Varieties of Prefabricated Envelope Solutions for CA Low-Rise Buildings

Rocky Mountain Institute

Recipient

Basalt, CO

Recipient Location

31st

Senate District

58th

Assembly District

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$1,567,073

Amount Spent

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Active

Project Status

Project Update

In 2023, the project team is concluding deployment of two prefabricated exterior retrofit panel prototypes with Dryvit-Tremco at the Corona Del Rey (CDR) REALIZE California demonstration in Southern, CA (Corona). Construction is scheduled to be complete the first week of March (2024), and M&V activities will begin after tenant move-in.

The Issue

Envelope improvements are rarely part of any renovation projects due to cost barriers caused by longer construction time. A Net Zero Energy model developed in the Netherlands, has developed, unitized, prefabricated exterior facade panels that can be installed on an existing building in less than a week. A unitized panel includes windows, doors, and exterior cladding such that once they are attached to the existing building, there is no other envelope work required. There is currently a lack of prefabrication unitized panels in the U.S. Most of the available products are geared toward new construction and are usually not designed for low-rise California building typology.

Project Innovation

To address this critical gap in the US retrofit market, the project team will test/deploy at least two variations of prefabricated envelope panel prototypes, which will be optimized for the most common multifamily building typology in California: a low-rise, wood-frame building. These panel types and their associated benefits will at a minimum include:

● High insulation and airtightness values
● Fireproof material
● Seismically robust
● Low embodied carbon material
● Lightweight
● Thin

The project team will then demonstrate each technology on one building each (a total of at least two multifamily buildings) in a larger multifamily complex. The project team will also leverage current research being performed under another EPIC agreement, EPC 17-040, that will create a matrix of all currently identified retrofit wall system technologies to determine whether an additional high potential retrofit wall system could be demonstrated.

Project Goals

Design, develop and demonstrate high performance prefabricated exterior retrofit panels for low rise multifamily building.

Project Benefits

This project designs and develops exterior envelop panels to allow the existing building to remain largely intact and retrofit work is mainly performed outside, which makes the process less disruptive to the building's tenants. Prefabricated exterior retrofit panels improves quality assurance, reduces renovation time and costs, and significantly reduces thermal loads thereby reducing HVAC energy use and allowing for full electrification of buildings without disrupting utility bill affordability. By increasing the rate of low-load, all-electric retrofits as a turnkey technology, these facade panels can enable California to transition its building stock to running on carbon neutral electricity.

Lower Costs

Affordability

The project could significantly reduce utility bills for millions of low income families in California. The project will result in the ratepayer benefits of greater electricity reliability, lower costs, and increased safety. The prefabricated panel will reduce thermal loads of the building, thus reducing heating and cooling costs.

Environmental & Public Health

Environmental Sustainability

California has 2 million units for low income multifamily buildings. If all units receive prefab façade panel retrofits, it could result in significant GHG reduction due to reductions in energy use for heating and cooling homes.

Lower Costs

Affordability

The project will result in the ratepayer benefits of greater electricity reliability, lower costs, and increased safety. The prefabricated panel will reduce thermal loads of the building, thus reducing heating and cooling costs.

Key Project Members

Project Member

Auri Bukauskas

Senior Associate, Carbon Free Buildings
RMI
Project Member

Nick Jiles

Manager, REALIZE-CA
RMI
Project Member

Maura Mooney

Senior Associate, Carbon Free Buildings
RMI

Subrecipients

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Association for Energy Affordability

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Redwood Energy, LLC

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David Baker Architects

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Signetron, Inc.

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RDH Building Science Inc.

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National Community Renaissance

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Match Partners

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Association for Energy Affordability

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Rocky Mountain Institute

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Signetron, Inc.

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RDH Building Science Inc.

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