Barriers to Greater Penetration of Energy Efficient Wall Assemblies in the United States
Publication Year: 2010

Barriers to Greater Penetration of Energy Efficient Wall Assemblies in the United States Housing Market

In 2010, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) partnered to compete as Team New Jersey in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 (SD2011) competition. Team New Jersey was one of 20 collegiate teams, selected from an international pool of 45 applicants, challenged to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are affordable, energy-efficient, and attractive. A PSE&G Technology Demonstration Grant helped support the construction of Team New Jersey’s ENJOY! demonstration house. The ENJOY! House was constructed with precast concrete insulated panels and featured many other innovative design strategies such as evacuated solar thermal tubes, an inverted hip roof for rainwater collection and an innovative home automation system that integrated a Siemens Apogee controller (typically used in commercial buildings) with a Control4 user interface (user-friendly app on a tablet or smartphone) that controlled HVAC, lighting, and home entertainment equipment. In the period following the competition, team members, including the Rutgers Center for Green Building (RCGB) continue to assess the commercial potential of specific innovations inspired by the competition experience, including barriers to greater penetration of energy efficient wall
assemblies in the U.S. residential market, the focus of this White Paper.

Although wood frame construction continues to be the predominant wall assembly system used in the U.S. residential housing market, there are several alternative wall assembly systems including precast concrete panels, insulated concrete forms (ICFs), structural insulated panels (SIPs) and autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) that perform equally or better in terms of energy performance, resistance to hazards such as fire, winds and earthquakes, and improved indoor environmental quality, although not always in terms of their cost (see Table 1) When paired with spray foam insulation, wood frame construction achieves some of these benefits as well, but at increased cost.

This White Paper identifies several barriers to market penetration of alternative wall assemblies such as increased cost and lack of financing, limited workforce training and institutional factors including codes, environmental regulations and industry structure.

This research also identifies a number of other potential strategies to address market barriers including continued research into materials benefits, dissemination of construction methods best practices for various material/assembly types, the promotion of life cycle cost protocols and financing mechanisms, research into consumer and building occupant behavior across different housing types, policy and regulation amendments, and workforce training and education.

The Rutgers Center for Green Building has been implementing these and related strategies and has identified the need for further action in several areas including research, training, policy/regulation, and the dissemination of information. This work is consistent with the Center’s objective to work with industry partners to promote better performing buildings and satisfied occupants, regardless of the type of materials or assembly.