For decades, Home Innovation Research Labs (formerly the NAHB Research Center) has been the intersection of research and reality for the home building industry. In one-third of the facility, we can test manufacturers’ concepts through focus groups and more novel approaches like channel response testing. In the other two-thirds of the building, we can put building products, materials, and systems through their paces either individually or in whole-house constructs. Clients can experience real-world construction scenarios in the controlled environment of our labs.

In our capacity as a DOE Building America team leader, we assembled a diverse stakeholder group that included a few dozen leading building scientists, researchers, product manufacturers, and government representatives. The group’s task was to look at best practices for constructing high-R walls, with the long-term goal to develop a Home Builder’s Guide to High-R Wall Construction. There has been a lack of standardization across materials and construction details to get this valuable technology more widespread acceptance. As is the case with most technology innovations for home building, high-R walls have fallen short of mainstream adoption because of the typically risk-averse nature of high-volume builders. Making an across-the-board shift to a new, non-standardized technology, especially one as critical as the building envelope, can entail substantial monetary investments for builders and can lead to performance risks associated with durability, product compatibility, constructability, and cost-effectiveness.

The Home Innovation team presented to the stakeholders market research data collected and analyzed over the past decade through its syndicated Annual Builder Practices Survey. The group discussed the key metrics for creating a viable high-efficiency wall system—energy efficiency/R-value; durability; wind-resistance/bracing; air tightness; and practicality in terms of constructability and affordability. These are all factors that must be considered when developing best practices that 1) can be readily implemented in the field using available methods and materials; 2) can withstand the test of time from environmental and structural loads; and 3) can be confirmed through research and testing.

The design guide that culminates from this meeting and resulting research will be innovative in the way mainstream builders consider the efficiency of the building envelope. It will be builder-centric and include practical considerations such as climate zones, preferred wall system solutions, construction details, material characteristics, high-R options, and component and material integration issues. For this particular technology, it will be a one-stop shop for builders, similar to what Home Innovation Research Labs is to the building industry.

For more information on the guide’s development, visit