The Department of Energy’s Building America Solution Center is a new digital tool that makes it easier for construction professionals, educators, and code officials to access the latest building science research and energy-efficiency best practices. The website, which will go live in January 2013, is one of the tools the agency is using to help achieve its goal of moving new and existing houses toward zero net energy.
The site centralizes the DOE’s information and makes it easy to find. How-to details are provided for all parts of a building — roofs, floors, ceilings, walls, foundations, and HVAC — for optimal energy efficiency. Much of this information has been available to the public, says Sam Rashkin, chief architect at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Program. But it was scattered around several different locations, so it was difficult to find, and updating the best practices and technology for the market was time-consuming for the agency. Rashkin calls this website a “game changer,” because it not only centralizes the information but retrieves it quickly. Plus, it allows registered users — including associations, manufacturers, educators, and other government agencies — to add their own information. The community-driven model will help the DOE fill information gaps and keep the site dynamic. “Our goal is to expand the infrastructure of individuals in the marketplace that can provide this information on high-performance homes,” Rashkin says.
The Building America Solution Center will include:
- Mobile access: A mobile version will make the site content available from jobsites. For example, a remodeler can use a smartphone or tablet to show an employee or subcontractor a diagram of the proper way to build and insulate an attic knee wall. Users should be able to “get the content they need in seconds, so they can apply it,” Rashkin says. “There is no reason not to [build it] properly because the information is always there.”
- Customization: Registered users can click on the Field Kit button on any page to save an image, document, or photo on their profile page. This provides faster access to frequently-used information.
- Navigation options: The tool provides three ways to search: Component Explorer, organized by building elements; Checklist Manager, based on criteria for existing efficiency programs and certifications; and Building Science Explorer, which is organized by topic. All three lead users to specific topics, each of which has eight tabs: Scope, Description, Ensuring Success, Climate, Training, CAD Drawings, Compliance, and More Information.
The content is organized to support efficiency programs, such as the Energy Star Certified Homes Program and DOE Challenge Home.
Visit www.doe.gov to check the status of the site. —Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.