March 19th, 2018
ARPA-E Defunding Could Halt Progress for Our Industry
I spent last week attending the ARPA-E Summit in Washington, D.C., and had mixed emotions throughout my time there. Opening remarks were quite somber as Principal Deputy Director Dr. Chris Fall spoke about the possibility of the federal government defunding the program, but at the same time seemed optimistic about the focus and realignment to fit with current administrative priorities, such as updating and promoting new nuclear energy facilities.
For those who are unfamiliar, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is an organization that “advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment … developing entirely new ways to generate, store and use energy.” And there is one ARPA-E program specifically directed at residential and commercial windows: the Single-Pane Highly Insulating Efficient Lucid Designs (SHIELD) program.
Many see SHIELD as a threat to the R&R window market because it aims to turn existing single-pane windows into more efficient systems that achieve U-values of 0.05 or lower using low-cost films or coatings. These technologies are seeking to cut the amount of heat lost in cold weather in half, creating increased occupant comfort, along with other side benefits, such as sound proofing, improved insulation and reduced cold weather condensation.
The primary case for window replacement is not the thermal benefits, but rather mechanical or aesthetic issues. There have been low-cost retrofits and seasonal options for decades, but these account for very small amounts – making the SHIELD program a very small threat to the R&R market.
The View from Here is that ARPA-E is important to our industry as R&D dollars for material innovation from the federal government continue to dwindle. To continue progressing, we need to keep testing materials and informing future innovations.
I’ll keep an eye on ARPA-E funding and update you as we hear more.