OAK RIDGE, Tenn. - The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) goal of a zero-energy household took a major step toward becoming a reality with the formation of the Zero Energy Building Research Alliance, or ZEBRAlliance. The initiative is a partnership between Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Schaad Companies, along with architects BarberMcMurry, to develop and demonstrate new energy efficiency technologies for homes and help homeowners learn more about them.

The announcement was made at a groundbreaking ceremony for four research homes being built in Oak Ridge by Schaad Companies, a 98-year-old, family-owned business based in Knoxville and specializing in construction, real estate development, and property management and investment. Schaad is building the houses at its own expense, and DOE and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) are sponsoring ORNL to conduct the research and educate consumers.

During the ZEBRAlliance groundbreaking, Jennifer Banner, CEO of Schaad Companies, remarked that a new era had just begun. “Working together, the ZEBRAlliance is changing the future of home building today,” Banner said.

The homes, located in a residential community only minutes from ORNL, will be the first to field test several new products over the next two years, such as the ClimateMaster ground-source integrated heat pump - a single unit in lieu of separate heating and cooling, water heater and dehumidifier - and new appliances from Whirlpool Corp.

After the construction of the homes is finished, ORNL researchers will collect data and “tweak and validate” the technological components to achieve optimal quality and efficiency of the homes.

This initial ZEBRAlliance project marks a significant step of moving the zero-energy homes effort to homes more typical of the mass market. Through development of new technologies, fine-tuning existing ones, and combining partners’ resources, the ZEBRAlliance seeks to continue to lower energy costs and make the technologies more affordable. The goal is to eventually lay groundwork for a home that could generate more energy than it consumes over a year but cost the same to purchase and own as a typical house.

“We commend Schaad for its leadership among Tennessee builders in joining the DOE Building America program’s Builders Challenge,” said Johnny Moore, assistant manager for Science, DOE Oak Ridge Operations. “This project will accelerate DOE’s progress toward its goal of zero energy homes. It is a great example of science, government, and industry partnering to improve the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings.”

For more information, visit www.zebralliance.com.

Publication date:10/20/2008