DOE ABC: Integrated Whole-Building Energy Efficiency Retrofit Solution for Residences in Cold/Very Cold Climates

Led by School of Architecture Professor Bess Krietemeyer, together with a multidisciplinary team of Syracuse University researchers and two start-up companies, this project was designed to develop a novel overclad panel energy-efficiency retrofit with integrated heating, cooling, ventilation and water heating for residential buildings in cold/very cold climates.

As part of the the Phase 1 ABC FOA topic Integrated Building Retrofits, this project was chosen to design and prototype a technology or approach that provides a deep energy-saving retrofit solution for a building energy systems.

After a competitive review, the team received a Phase 2 award to demonstrate faster, cheaper, less disruptive and low carbon building renovation and construction techniques in low-income communities across the US. In this phase, awardees will develop and field-validate their retrofit solution from Phase 1 on at least two occupied, operational buildings.

This project is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy under its  Advanced Building Construction (ABC) initiative, with additional support from NYSERDA.


The goal of the project was to develop and demonstrate prototypes for a transformative whole-building energy-efficiency retrofit solution for attached single-family homes in cold/very cold climate regions. The approach is designed to be extendable to detached single-family residences and low-rise multifamily housing and will be affordable enough for public and private building owners to implement.

The project team developed three key technical innovations to achieve this goal:

  • A novel highly insulated exterior building envelope system that can be modularly attached to existing building enclosures, which includes a flashing solution for windows, doors, and penetrations for mechanical services
  • An envelope-integrated HVAC solution that connects to an optimally-sized modular mechanical pod providing real-time performance monitoring to enhance indoor space conditioning and air quality
  • A retrofit protocol and design-to-analysis workflow for selecting and scaling the retrofit system components for site-specific conditions

Envelope and mechanical system prototypes for the retrofit solution were developed and fabricated by project partners Cocoon Construct and tkFabricate. The prototypes were tested using Syracuse University’s Building Energy and Environmental Systems Laboratory (BEESL) and the Building Envelope Systems Test (BEST) facility, under the leadership of Professor Jianshun Zhang and Dr. Rui Zhang at Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science. VIP Structures provided valuable industry feedback on the installation process, including time- and labor-tracking. A team of faculty and students from the School of Architecture, coordinated by Professors Bess Krietemeyer and Amber Bartosh, developed a digital component database and design protocol for the retrofit solution using low-to-middle income residences operated by the Syracuse Housing Authority as the basis of design.


For retrofits in cold/very cold climates to maximize potential energy savings, they must capture efficiencies in energy performance, installation, and ongoing operations and maintenance while delivering thermal comfort, ventilation, and indoor air quality (IAQ), design aesthetics, and competitive cost benefit to ensure market acceptance. This project addresses the critical need for innovation in integrated processes for retrofit design, analysis, fabrication, and installation to capture economies of scale, compress time and cost, and facilitate widespread applicability and adoption. The resulting approach to deep energy-efficiency retrofits will establish a replicable and scalable solution to achieving 75% or greater energy savings from space heating, space cooling, water heating, and ventilation loads. If fully adopted to multiple residential building types across the U.S., the proposed approach could lead to significant CO2 emission reduction associated with the energy generation and potential energy savings of 1,812 TBtu/year.


Principal investigator

  • Bess Krietemeyer, Associate Professor, School of Architecture, SyracuseCoE Faculty Fellow

Co-Principal Investigators

  • Jianshun “Jensen” Zhang, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, SyracuseCoE Faculty Fellow and director, Building Energy and Environmental Systems Laboratory in the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS)
  • Edward Bogucz, Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Amber Bartosh, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture
  • Michele Knapp, Co-founder, cocoon construct co.
  • Tom King, Founder, tkFabricate, LLC
  • Tammy Rosanio, SyracuseCoE

Market and Implementation Collaborators (MIC) Advisory Board

  • Ian Shapiro, Taitem Engineering (MIC Chair)
  • Joe Borowiec, NYSERDA
  • Bill Simmons, Syracuse Housing Authority
  • Marty Brunet, Syracuse Housing Authority
  • Vinnie Hueber, Syracuse Housing Authority
  • Jasper van den Munckhof, Energiesprong
  • Scott Dueker, Conifer RE
  • John DiMillo, Upstate Parts & Supply, Inc.

Postdoctoral and Student Research Team

  • Rui Zhang, Post-Doctoral Researcher, College of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Rajat Gandhi, MS Student, School of Architecture
  • Ava Helm, BArch Student, School of Architecture
  • Shayan Mirzabeigi, PhD Student, SUNY ESF
  • Tiffany Ng, MArch Student, School of Architecture
  • Jialei Shen, PhD Student, College of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Anna Wu, BArch Student, School of Architecture