Engineer adjusts bank of dimmer lights.

                                                                   Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL

Note that this challenge was for the Fall 2021 competition. 

The objective of this challenge is to develop an innovative, holistic solution that will increase the accessibility, purchase, installation, and use of energy efficiency technologies in buildings (residential, commercial, new, or existing). This will lead to reductions in energy use and carbon emissions, and fewer inequalities in obtaining new technologies for identified stakeholder groups.


Energy efficiency in the building industry is not new. The first Energy Policy and Conservation Act was signed into law by President Gerald Ford in 1975,1 and the U.S. Department of Energy will soon celebrate its 45th birthday. So why don’t we see the latest and greatest building technologies everywhere?

For example, LED light bulbs have been on the market for more than a decade at increasingly lower costs, yet only 45% of high-income households and 14% of low-income households report having at least one LED bulb installed.2 Similarly, wireless Internet-of-Things sensors and devices are improving how we can interact with and control devices in our homes and our workplaces. Many of these systems require broadband internet, but only 57% of low-income households in the United States have broadband internet.3 In addition, there is an almost 10% disparity in access to broadband internet for rural communities compared with urban and suburban communities.3 An estimated 39% of people living in rural areas lack access to the basic-fixed broadband service4 needed for many of these technologies to function.

Heat pump water heaters (HPWH) are another example of a newer technology that can save a substantial portion of energy for domestic hot water building loads—particularly for residential and multifamily dwellings—while simultaneously providing a path toward electrification and grid-wide carbon reduction goals. However, an apartment building with multiple generations of families who may often be home will see an elevated hot water usage profile compared to an apartment building with single-family tenants who are mostly away during the day. HPWHs subjected to higher usage profiles will more often require the use of a backup electric coil, leading to less efficient operation and higher utility costs for a population with less income to spare. Adding to the complexity of the situation, tenants renting an apartment are often responsible for utility bills but do not typically own their water heaters nor have a say in the type of equipment purchased by the landlord or owners. This seemingly energy-efficient technology investment might actually increase the energy burden on certain individuals and communities. Climate considerations should also be taken into account when considering heat pump performance or the current cost difference between switching from natural gas or electricity.

The initial cost of a new technology is an important factor for deployment, and innovative solutions to reduce this cost are needed to help increase market adoption and impact. However, this approach may overlook subtleties specific to subsets of the population where reducing cost may not be enough to achieve market adoption potential. For example, there could be perception or lack of awareness barriers,5 or barriers specific to certain stakeholder groups that cannot be seen through a cost-only lens. Market transformation does not occur overnight, and sometimes strategic intervention is necessary to accelerate technology adoption—this is your challenge.


The Challenge

This challenge requires students to develop an innovative and holistic deployment solution that will increase market adoption of an emerging technology for building energy conservation and carbon reduction. Teams will first select an emerging technology and a specific stakeholder group with limited adoption of the technology. Teams must then perform market analysis research, identify adoption barriers through stakeholder engagement, and develop a holistic solution (technical, policy, and/or economic) to increase deployment of the technology. The solution must lead to higher market adoption rates and specifically address identified barriers for the chosen stakeholder group. A holistic deployment solution—including technical and non-technical aspects such as policy and economic solutions—is required.

Student submissions should:

  • Describe the scope and context of the deployment barriers for a specific technology and associated impacted stakeholder group in the United States, including background research on the emerging technology and market analysis to identify and define adoption barriers.
  • Identify affected stakeholders in socioeconomically vulnerable and historically excluded, underserved, and frontline communities (communities at the frontline of pollution and climate change6), as well as key stakeholders or partners needed to deploy the idea.
  • Develop a holistic solution for the targeted stakeholder group to increase market adoption of the chosen technology at a building-type scale or a community-level scale. The solution may include policy solutions, supply chain and manufacturing processes, economic solutions, or other aspects critical to identified stakeholder barriers, but a technical solution must be proposed.
  • Discuss appropriate and expected impacts and benefits of the proposed solution. This should include a cost/benefit analysis and should also consider non-economic costs and benefits, such as occupant health, productivity, well-being, and others.7
  • Develop a market transformation plan that describes how the team envisions bringing its idea to scale in the market, including sales or distribution channels, outreach mechanisms, stakeholder engagement, and other relevant details; this plan should also describe who the team would partner with to implement the idea and how the collective team would increase market adoption. Letters of support from potential partners are encouraged.

All solutions must include a cost/benefit analysis. Solutions should consider the following questions:

  • If costs are a key barrier for the identified stakeholder group, how will costs be reduced to facilitate adoption by these stakeholders?
  • How does the proposed solution change costs, compared with current best practices?
  • Are there new business models that could be used to sell the proposed solution?
  • What non-economic drivers might enable adoption at scale that in turn drive the costs down?

Cost estimates should focus on those processes, or methods, compared with current practices. Cost estimates need not be exhaustive but should be comprehensive enough to capture the barriers identified and how the solution addresses those cost barriers.

All solutions must include consideration for non-economic costs and benefits, especially those identified as critical through stakeholder outreach and engagement. Solutions should consider the following questions:

  • What are the key barriers other than cost for the identified stakeholder group?
  • How does the proposed solution address identified non-cost barriers leading to increased adoption of the selected technology?
  • What methodologies for quantifying these non-economic costs and benefits would lead to wide adoption rates of the technology?

Downloadable Challenge Description


Competing in this challenge is open to student teams currently enrolled in U.S. universities and colleges. See the Terms and Conditions for eligibility requirements. Please note that all team members must have completed the Building Technologies Internship Program (BTIP) application or declined internship consideration when the idea is submitted.

Please submit the following as one PDF document.

  • Project Team Background (up to 2 pages, single-spaced)
    • Form a team of 2‒4 students. These students represent the project team and will all consult on the problem.
    • The Project Team Background should include:
      • Project name, team name, and collegiate institution(s)
      • Team mission statement
      • A short biography for each team member; this should include information such as major, level (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, graduate), and other relevant background information such as experience with building science, future career goals, and formative experiences that shaped each individual’s contribution to the Challenge.
      • Diversity statement (minimum 1 paragraph, 5‒7 sentences): One of JUMP into STEM’s key objectives is to encourage diversity of thought and background in students entering the building science industry. There is a diversity gap in STEM, meaning that certain groups are underrepresented or have been historically excluded from STEM fields. These groups include, but are not limited to, those based on race, ethnicity, and gender—and this gap needs to be addressed. Diversity of thought can be achieved through teams consisting of students from different majors and minors. If there are barriers to entry present that affect the racial, ethnic, and/or gender breakdown of your team, please elaborate. As part of the next generation of building science thought leaders and researchers, you have a unique opportunity to influence this industry. The diversity statement is your opportunity to describe your team’s diversity of background and thought, both generally and as applicable to your chosen Challenge.
    • The Project Team Background does not count toward the 5-page Project Challenge Submission.
  • Project Challenge Submission (up to 5 pages, single-spaced)
    • Select 1 of the 3 Challenges to address.
    • Investigate the background of the Challenge and consider related stakeholders. Stakeholders are those who are affected by the problem, a part of the supply chain, or manufacturing of the technology product(s), as well as those who may have decision-making power and are able to provide solutions (technical or nontechnical solutions, such as policies). For example, you could include stakeholders who have previously experienced environmental pollution or a high energy burden. Refer to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Justice and Environmental Justice initiatives, as DOE plans to deliver 40% of the overall benefits of climate investment to disadvantaged communities.
    • Write a 1- to 2-paragraph problem statement, focusing on a specific aspect of the problem and the stakeholder groups affected by or involved in the problem. The stakeholder groups can be from a specific location, socioeconomic status, age, or demographic (e.g., people living in subsidized housing). The problem statement should clearly identify the injustices (energy or environmental) that the stakeholder group experiences. Students should consider social implications related to the identified injustices.
    • Write a holistic solution that addresses or solves the specific problem from your problem statement. A holistic solution is one that includes a technical component as well as one or more of the following components, as appropriate: economic, policy, commercialization, codes and standards, and/or other. Address the requirements for your selected Challenge. Include graphs, figures, and photos. Discuss how your solution will impact your stakeholders, especially those who have experienced the injustices that you described in your problem statement.
    • Develop a technology-to-market plan or a market transformation plan, depending on the chosen Challenge.
      • A technology-to-market plan describes how the team envisions bringing its idea from concept to installation on real buildings, or integrated into the design of real buildings, and includes a cost/benefit analysis. This does not need to be exhaustive and should include comparing the solution to current or existing technologies or practices. Benefits, such as building energy reductions and improved occupant health or productivity, should be evaluated. The plan should also identify at least one key stakeholder barrier for implementation (in addition to cost) and address how the proposed solution will overcome that barrier. The plan should also discuss what key stakeholder(s) should be involved to commercialize the technology and then sell and install the technologies with your target market(s).
      • A market transformation plan describes how the team envisions increasing the adoption and use of the already commercialized idea in the market, including sales or distribution channels, outreach mechanisms, and other relevant details. The plan should also describe who the team would partner with to implement the idea (e.g., utilities) and how the collective team would increase market adoption.
    • Include references. References will not count toward the 5-page maximum.
  • Appendix (optional, no page limit)
    • Teams may wish to add an appendix. This is optional and might not be reviewed by the judges.
    • The appendix has no page limit.

Please submit the following information to the corresponding submission prompts on The abstract and image for Challenge winners and Challenge finalists will be published on the JUMP into STEM website.

  • Abstract (up to 250 words)
    • Please include an abstract of your project. The abstract may be displayed on the website.
  • Image (file size limit: 5 MB; filetype: .jpg)
    • Please submit an image that represents your project. This can be a photo or a figure from your paper. The image may be displayed on the website.

Evaluation Criteria

Solution (40%)

  • Holistic Solution: a technical solution, as well as one or more of the following components, as appropriate: economic, policy, commercialization, codes and standards, or other. How well does the proposed solution address the problem?
  • Feasibility: overall feasibility and potential, including viability.
  • Novelty: the originality and creativity of the solution and how significant the contribution will be to the building industry.
  • Applicability to stakeholders: how well the solution addresses the problem statement and associated stakeholder community.

Market Readiness and Impact (30%)

  • Technology-to-Market Plan or Market Transformation Plan: depending on the Challenge, either a technology-to-market plan or a market transformation plan is required, including cost/benefit analysis and identified key barrier(s) for stakeholder implementation, along with how the proposed solution will overcome the barriers. In addition:
    • For technology-to-market plans: How feasible is the proposed plan to bring the solution from a paper concept to installation or integration with real buildings or building designs?
    • For market transformation plan: How feasible is the proposed solution at providing market intervention and increasing market adoption?)
  • Market characterization and readiness for proposed idea: description and understanding of the market and stakeholder group, and how the solution will create value, both economic and other, to drive industry adoption.
  • Impact: the overall potential impact of the solution. For example, can the solution be extended to communities, similar stakeholder groups, or a nationwide solution?

Diversity and Justice (20%)

  • Diversity statement and project team background: how well the team addresses the diversity gap in the building science industry in their diversity statement. This includes how the team brings perspectives from a variety of backgrounds including students from groups that are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). This also includes students from many different disciplines—ensuring diversity of thought. (See the diversity statement section in the challenge requirements.) This also includes how well the teams connect their mission statement and biographies to their problem statement.
  • Environmental and Energy Justice: how well the proposed solution addresses environmental and energy justice.

Submission (10%)

  • Submission Requirements: how well the team follows all submission requirements. 


  1. Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy. 2013. The History of Energy Efficiency. Washington, DC: Alliance to Save Energy.
  2. U.S. Energy Information Administration. 2017. “American households use a variety of lightbulbs as CFL and LED adoption increases.”
  3. Pew Research Center. 2021. “Internet/Broadband Fact Sheet.”
  4. Levin, Blair and Mattey, Carol. 2017. “In infrastructure plan, a big opening for rural broadband.” Brookings Institution: The Avenue. February 13, 2017.
  5. Cort, K.A. 2013. Low-E Storm Windows: Market Assessment and Pathways to Market Transformation. Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
  6. Initiative for Energy Justice.
  7. Whole Building Design Guide. 2020. “Consider Non-Quantifiable Benefits.”