The Obama administration has announced a multiagency initiative to spur regional economic growth while making buildings more energy efficient. Seven federal agencies have issued a combined funding opportunity announcement of up to $129.7 million over five years to create a regional research center that will develop new building efficiency technologies and work with local partners to implement the technologies in area buildings.

Buildings account for nearly 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption and carbon emissions. Improvements in building efficiency will provide benefits, such as reducing energy use, lowering utility bills, and decreasing carbon emissions.

The agencies are working together to leverage funding and resources to promote regional growth through an Energy Regional Innovation Cluster (E-RIC) that is centered around an Energy Innovation Hub focused on developing new technologies to improve the design of energy-efficient building systems. This Energy Innovation Hub will bring together a multidisciplinary team of researchers to conduct research and work to solve priority technology challenges that span work from basic research to engineering development to commercialization readiness.

The E-RIC will work to disseminate new technologies into the local marketplace and share best practices with the public and private sectors. It will be supported through agency investments in technology and business development and will include support for workforce education and training. By linking researchers at the Hub with local businesses and supporting specialized workforce education and training in the area, the initiative will create an economically dynamic region focused on building efficiency technologies.

The E-RIC chosen under the funding opportunity will be based at a university, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory, nonprofit organization, or private firm, partnering with local or state government officials and leveraging existing expertise of local architects, builders, and manufacturers. With this specialization, the regional economy could support other businesses that address the full production life cycle for building technologies and, thus, create more jobs.

This effort will leverage the collective resources and expertise of seven federal agencies. The DOE is providing up to $22 million for this project in the first year, with up to $100 million over the next four years. To encourage regional cooperation, the Department of Commerce’s (DOC) Economic Development Administration will make available up to $3 million in Public Works and Economic Development funds and up to $2 million in Economic Adjustment Assistance funds for the winning proposal. The DOC Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) will make available up to $500,000 for a one-year award, with the possibility of renewal for up to two additional years, to support the services of an existing DOC-funded MEP Center. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will make up to $300,000 in the first year, with three one-year options for renewal grants up to $300,000 per year, available to provide the services of an existing SBA-funded Small Business Development Center to the Regional Innovation Cluster.