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The Buildings Upgrade Prize

The Buildings Upgrade Prize (Buildings UP) provides more than $22 million in cash prizes and technical assistance to support the transformation of existing U.S. buildings into more energy-efficient and clean energy-ready homes, commercial spaces, and communities.

Prize Overview

Upgrading existing buildings to efficiently run on clean energy will help address climate change. Building upgrades may include transitioning to efficient electric equipment, including heat pumps and heat pump water heaters, and improving building efficiency through measures such as insulation and air sealing. Together, efforts will help reduce carbon emissions and energy costs while improving indoor air quality and occupant comfort.

Developed by the U.S. Department of Energy Building Technologies Office (BTO), Buildings UP aims to build capacity to rapidly and equitably transform U.S. buildings. Teams will submit innovative concepts to leverage the billions of dollars available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), utility rebate programs, and many other funding sources, capitalizing on this once-in-a-generation opportunity to equitably transform a wide variety of buildings across diverse geographies. As teams progress through the prize, they will receive cash prizes and technical assistance to help bring their ideas to life.

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Prize Structure

Phase 1: Concept

Teams may apply to one of two pathways: Equity-Centered Innovation or Open Innovation.

Equity-Centered Innovation Pathway

Teams will propose a concept to deliver scalable and replicable upgrades to buildings in disadvantaged communities, low- and moderate-income households, and underserved commercial, nonprofit, and public buildings. Phase 1 Equity-Centered Innovation winners will each receive a $400,000 cash prize.

Open Innovation Pathway

Teams will propose a concept for replicable and scalable solutions that addresses a geographic area or building type. Phase 1 Open Innovation winners will each receive a $200,000 cash prize.

Winners of both pathways will also receive expert technical assistance and coaching.

Application Support Prize

Up to 50 winning teams will be awarded $5,000 and up to 10 hours of technical support through the Application Support Prize.

Applicants are intended to be those who might not otherwise have the staff capacity, time, or expertise to submit a full Phase 1 submission. The primary competitors for the Application Support Prize are first-time applicants for BTO funding and community-based organizations (CBOs) representing or serving areas with equity-eligible buildings. Application Support Prize submissions will be reviewed and awarded monthly from February through May 2023, until funds are expended.

Subsequent phases are envisioned to offer similar prizes subject to the availability of funds.

Important Dates

Phase 1 - Concept

Application Support Prize Opens:

January 18, 2023

Phase Opens:

February 15, 2023

Phase Concludes:

July 18, 2023

Winner Announcement:

September 2023 (anticipated)

All dates are subject to change including contest openings, deadlines, and announcements.

Sign up for updates for the Buildings Upgrade Prize here.

Who is Eligible to Compete?

Buildings UP is open to teams of organizations that may include:

  • Non-federal-government entities such as municipalities, states, counties, tribal governments, territories, public housing authorities, and/or regional planning organizations.
  • Indian Tribes. For the purposes of this prize, the term “Indian Tribe” includes both federally recognized and non-federally recognized (e.g., state-recognized) Indian tribes. organizations.
  • Community-based organizations (CBOs). For this prize, DOE defines community-based organizations as “nonprofit organizations that are representative of a community or segments of a community, defined by place or population, and provides financial, educational, cultural, and/or other resources aimed at enhancing health, wealth, and overall community well-being.” For-profit entities and large nonprofits with a particular area of focus beyond the local level are typically excluded from this definition. Ideally, CBOs are physically based in the communities they serve, though in some cases CBOs can be effective even without a physical presence. CBOs range from formal organizations with legal nonprofit status (501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), etc.) to informal, grassroots community groups that are mission-driven and headed by respected community leaders. To be eligible for this Prize, a CBO must have its own nonprofit legal status OR utilize a fiscal sponsor with a nonprofit legal status.
  • Nonprofit or for-profit organizations such as portfolio building owners/operators, utilities, building upgrade service providers, unions, faith-based organizations, and other entities. Private entities must be incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States with majority domestic ownership and control.

See official prize rules for more details.

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Solutions that help shape the future

Are you a thinker, entrepreneur, facility or potential partner? Anyone with an innovative idea can help promote transformation by participating in the American-Made Challenges.

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