Flexible Research Platforms

Unoccupied Research Houses

ORNL uses a fleet of instrumented research houses built by industry partners to evaluate prototypes of residential energy efficiency technologies under realistic conditions.
An average occupancy effect on energy consumption is imposed for each house in addition to natural exposure to weather so that realistic loads, operating conditions, and interactive effects are provided for evaluating technologies and validating models. Generally, each house is used to characterize the performance of one envelope configuration, but several generations of advanced equipment, appliances, and controls can be investigated over the term of the leases.


Owner-Occupied Research Houses

ORNL evaluates residential energy-saving retro t technologies experimentally in occupied homes by collecting energy performance data before and after retrofits. Under agreements with homeowners, ORNL and its partners conduct energy audits and recommend and provide technical advice about improvements. Homeowners pay for the improvements. When it is agreed that improvements will be implemented, ORNL collects before/after data and evaluates energy savings. The goal is to develop affordable retro t packages with energy savings of 30–50%. Typical energy conservation measures implemented include air sealing and insulating the envelope, upgrading the existing HVAC systems, water heaters, appliances, and lighting.


Light Commercial Building Flexible Research Platforms

Flexible research platforms (FRPs) include one-story 40×60 ft (2400 gsf) and two-story 40×40 (3200 gsf) units, each consisting of foundation slabs, structural frames, and utility and IT infrastructure to support a variety of test building configurations. Both FRPs have slab-on-grade “active foundations” that thermally isolate buildings from the ground when desired. Through collabo- ration with industry, test buildings are designed, installed onto the FRPs, and instrumented for evaluation. The same system executes process control and acquires performance data in a building. Process control can control the active foundations, simulate occupant effects on energy use, support development and evaluation of fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) or continuous commissioning schemes by forcing faults, and rotate among multiple HVAC systems. Secure, web-accessible data analysis and visualization are provided. Collaborations typically address envelope, equipment, commissioning/FDD/controls, and modeling/analytics.