The United States Department of Energy has selected Dow Building & Construction, a business group within the Advanced Materials Division of Midland-based Dow Chemical Co., to lead a multi-year project that will combine research and residential in-home testing to develop enhanced home energy efficiency retrofit solutions and best practices.

Dow will work in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, as well as Michigan State University and Ferris State University, with select contributions from Duke Energy, DTE Energy Corp. and Exelon Corp. Of the 15 research and deployment partnerships named by the DOE, Dow was the only private sector manufacturer asked to lead a research, development and deployment team.

“Today, we know how to build a very energy-efficient new home, but there are still 76 million homes in America that were built prior to modern energy codes,” said Carol Eicher, business group vice president, Dow Building & Construction. “It is critical to establish new product solutions and application practices for retrofitting these homes, and what better partner than Habitat for Humanity, which is committed to making home ownership affordable and serves as a benchmark in this industry.”

Added Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International: “Dow approached Habitat for Humanity 27 years ago with ideas about working together and thus became our first corporate sponsor. Since then, Dow has worked with Habitat organizations worldwide to help us create energy-efficient homes. We are delighted to be part of this program that will help low-income families make changes to existing homes so they, too, can realize reduced energy costs.”

The DOE retrofit project is part of a broader effort to reduce both energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and establish national guidelines and standards for retrofit methods, materials and practices. On Earth Day of this year, Vice President Joe Biden announced the DOE’s Retrofit Ramp-Up initiative, which brings communities, government, private sector companies and non-profit organizations together to deliver energy efficiency upgrades — or retrofits — to the country.

Dow supports the DOE initiative and also views home energy efficiency retrofits as an important source of job creation for the nation’s construction industry. In June of this year, Dow chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris co-wrote an editorial in Forbes with Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune in support of the Home Star legislation which offers incentives to homeowners to weatherize their homes. According to the authors, the “stimulus program will jump-start one of our hardest-hit industries while helping to address a major energy guzzler: our homes.”

Research goals established for the Dow-led Energy Efficiency Insulation Retrofit Program will draw upon the resources and know-how of every partner. The team will conduct pre- and post-retrofit homeowner market research, designed by MSU, to build a stronger understanding of the considerations and concerns consumers have about retrofit costs, procedures and results.

Innovative new systems devised by Dow and Ferris State’s Granger Center for Construction and HVACR will focus on establishing new products and application solutions in wall and roofing insulations as well as overall building air sealing.

The team will also draw upon Habitat for Humanity’s knowledge of lower-income homeowner issues and Dow’s practical marketplace know-how and supply chain strategies to create a business model that results in the commercialization of affordable, prescriptive solutions that can be sold in the retail channel or practiced by retrofit contractors.

“Our goal is to simplify and improve upon the current solutions and application practices to achieve enhanced energy efficiency in existing residential homes,” said William Jackson, global research and development director for Dow Building & Construction. “By working closely with our program partners and uniquely combining Dow chemistry with building science, we will establish and introduce a portfolio of air sealing and insulation products and application techniques that will push expected energy savings to greater than 30 percent.”

The Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies recently reported that of the 116 million houses in America today, approximately two-thirds were built before contemporary U.S. energy codes were adopted — one-third of existing homes are more than 45 years old, and another third are at least 25 years old. DOE has stated that retrofits of these older homes using existing technologies could reduce energy bills by $40 billion annually and lower total associated greenhouse gas emissions by up to 160 million metric tons a year.

Dow Building & Construction is comprised of two business units — Dow Building Solutions and Dow Construction Chemicals — that together employ about 1,700 people worldwide, and generate almost $2 billion of revenue while operating more than 30 plants worldwide.

Dow’s diversified portfolio of specialty chemical, advanced materials, agrosciences and plastics businesses delivers a broad range of technology-based products and solutions to customers in approximately 160 countries and in high growth sectors such as electronics, energy, coatings and agriculture. In 2009, Dow had annual sales of $45 billion and employed approximately 52,000 people worldwide. The Company’s more than 5,000 products are manufactured at 214 sites in 37 countries across the globe.

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