Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers used additive manufacturing to build a first-of-its-kind smart wall called EMPOWER. The wall, designed for a building’s interior, also functions as a cooling system to optimize energy use and lower overall cost. 

The prototype wall was manufactured with a cable-driven, field-deployable concrete additive manufacturing system and embedded with a thermal storage and active insulation system. A chiller connected to the wall pumps cool water through pipes. That coolness is stored in the interior and then transferred throughout the room as needed. 

“With the ability to function not just as a support wall but also as the room’s cooling system, the wall can lower utility bills and maintain occupant comfort while reducing energy use,” said Melissa Lapsa, group leader, building envelope and urban systems research, ORNL, who led the project sponsored by the Federal Energy Management Program. 

Researchers will build two additional walls for installation in office buildings and monitor their performance and functionality for a year. For more information, visit www.ornl.gov/news/buildings-cool-smart-walls