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NREL and iUnit Open the Door to Grid-Integrated, Multifamily Construction

May 11, 2017

 

A photo of a group of people listening to a man speak inside a laboratory while another man stands on the balcony of a prototype modular studio apartment.

Nearly 30 industry partners visited NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility to see a modular studio prototype apartment created by Denver developer iUnit.
Photo by Denise Barber, NREL

NREL showcased one of its newest capabilities at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) on May 4. Nearly 30 industry partners, representing 25 companies, visited a 380-square-foot modular studio prototype apartment created by Denver developer, iUnit. Open house participants were able to tour the unit in person and learn about the partnership between iUnit and NREL, including the use of NREL’s apartment-in-the-loop research capabilities and energy modeling tools.

The draw for learning about the iUnit is multipronged:

  • Growing Multifamily Housing Needs: Roughly 38 million people in the United States live in buildings that contain five or more units, totaling almost 18.5 million households, increasing the demand for multifamily construction
  • Faster Construction, Occupancy: It’s much faster to build these modular multifamily residences as the modular construction allows fully furnished units to be assembled and shipped to the site, ready to install, leading to faster occupancy
  • Off-Grid and Efficient: The microgrid-ready unit integrates technologies required to achieve a decentralized grid, and energy efficiency upgrades in multifamily housing like iUnit could save $3.4 billion annually.

The ESIF provides a unique contained and controlled platform where partners can identify and resolve the technical, operational, and financial risks of integrating emerging energy technologies into today’s energy system. While the iUnit team is focusing on enhanced energy efficiency and creating a modular, zero energy apartment technology development platform for construction, the team is also testing several new innovations at the ESIF before incorporating them into their planned Champa Flats community in Denver, which will include a microgrid system.