PATH Funds Fast-to-Market Technology Research

Have you ever had a great idea for a new technology that would save money, cut construction time, use materials more efficiently or simply improve on an existent system?

By Meghan Stromberg, Associate Editor | July 31, 2000


Benchmark’s 4 x 4 or 4 x 8 ft. insulated concrete panels offer the same benefits of (ICF) block, but require less labor.


Have you ever had a great idea for a new technology that would save money, cut construction time, use materials more efficiently or simply improve on an existent system? At one time or another, we all have.

But what have we done about it? Probably nothing. Not because of laziness or even because we’re too busy, but because researching new products and techniques, like everything else, takes money. And getting new products readily available to the industry takes even more.

Well, if this year’s inaugural PATH-CoRP program is as successful as it looks to be, that might change for a handful of would-be innovators who qualify for future grants.

In June, the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH), a public-private initiative begun by President Clinton to accelerate the creation and use of new housing technologies, announced that six grant recipients will receive their share of almost $1.1 million to put towards the research of new or improved housing technologies.

The grant awardees are AeRock, LLC, Littleton Colo.; Benchmark Resources, Inc., Auburn Hills, Mich.; Persimmon Homes, Atlanta, Ga.; PowerLight Corporation, Berkeley, Calif.; Steven Winter Associates, Inc., Norwalk Conn.; and W. Brandt Goldworthy & Associates, Inc., Torrance, Calif.

The aim of the PATH Cooperative Research Program, or PATH-CoRP, is to provide the monetary assistance necessary to get emerging technologies market-ready quickly -- within 18 months.


W. Brandt Goldsworthy & Associates’ building system utilizes snaplock technology.


"The advanced housing technologies developed from the PATH-CoRP program will help transform the way housing is constructed," says Elizabeth Burdock, executive director of PATH.

"By helping to develop innovative ideas, PATH is working with industry to create useable construction tools that reduce labor, increase energy efficiency and are less costly. The private sector can drive critical changes in housing components, systems, designs and production methods. PATH-CoRP will jump start great private sector ideas and move innovative technologies quickly into the marketplace."

And that, say grant recipients, is key. Although most of the companies have been working on their projects for some time -- as much as two years -- the challenge has been market-readiness.

The PATH-CoRP grant, says Clem Hiel, technical director at W. Brandt Goldsworthy & Associates, will give his company the leverage it needs to step up research and get its idea, a fastenerless SIP building system, on the market.

The 50 applicants who answered the call for proposals last winter were charged with providing at least 30% of the cost of the proposed research. More importantly, they had to show that their projects would address at least one of the following seven PATH areas of interest:

Labor-saving processes to shorten construction time

Enhanced worker safety and simpler construction processes

Advanced materials and systems to address structural integrity

Advanced materials and housing foundation systems for all types of soil conditions

Advanced building envelope materials and systems to control moisture in walls or infestation by termites or other insects.

New or innovative methods incorporating traditional exterior finishes with advanced framing systems.

Advanced materials and systems for interior finishes and advanced materials and systems for home function and operation.

Additionally, all projects must address the main goal of PATH, which is to reduce the monthly cost of new housing by 20% or more, and each must also support at least one additional PATH goal. By 2010 PATH is to decrease the environmental impact and energy use of new housing by 50%; improve durability and reduce maintenance costs by 50%; diminish by 10% the risk of loss of life, injury and property destruction from natural hazards and reduce by at least 20% residential construction work illnesses and injuries.

The research projects, which are being administered by an important technical PATH partner, the National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, will be completed in 18 months. Among these technologies are photovoltaics that cool the roof, insulated panels made from coal by-products, an energy-saving thermostat and an insulated concrete panel building system.

According to John Blair, public affairs specialist for NIST, participants in the program will submit quarterly reports of their progress, as well as a final report, and are invited to maintain open dialogues with NIST representatives who will offer technical support if needed.

"What we’re doing is helping promising technology break through market barriers, so they can at least get into the marketplace and be considered by builders and consumers," says Blair.