PATHways: Technology Making a Difference Where Americans Live

The Department of Energy

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Building Technology, State and Community Programs (BTS) supports a variety of PATH-related activities. Working with industry, BTS develops, promotes, and integrates energy technologies and practices to make buildings more energy efficient.

BTS works toward this goal by accelerating the introduction of highly efficient technologies and practices through research and development; increasing the minimum efficiency of buildings and equipment through codes, standards, and guidelines; and encouraging the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and practices through technology transfer and financial assistance.

Partnership opportunities for builders and designers include BTS's Building America program, which provides assistance to PATH's National Pilot Projects. The Building America Program works to reduce energy use by as much as 50 percent. Participants adhere to a systems engineering approach to homebuilding that unites segments of the building industry that traditionally work independently of one another.

The systems engineering approach recognizes that features of one component in a house can greatly affect others and it enables teams to incorporate energy-saving strategies at no extra cost. The program aims to facilitate the adoption of a systems engineering approach in 70 percent of the new housing market within 10 years.

DOE/BTS-funded research also produces advances in lighting, windows, insulation, building materials, appliances, weatherization, and whole-building design. The General Accounting Office estimates more than $33 billion in potential savings from BTS technologies. BTS researchers, in partnership with the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, have developed a 20-cubic-foot refrigerator-freezer that uses only 1.04 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day, half the current standard.

Building engineers and architects are also using BTS-developed software design tools to increase the efficiency and lower the environmental impact of new and retrofitted construction. Computerized modeling tools such as "Designing Low Energy Buildings" and "DOE-2" help designers integrate energy-efficient and renewable-energy components and systems into building plans at the blueprint stage. Data on all aspects of a building's site (climate, shading, orientation), materials (wood, brick, insulation, windows), and equipment (chillers, lighting, computers) go into calculations to optimize building performance and occupant comfort and productivity.

DOE's Building Codes & Standards Program works with states and localities to update and implement building energy codes. Appliance standards on air conditioners, furnaces, and dishwashers help consumers save money. In some cases, manufacturers have developed innovative, energy-efficient products in anticipation of future revised standards, making energy awareness a competitive factor in the marketplace.

DOE's State and Community Partnerships Program has a Weatherization Assistance Program that has improved the energy efficiency of 75,000 existing homes by 23 percent. The Weatherization Assistance Program can serve as the basis for meeting PATH's goal of achieving a 30-percent reduction in energy use in 15 million existing homes.

DOE's Solar and Renewable Energy Program includes the President's Million Solar Roofs initiative with a goal to place 1 million solar energy systems on U.S. buildings by 2010.

DOE websites are not just for researchers. With a click of a mouse, builders and homeowners can access information on everything from Using Solar in Your Home to materials to consider when building an addition to the old homestead to Tips on Saving Energy Money at Home.

Previous Article PATHways Contents Next Article

PATHways Vol. 1, Issue 1