American-Made Challenges


Buildings Upgrade Prize

Supports actionable and scalable solutions to advance energy efficiency and efficient electrification upgrades in existing U.S. buildings.

This challenge is closed


This challenge is closed

Upcoming Webinars & Recordings


Read the full Buildings UP rules in English or Spanish

Upgrading existing buildings to efficiently run on clean energy will help address climate change.  Building upgrades may include transitioning to efficient electric equipment, including heat pumps and heat pump water heaters, and improving building efficiency through measures such as insulation and air sealing. Together, efforts will help reduce carbon emissions and energy costs, while improving indoor air quality and occupant comfort.

Developed by the U.S. Department of Energy Building Technologies Office (BTO), Buildings UP aims to build capacity to rapidly and equitably transform U.S. buildings. Teams will submit innovative concepts to leverage the billions of dollars available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), utility rebate programs, and many other funding sources, capitalizing on this once-in-a-generation opportunity to equitably transform a wide variety of buildings across diverse geographies. As teams progress through the prize, they will receive cash prizes and technical assistance to help bring their ideas to life. 


All Phase 1 Webinars have occurred. Descriptions as well links to recordings of the webinars can be found on the Upcoming Webinars and Recordings Tab. 

Prize Structure 

Phase 1: Concept

Teams may apply to one of two pathways: Equity-Centered Innovation or Open Innovation. 

Equity-Centered Innovation Pathway 

Teams will propose a concept to deliver scalable and replicable upgrades to buildings in disadvantaged communities, low- and moderate-income households, and underserved commercial, nonprofit, and public buildings. Phase 1 Equity-Centered Innovation winners will each receive a $400,000 cash prize.

Open Innovation Pathway

Teams will propose a concept for replicable and scalable solutions that addresses a geographic area or building type. Phase 1 Open Innovation winners will each receive a $200,000 cash prize.

Winners of both pathways will be eligible to advance to Phase 2 and access technical assistance. 

Application Support Prize

Up to 50 winning teams will be awarded $5,000 and up to 10 hours of technical support through the Application Support Prize. Applicants are intended to be those who might not otherwise have the staff capacity, time, or expertise to submit a full Phase 1 submission. The primary competitors for the Application Support Prize are first-time applicants for BTO funding and community-based organizations (CBOs) representing or serving areas with equity-eligible buildings. Application Support Prize submissions will be reviewed and awarded monthly from February through May 2023, until funds are expended.


Subsequent phases are planned to offer similar prizes, subject to future funding.


Who Is Eligible To Compete? 

The competition is open to community-based organizations, local governments, tribes, building owners, utilities, nonprofit organizations, energy efficiency program implementers, and other organizations. Multi-stakeholder teams are encouraged to apply. Application support is available for new and under-resourced teams. More information can be found in the official rules document (English / Spanish). 



(see detailed timeline for exact times and dates)

  • January 18, 2023: Prize Announcement
  • January 18, 2023: Application Support Prize Opens
  • February 18, 2023: Phase 1 Opens
  • March–May 2023, Application Support Prize Winners Selected Until Funds Are Expended
  • July 18, 2023: Phase 1 Concludes
  • September 2023: Phase 1 Winner Announcement
  • October 2023: Phase 2 Opens


Please review the official rules document (English / Spanish). for the complete application process and instructions for competing.

If you want to receive updates on the prize or have any questions, please subscribe by using the contact feature on the HeroX platform or message us directly at 



Challenge Updates

Phase 1 Winners Announced for Buildings Upgrade Prize

Oct. 11, 2023, 11:31 a.m. PDT by NREL Prize Moderator

The U.S. Department of Energy Building Technologies Office announced 45 teams as finalists for the Buildings Upgrade Prize (Buildings UP). Buildings UP provides $22+ million in cash prizes and technical assistance to teams developing scalable and replicable initiatives for widespread energy efficiency and efficient electrification building upgrades. 

The Phase 1 winners, representing 32 states, were chosen in two prize pathways: Equity-Centered Innovation and Open Innovation. 

Thirty-nine teams in the Equity-Centered Innovation Pathway were selected to move onto Phase 2 of the prize. Each team will receive a $400,000 cash prize, as well as technical assistance.

Six teams in Phase 1 Open Innovation Pathway were selected to move to Phase 2. Each team will receive a $200,000 cash prize, as well as technical assistance.

Please see the list of winning teams below, and learn more about each team's concepts on the Teams tab. You can also read the official winner announcement on

Congratulations to our Phase 1 Winners! 

  • Appalachian Voices, Boone, NC  
  • Blueprint 15, Inc, Syracuse, NY  
  • Centennial Parkside CDC, Philadelphia, PA  
  • City of Everett, Everett, MA  
  • City of Las Cruces, Las Cruces, NM 
  • City of Olympia, Olympia, WA 
  • City of San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, CA  
  • CLEAResult Consulting Inc., Austin, TX 
  • Climate + Energy Project, Hutchinson, KS 
  • College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME  
  • Community Housing Partners Corporation, Christiansburg, VA 
  • Community Power, Minneapolis, MN 
  • County of Ventura, Ventura, CA 
  • Ecolibrium3, Duluth, MN 
  • Energy Smart Colorado, Inc., Frisco, CO  
  • Evanston Development Cooperative, Evanston, IL  
  • Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, Reston, VA  
  • Green The Church, Oakland, CA  
  • Green & Healthy Homes Initiative Inc., Baltimore, MD  
  • Groundswell Inc., Washington, DC 
  • Hijra House Association, Pass Christian, MS  
  • Hope Village Revitalization, Detroit, MI  
  • Imani Works, Inc., Chicago, IL 
  • IMPACT Community Action, Columbus, OH  
  • Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government, Louisville, KY 
  • Metropolitan Energy Center, Kansas City, MO  
  • Native Village of Kotzebue, Kotzebue, AK 
  • New North Carolina Project, Concord, NC  
  • New Sun Rising, Millvale, PA  
  • passivhausMAINE, Freeport, ME  
  • Peak Harvest Service, LLC, Venice, FL  
  • Red Feather Development Group, Flagstaff, AZ  
  • Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Rosebud, SD 
  • Rural People's Voice, Winthrop, WA 
  • San Francisco Department of the Environment, San Francisco, CA
  • Shifted Energy, Inc., Honolulu, HI  
  • Slipstream Group, Inc., Madison, WI  
  • Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments, Moab, UT 
  • The Alaska Center, Fairbanks, AK 
  • The U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, DC 
  • Together New Orleans Sponsoring Committee/Together New Orleans, New Orleans 
  • TRC, Portland, OR  
  • Urban Green Council, New York, NY  
  • West Anniston Foundation, Anniston, AL  
  • Zero Home Corporation, Golden, CO  

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Buildings Upgrade Prize (Buildings UP) is a capacity-building prize focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in existing buildings through energy efficiency and efficient electrification. It supports innovative initiative models, leveraging billions in federal funding for energy efficiency and efficient electrification to accelerate building upgrades and achieve greenhouse gas reduction, equity, economic development, and health goals.

Buildings UP Phase 1 Winner Announcement Anticipated in October

Sept. 22, 2023, 1:58 p.m. PDT by NREL Prize Moderator

Thank you to all of the Buildings Upgrade Prize (Buildings UP) applicants for submitting your initiatives to support the transformation of existing U.S. buildings into more energy-efficient and clean energy-ready homes, commercial spaces, and communities. 

Phase 1 winners are anticipated to be announced in October. We will post a list of the winners to this HeroX page and also notify all applicants via email once the announcement is made.

Thank you all very much for your patience, and we look forward to the next steps of this groundbreaking prize!


Deadline Alert: Buildings UP Applications Due Today!

July 18, 2023, 7 a.m. PDT by NREL Prize Moderator

Buildings Upgrade Prize applications are due today by 5 p.m. ET!

  • View the Official Rules before submitting to ensure you meet all the eligibility criteria and understand the requirements of the submission materials. 
  • View Buildings UP Quick Start Guide
  • If you have any questions, contact the prize administrators at .

Don't miss you chance to compete for your share of $22M+ in cash prizes and technical assistance to support actionable and scalable solutions that advance energy efficiency and efficient electrification upgrades in existing U.S. buildings. 

Submit your application before 5 p.m. ET. 

Reminder! Buildings UP Submission Deadline July 18

July 17, 2023, 7:36 a.m. PDT by NREL Prize Moderator

The Buildings Upgrade Prize Submission deadline for both the Open Innovation and Equity-Centered Pathways is less than one week away!

All Phase 1 submission are due Tuesday, July 18 by 5 p.m. ET. 

As a reminder, Phase 1 teams should address the following in their submissions: 

  • Eligibility information (not public)
  • Team information (partially public) 
  • Concept plan narratives (not public)
  • Summary slide (public) 
  • Video pitch (optional; public)
  • Letters of support (see rules to determine if required for your submission; not public) 

We highly encourage submitting before the deadline to avoid any technical difficulties. Anyone interested is encouraged to apply. Be sure to view the Official Rules  and the Buildings UP Quick Start Guide before submitting to ensure you meet all the eligibility criteria and understand the requirements of the submission materials. 

If you have any questions about the prize requirements or regarding your specific submission, please contact the prize administrators at .

Final Office Hours Session is Tomorrow!

July 12, 2023, 7:29 a.m. PDT by NREL Prize Moderator

The last chance for drop-in office hours is this Thursday, July 13th 12-1:30 p.m. ET! This is the final opportunity to have your application questions answered live. Register here to receive the webinar link. 

Can’t make the office hours? The Buildings UP website has a lot of helpful resources as you finalize your application such as: 

If you have questions, you can contact us directly at . Remember, the deadline for submitting an application is Tuesday, July 18th at 5 p.m. ET. We look forward to reviewing your applications! 

Upcoming Webinars & Recordings

Upcoming Webinars & Recordings

Informational Prize Overview Webinar*

On-demand recordings of past training webinars: 

  • 3/13/23, 1:30-3 p.m. ET - Engaging Stakeholders in Building Decarbonization Planning: Introduction to Community, Affordable Housing, Health, Economic Inclusion, and Other Stakeholders: View recording and slides, including Spanish translations, here. 
    • Building retrofits and decarbonization require collaboration across a wide range of stakeholders. In this webinar, our speakers will delve into cross-sectoral collaboration and how it can be leveraged to achieve multiple-benefit retrofit initiatives, while keeping racial and economic equity principles at the center. We will introduce community, affordable housing, health, economic inclusion, and other relevant stakeholders, highlight useful case studies of successful cross-sectoral collaborations, and discuss potential next steps in assembling your building decarbonization team.
  • 3/14/23, 12-1 p.m. ET - Introduction to Comprehensive Retrofits and Decarbonization: View recording and slides, including Spanish translations, here. 
    • Comprehensive retrofits of existing buildings include equipment replacement and envelope improvements and can reduce building energy use by 20-30%, playing a critical role in addressing climate change and improving the quality of our building stock. This webinar will provide an overview of the many benefits delivered by comprehensive retrofits—ranging from GHG reductions to lower energy bills and improved health, comfort, and safety. Speakers will also cover emerging retrofit technologies, approaches to achieving comprehensive savings, and strategies to scale up retrofits in your community. 
  • 3/21/23, 1pm -2 p.m. ET - Buildings UP Tools Webinar: View recording here
  • 4/10/23, 1-2:30 p.m. ET - Introduction to Community-Driven Planning: View recording and slides, including Spanish translations, here. 
    • This webinar focuses on how to develop authentic community partnerships and best engage frontline communities in the context of planning for building upgrades. Our speakers will identify ways to build stronger connections between agencies, local governments, community-based organizations, and community members; provide an overview of Community-Driven Climate Resilience Planning's planning principles and frameworks; and familiarize attendees with resources on effective strategies for community engagement. 
  • 4/12/23, 12:30-2 p.m. ET - Accessing Funding Sources for Affordable Housing and Equity-Eligible Commercial Building Retrofits: View recording and slides, including Spanish translations, here. 
    • A common barrier to scaling building retrofits is the lack of sufficient funding. This is true of all building types, but is most pronounced in affordable housing and underserved commercial buildings. In this webinar, we will discuss funding in detail: where it comes from (federal, state, philanthropic, utility, private lending), how it flows down to communities, and how different funding sources can work together to finance affordable housing and underserved commercial building retrofits. Presenters will speak to common challenges and barriers, exemplary programs, and specific, timely funding mechanisms to look out for, such as the Inflation Reduction Act and Environmental Justice Community Block Grants.
  • 4/14/23, 1-2:30 p.m. ET - Energy Efficiency Programs 101: View recording and slides, including Spanish translations, here. 
    • This webinar will cover the fundamentals of energy efficiency programs. Attendees will learn about the various factors and organizational practices that influence the success of pursuing energy efficiency upgrades in affordable housing and underserved commercial buildings. Speakers will present the landscape of programs that teams might consider to advance energy efficiency and clean heating and cooling technologies in their communities, including their benefits and potential negative impacts. Lastly, we will take a deep dive into one or two select program models (e.g., one-stop shops) to understand what it takes to stand up and implement these initiatives. 
  • 4/26/23, 1:30-2:30 p.m. ET - Considerations for Underserved Commercial Buildings: View recording and slides, including Spanish translations, here. 
    • This webinar will introduce the concept of underserved, or equity-eligible, commercial buildings. Speakers will discuss reasons why certain commercial buildings are underserved, common barriers to pursuing upgrades in underserved commercial buildings, and potential strategies for overcoming or addressing those barriers. A focus of this webinar will be helping you understand how to craft a locally appropriate definition of “underserved commercial” and choosing which segments of your building stock and/or community (e.g., by location, ownership type, business/entity type, building size, etc.) to target to maximize the benefits of energy efficiency in your community. 
  • 4/28/23, 1-2:30 p.m. ET - Drivers of Energy Efficiency in Affordable Housing: View recording and slides, including Spanish translations, here. 
    • Energy efficiency is particularly important in affordable housing; because one of the benefits of energy efficiency interventions is lower utility bills, these upgrades can go a long way in ensuring rents and costs of living remain affordable to households. This webinar will explore energy costs in the context of total operating expenses in different types of affordable housing, introduce the drivers (or lack thereof) of energy efficiency upgrades, and offer suggestions for overcoming challenges. Attendees will learn how to make the business case for energy efficiency upgrades to affordable housing owners and developers. 
  • 5/10/23, 1:30-3 p.m. ET- Choosing your Building Upgrade Zone: Structural Equity Considerations: View recording and slides, including Spanish translations, here. 
    • This webinar introduces the concept of energy equity and gives an overview of how disinvestment in communities has contributed to the problem of inefficient, unhealthy, and expensive-to-operate residential and commercial building stock. Our speakers will offer guiding strategies for choosing your building upgrade zone by prioritizing procedural equity, lived experience considerations, and data availability to decide which buildings or segments of communities to focus on when planning for upgrades. Attendees will also be introduced to several data tools that can assist you in choosing residential and commercial buildings to include in your building upgrade zone. 
  • 5/11/23, 12-1:30 p.m. ET - Building Upgrades: An Opportunity for Workforce and Economic Inclusion: View recording and slides, including Spanish translations, here. 
    • This webinar introduces strategies that will leverage residential and commercial retrofit projects towards realizing workforce diversity and economic inclusion. It will cover why leveraging retrofits for community benefits is important and identify challenges towards employing a diverse workforce and implementing economic inclusion strategies. Speakers will offer guidance on how to develop project requirements that track to workforce diversity and economic inclusion and how to identify partners who can help project teams realize their workforce goals. 
  • 6/29/23, 2:30-4 p.m. ET - Equity and Buildings: A Practical Framework for Building Practitioners. View recording, including Spanish translations here.
    • This webinar outlines a practical framework for buildings practitioners – energy efficiency and electrification program administrators, policymakers, and others – to ensure their work is designed to serve all residents and is informed by and accountable to community priorities. Working off the 2021 Equity and Buildings Framework developed by the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, speakers will discuss best practices and concrete steps for meaningfully involving community members in planning and implementation of building upgrades programs and policies. The webinar will also cover how buildings practitioners can promote community capacity building, power shifting in decision making, and achieving program outcomes that advance community equity priorities. We will discuss opportunities for addressing intersectional community-wide issues in buildings work; learn to develop an equity definition that fits your community’s needs; and go through different prompts, tools, and exercises that can help you center equity in your buildings work and remain accountable to equity goals.

Application Support Webinars*

*Attendance is not required at Buildings UP webinars or related events and will not influence the scoring of your submission.