Open Innovation Challenges

American-Made Buildings Prize

Open Challenge: American-Made Buildings Prize – E-ROBOT

American-Made Buildings Prize


This two-phase Prize competition looks for minimally invasive, low-cost, and holistic building envelope retrofit solutions that make retrofits easier, faster, safer, and more accessible for workers. Winners of each phase will be awarded cash prizes and support from national laboratories, startup accelerators, investors, manufacturers and other industry leaders who are part of the American-Made Network. Details of the competition are outlined below.

Who Should Apply

Entrepreneurial individuals or teams as well as researchers in academic or industrial settings who are based or legally residing in the U.S. and work on low-cost and efficient building envelope retrofit solutions.



America’s 119 million homes and 5.6 million commercial buildings account for approximately 40% of the nation’s total energy demand and use 75% of its electricity for a total energy bill of more than $410 billion annually. Approximately one-half of America’s homes and commercial buildings were constructed before 1980—before the existence of today’s efficient products and most equipment standards and building codes. These buildings represent a significant opportunity to unlock energy savings through building envelope improvements such as air sealing and adding insulation. Building envelope retrofit approaches developed under this Prize will be designed to positively enhance the market by providing a low-cost minimally invasive solution to improve the energy efficiency of today’s buildings. Specifically, robots can complement and support the existing workforce by creating new employment and business opportunities. Cutting the energy use of U.S. buildings by just 20% would save some $80 billion annually on energy bills.

Possible Approaches

Sensing and Inspection Tools

Nondestructive and fast inspection techniques to assess and identify envelope defects (e.g., excessive air infiltration, missing insulation, and so on) for pinpointed retrofit and to verify the results post retrofit. Provide real-time information with data visualization for operators and as direct input to the retrofit tool.

Retrofit Tools

Semi-or fully autonomous robotic deposition tool to apply minimally invasive techniques to rapidly retrofit building envelopes including, but not limited to, air sealing areas identified by sensing and inspection tools. Ideally, the retrofit tool also addresses insulation deficiencies. In all cases, the tool needs to mitigate any underlying envelope deficiencies related to bulk moisture and vapor control to ensure durable envelopes post retrofit. As an option, the retrofit tool could use any developed mapping tools to automatically direct the retrofit tool in real time. 

Mapping Tools

Mapping of building envelope geometry and envelope defects to be retrofitted with spatial relationships is needed to support the retrofit process. Ideally, envelope mapping tools would be deployed on the retrofit tool and/or sensing and inspection tool. Real-time data visualization will be required to support real-time decisions in the field as mapping, retrofit, and inspection processes are underway.

How to Apply 

  1. Identify a critical need in building envelope retrofits using advanced robotics, develop a conceptual design of the solution, and strategize to build a robust team that can provide a holistic solution in Phase 2.
  2. Submit a 90-second to 2-minute video describing your challenge and proposed solution, team, and plan.
  3. Create a cover page.
  4. Answer questions in a short technical narrative and make a summary slide about your project.
    • Need/Challenge:
      What is the critical envelope retrofit need being addressed? Why is that an important problem?
    • Proposed Solution:
      Include a picture and/or graphic that best captures the solution, innovation and/or approach with short description.
    • Partnering/Team:
      Describe your team and why your team has a competitive edge.
  5. Submit design specifications.
  6. Gather letters of commitment and support (optional).
  7. Upload all material via the E-ROBOT Prize HeroX page.


Prize Structure 

The E-robot Prize consists of 2 phases. Each phase lasts about six months and is expected to culminate in spring 2022.

ContestWinners Prize
Phase 1Up to 10$200,000 cash prize per winning team
Phase 2Up to 4$500,000 cash prize per winning team

Phase 1 – Concept and Design: In this phase, teams are expected to present an innovative idea that solves a known industry problem for building envelope retrofits. This phase focuses on proving that the solution solves a critical building envelope need, developing a concept and design, and forming a team capable of achieving success. Up to 10 Phase 1 winners will win $200,000 in cash prizes and will then be eligible to compete in Phase 2. 

Phase 2 – Build and Validate: In Phase 2, winning competitors from Phase 1 will take their individual components and add the other required functionality to create a holistic, and “turnkey,” integrated product offering. In Phase 2, up to four winners will win $500,000 in cash prizes.

Important Dates

  • Phase 1 
    • Phase 1 Submission Open: November 16, 2020 
    • Submission Close: May 12, 2021, 5 p.m. ET 
    • Winner Notification: July 2021 (anticipated) 
  • Phase 2 
    • Submission Open: July 2021 (anticipated) 
    • Submission Close: January 2022 (anticipated) 
    • Winner Notification: March 2022 (anticipated)

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