Five Years and a Million Stronger
Five years ago, Building America launched an interactive resource for high-performance home construction. Today, the Building Technologies Office’s Building America Solution Center continues to skyrocket in popularity, growing from about 77,000 users in 2013 to more than 298,000 users in 2017. That’s an increase of 287%! In total, Solution Center users are now approaching the one million mark, with 911,000 users and nearly two million page views since launch.
The Solution Center helps builders, contractors, code officials, and industry professionals put into practice lessons learned from Building America-sponsored research on hundreds of building- science-related topics. Researchers and practitioners can dig deeper into subjects in a library of nearly 1,000 technical reports, articles, code documents, and case studies of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-funded research on hundreds of high-performance residential building science topics. “Building America experts put building science on the map. Now, with the Solution Center, the entire construction industry can easily access all this expertise,” said Eric Werling, Building America program director.
Since its launch, the Solution Center has grown to include more than 230 best practices guides offering step-by-step illustrated instructions for installing high-performance home measures. Topics range from the latest innovations to bread-and-butter measures such as insulating and air sealing. Builders and contractors can also find 1,600 photos and illustrations and more than 100 videos and presentations that can be shared with crew members through a mobile app for onsite training sessions.
“This free, easy-to-use tool provides builders with access to current building science know-how from some of the brightest minds in the industry. It’s like having a building scientist on your staff,” said Sam Rashkin, chief architect for the DOE Building Technologies Office.
The country’s top builders agree.
“The Building America Solution Center is full of best practices. Every guide in there is based on the right way to do things,” said CR Herro, vice-president of environmental affairs with Meritage Homes, a production home builder with communities in nine western and southern states.
Gene Myers, CEO of Thrive Home Builders of Colorado, was named Professional Builder’s 2017 Builder of the Year. He attributes part of his company’s success to the Solution Center, saying: “We built our business on the shoulders of giants, including the Building America Solution Center.”
Thrive’s Vice-President for Sustainability Bill Rectanus said the company uses the Solution Center in several ways. Thrive’s architects go to the Solution Center first when looking at ways to implement ENERGY STAR® and Zero Energy Ready Home requirements in new house designs. Site supervisors and crew chiefs use the Solution Center when they want to show crews how to implement energy-efficiency measures. Rectanus draws on the Solution Center when presenting at Thrive’s company-wide weekly training sessions.
Builder Rick Wertheim of Long Island, NY especially appreciates the Solution Center’s library of CAD files, which includes modifiable files that designers can customize and pop into house plans to give builders exact specifications on how to put together some of the trickier details of energy-efficient construction. “I’ve emailed them to the contractors and architects. It’s so much easier if I can give them something that is already drawn,” said Wertheim, senior vice-president of United Way of Long Island’s Housing Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization that builds affordable housing.
Wertheim also runs a United Way training center that teaches veterans and others energy-efficient construction skills so he often turns to the Solution Center for photos, videos, and installation guidance for his courses. To make sure the homes are energy efficient, healthful to live in, and long lasting, Long Island United Way builds all of its homes to the criteria of national home labeling programs like the Zero Energy Ready Home program, which requires that each home be certified to ENERGY STAR and EPA’s Indoor airPLUS. Wertheim likes how the Solution Center includes interactive checklists for all of these programs in one place, which allow users to click on checklist items to jump to guides explaining how to construct or install each step.
As new resources are added, the Solution Center will continue to educate American builders across the country on high-performance home construction topics.