 years old. DOE has stated that retrofits of these older homes using existing technologies could reduce energy bills by $40 billion annually and lower total associated greenhouse gas emissions by up to 160 million metric tons a year.