Affordable Solid Panel “Perfect Wall” Building and Delivery System

studless house start to finish

The University of Minnesota NorthernSTAR Building America Team, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy and three affordable housing developers in Minneapolis and Denver, is building houses with studless walls with the aim of increased energy efficiency, airtightness, and construction quality as compared to typical wall construction methods. 

Results so far

Hygrothermal models indicate that all project wall assemblies are safe with respect to moisture and condensation. Energy models for the studless panel house indicate approximately 40 percent energy savings over Minnesota code and 30 percent energy savings over Energy Star v3 assemblies. Airtightness of the first Habitat for Humanity studless panel house was a remarkable 0.26 ACH@50. Energy use, temperature, and moisture measurements will begin spring 2018.


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Project summary

  • Up to 23 real world houses will be built from June 2016 to July 2019 and will be adaptable to any climate.

  • Three high performance wall systems will be built multiple times with same floor plan by Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, comparing and measuring performance, constructability, and cost.

  • Urban Homeworks, will build urban infill homes with a high performance Solid Engineered Panel (SEP) system developed by the University of Minnesota in 2002-2006.

  • Thrive Builders in Denver, will build homes there. The system can work in every climate zone with little or no changes.

  • MonoPath, will help verify and demonstrate the building delivery system it developed. The Monopath system will be compared with two other high performance wall systems building to Zero Energy Ready Home specifications. This comparison will allow us to verify cost/performance outcomes and will help our partners replicate these in the future.

  • The construction cost for these homes can be lower than conventional construction with the savings paying for energy efficiency performance upgrades.


  • Compare cost, constructibility, and performance of identical houses that use two Zero Energy Ready high-performance wall assemblies against houses using EnergyStar v3 and MN code base wall assemblies

  • Build the studless panel house using a single contractor for the enclosure and to train builders in this delivery method


Affordable housing developers will build two sets of comparison houses, and multiple studless panel houses using a single envelope contractor. Software models will assess hygrothermal and energy performance prior to construction. After construction, sensors will measure energy use, temperatures, and moisture levels. Construction cost and assembly cycle analysis will identify opportunities for optimization.


June 2016 to July 2019.

The first set of comparison houses is nearing completion. Electricity and gas submeters to be installed in 2018 for continuous monitoring. Additional houses to be constructed in 2018.