Buildings UP prize

Who doesn't like winning a prize? Recently, 45 communities across the country were the lucky winners of a prize through the Buildings UP program by the US Department of Energy (DOE). 

The Buildings Upgrade Prize (Buildings UP), through DOE’s Building Technologies Office (BTO), supports the adoption of community-based retrofit programs through cash prizes. The program is administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). 

As one of six Regional Energy Efficiency Organizations (REEOs), NEEP is serving the role of Regional Navigator for nine prize teams from Maine down to Maryland. As regional navigator, NEEP will help each prize team identify local and regional resources, connect teams to each other and to technical assistance providers, and support teams as they apply for future phases of the Buildings UP prize. Supporting the Buildings UP teams advances NEEP’s market transformation strategy to prioritize energy efficiency as the core approach to building decarbonization, focusing heavily on developing retrofit programs for existing buildings.

Prize Rules
The prize is administered over four phases to reward teams as they move from concept to implementation. During Phase 1, $22 million from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was awarded as cash prizes to 45 teams for technical assistance and capacity-building to rapidly and equitably decarbonize buildings in the United States. Each multi-stakeholder team submitted an innovative concept proposal upon which they will build a long-standing program. Proposals fall into either an equity-centered innovation pathway, winning $400,000 and technical assistance for scalable building upgrades in disadvantaged communities, or an open innovation pathway, winning $200,000 and technical assistance. For phase 2, an additional $17.2 million is available to the teams. Subsequent phases are subject to the availability of funds. 

Proposals incorporate a wide range of building types and technologies all working to decarbonize buildings, reduce energy costs, and improve indoor air quality and occupant comfort. Required technologies include heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, and weatherization. As this is a capacity-building prize, teams are encouraged to braid funding from utility rebate programs and other sources in addition to the prize money. Buildings UP will help the United States meet its greenhouse gas reduction, equity, economic development, and health goals.

Meet Our Teams
NEEP is supporting the following nine community teams in our role as regional navigator:

Blueprint15, Syracuse, NY
In the 15th Ward neighborhood, Blueprint15 will strengthen community-wide relationships to create sustainable pathways for generational wealth building by connecting minority contractors to training and upgrading the aging housing stock, focusing primarily on single-family and two-family homes. Learn more.

Centennial Parkside CDC, Philadelphia, PA
This resident-led initiative will upgrade single-family rowhomes by engaging residents and contractors on high performance upgrades, ultimately identifying a path toward a scalable framework and forging long-term investment and ownership. Learn more.

City of Everett, Everett, MA
To overcome linguistic and cultural barriers to electrification adoption, the team will leverage its network of community-based organizations and provide utility support, educational opportunities, and energy saving products for frontline communities. Learn more.

College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME
In Maine’s coastal Great Cranberry Islands, the team will work to retrofit entire communities by bundling building projects and finding contractors who can commit to long-term retrofit projects on the islands. Learn more.

Energy Efficiency Empowerment (E3), Millvale, PA
To address aging and inefficient housing, this project will implement a focused intervention to building envelopes while increasing occupant comfort and reducing energy bills of single-family homes in environmental justice communities. Learn more.

Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, Reston, VA
Leveraging their faith community partner network, the team will perform upgrades, support the financing of projects, and offer access to vetted contractors for congregations seeking to retrofit their faith community buildings. Learn more.

Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, Baltimore, MD
Addressing the deteriorating and unhealthy housing stock in the East Baltimore neighborhood, the team will expand the organization’s programming to include whole-home electrification retrofits in low-to moderate-income (LMI) housing. Learn more.

passivhausMAINE, Freeport, ME
This project aims to upgrade low-income homes to Passive House standards by aggregating existing sources of funding, expanding trainings, and connecting partner organizations with homeowners in the towns of Freeport and Lewiston. Learn more.

Urban Green Council, New York, NY
In Justice40 designated census tracts, this initiative will catalyze heat pump water heaters in low-rise multifamily buildings built before 1940, lowering energy bills and increasing grid stability. Learn more.

For more information about the Buildings upgrade Prize or to connect with any of our teams, contact Andy Winslow or Kelly O’Connell.

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