The broader impact/commercial potential of this I-Corps project is the development of a building panel construction platform to create energy-efficient and affordable housing solutions. The platform integrates dissimilar materials into new functional materials using an automated single-step manufacturing method. By collapsing multiple base materials and multiple envelope functions into a new building panel product, significant efficiencies are realized, creating a building product that is faster to assemble, greatly reducing labor costs, while optimizing dissimilar material attributes. The multi-functional platform may meet the needs of a wide range of construction market segments, including single-family residential, low-rise multi-family, and most significantly, the growing mid-rise market. The same platform also may be applied in the building renovation segment as an energy-efficient façade panel. The automated manufacturing method is industrialized in nature and may be scaled to produce high volumes of materials at speed.

This I-Corps project is based on the development of a novel building panel construction platform. The platform is a layered multi-functional, lightweight structural building panel manufactured from dissimilar materials in a continuous flow process. The range of layering materials may include — but is not limited to — sheets of wood veneer, wood composite panels, agricultural composite based panels, wood plastic composite panels, magnesium cement panels, gypsum panels, other mineral boned fiber composite panels, metalized films, polyurethane foams, biobased foams, and other functional layers. The platform may be configured to address a wide range of climatic load conditions. The goal is for the building material to meet all the performance requirements of a modern envelope. This results in the exterior facades, structural elements, and interior elements most often being assembled on-site. The array of building materials often makes the construction process costly, cumbersome, and laced with inefficiencies. The proposed development may alter the current construction paradigm.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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University of Minnesota Duluth
United States
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