DOE awards $39m to turn buildings into carbon storage

Jun 19 2022


18 projects are seeking to develop technologies that can transform buildings into net carbon storage structures.

Led by DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), selectees for the Harnessing Emissions into Structures Taking Inputs from the Atmosphere (HESTIA) program will prioritize overcoming barriers associated with carbon-storing buildings, including scarce, expensive and geographically limited building materials. Decarbonization goals for the HESTIA program mirror President Biden’s plan to reach zero emissions by 2050 and aim to increase the total amount of carbon stored in buildings to create carbon sinks, which absorb more carbon from the atmosphere than released during the construction process.   

“There’s huge, untapped potential in reimagining building materials and construction techniques as carbon sinks that support a cleaner atmosphere and advance President Biden’s national climate goals,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “This is a unique opportunity for researchers to advance clean energy materials to tackle one of the hardest to decarbonize sectors that is responsible for roughly 10% of total annual emissions in the United States.” 

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with material manufacturing and construction, renovation, and disposal of buildings at the end of their service life are concentrated at the start of a building’s lifetime, making them essential to address given the urgency of meeting national energy and environmental challenges. The following teams —representing universities, private companies and national laboratories — are set to develop and demonstrate building materials and net carbon negative whole-building designs.

  • National Renewable Energy Lab (Fairbanks, AK) will develop cost-effective, bio-based insulation. The team will combine cellulose with mycelium, the root network of fungi, to create a new class of high-performing, carbon-capturing and storing foams and composites. (Award amount: $2,476,145)  
  • Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN) will develop a transformational “living” wood with the strength of steel, a self-healing capability, and combined carbon-sequestering benefits from wood and microbes. Manufacturing living wood is inherently scalable and will promote healthy forest management and a national bio-economy. (Award amount: $958,245)
  • SkyNano LLC (Knoxville, TN) will develop a composite panel that contains bio-derived natural fibers that exhibits excellent mechanical and functional properties while maintaining a carbon-negative footprint. The technology will enable interior building surfaces to be carbon negative. (Award amount: $2,000,000)
  • University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA) will design a carbon-negative medium-size building structure by developing a high-performance floor system with maximized surface area for carbon absorption, using a novel carbon absorbing concrete mixture as building material, 3D printing the parts with a novel concrete mixture and additional bio-based carbon-storing materials. (Award amount: $2,407,390)

In addition to the HESTIA program, ARPA-E recently announced $5 million in funding through the HESTIA Exploratory Topic to two universities working to develop the necessary life cycle assessment tools and frameworks associated with transforming buildings into net carbon storage structures.

HESTIA project descriptions
HESTIA project page


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Issue 87 - May - June 2022

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