Approximately 40% of all energy consumed in the United States is consumed by the built environment, with the associated carbon dioxide emissions contributing to over 75% of the carbon footprint in dense urban areas. The current presidential administration has pledged that all buildings reduce energy use by over 80% by 2050. This research examines the role of networks in influencing energy use in the built environment, the flow of energy use practices through building occupant networks, and develops integrated information systems to connect building occupants with energy use information.

PROJECT #1 – BioBuild, IGEP Virginia Tech

The BioBuild program is a new Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program (IGEP) funded by the Graduate School at Virginia Tech. It was created to address pressing societal needs with interdisciplinary expertise informed by natural systems. The pedagogical objective of the BioBuild IGEP is to create and sustain a doctoral program at the confluence of the built environment and biology and foster competitive graduates with abilities to view grand challenges in the built and natural environments through an interdisciplinary lens.   The objective of this BioBuild sub-project is to draw inspiration from the plant kingdom to improve our understanding of mutually-influenced spatially-proximal buildings from the perspectives of energy supply and efficiency.  We examine integrated and adaptive building networks through both numerical and experimental analyses

PROJECT #2 – Department of Energy

Commercial and residential buildings account for a significant portion of U.S. electricity consumption (35% and 39% respectively), and present a large opportunity for achieving significant energy savings. Academic research on systems that influence behavior by providing building occupants with various forms of energy consumption information (i.e. eco-feedback systems) has shown that such systems yield energy savings ranging from 5-55%. Assuming a conservative building energy savings rate of 10%, eco-feedback systems deployed at scale can potentially save the United States up to 4.033 Quadrillion Btu of energy, the equivalent of 563.4 Million Metric Tons of carbon dioxide emissions (close to 1% of total global emissions), each year. This research project develops a next generation smart building social energy management platform (BizWatts) that will empower employees to conserve energy at the workplace.

Acknowledgment and Disclaimer: This material is based upon work supported by the Department of Energy. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Energy.

PROJECT #3 – National Science Foundation #1142379

The research objective of this Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program award is to understand, improve and predict the dynamics that occur in networks of building occupants when individuals in these networks can view energy utilization of their peers. In pursuing this objective, this research aims to address the grand challenge of reducing building energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions. Four energy utilization experiments in residential and administrative buildings will be performed to empirically assess and model the complex inter-relationships between occupants and occupant networks in influencing energy use decisions. These experimental results will be integrated into an agent-based simulation model to predict the impact of building occupant network dynamics on achieving sustained energy conservation in and across buildings. The pedagogical objective of this CAREER program award is to combine in-class experiments and pedagogical simulations to achieve critical thinking and higher order learning that fosters the dynamic engineer of the future called for by the National Academy of Engineering and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Acknowledgment and Disclaimer: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1142379. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

PROJECT #4 – National Science Foundation #0903597

This research transforms design approaches to contemporary urban expansion. Until recently, strategies for urban growth were able to assume inexpensive energy, unlimited access to safe drinking water and an environment that could absorb all the waste products of urban civilization: None of these assumptions remains valid. This research examines the new urban requirements for; (1) adaptability – designing buildings, power, transport, water and sanitation infrastructure with flexibility to be repurposed as urban needs evolve and the urban environment changes, (2) ecology – designing to address environmental performance of urban buildings, landscapes, land uses and infrastructure, and (3) resilience – designing buildings and infrastructure anticipating the impact of climate changes on sea level, and the possibility of man-made and natural disasters. The most important contribution of this research is the examination of the interdependent requirements of designing holistically for adaptability, ecology and resilience.

Acknowledgment and Disclaimer: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0903597. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

PROJECT #5 – Earth Institute #4-10552

This research involves developing a model and user interface to share information about building energy use in a multi-family residential building. The toolkit was implemented in a pilot study across the building to examine energy use consequences of different information sharing approaches. We found that coupling energy use with occupants resulted in substantial savings in energy use (27.3%). However, toward the end of the study the majority of the participants exhibited a relapse in conservation behavior. The group that exhibited a statistically robust response and reduced consumption the most was the group exposed to peer utilization data.
HighVertexIMG_1812

lightbulb

FUNDING

Virginia Tech
Amount: $450,000   
Duration
: 2013 – 2017
Title: BioBuild – New PhD Program in Bio-inspired Building

Department of Energy
Amount: $74,960   
Duration
: 2013 – 2015
Title: BizWatts – Empowering Employees to Conserve Energy

National Science Foundation #1142379
Amount: $400,000   
Duration
: 2011 – 2016
Title: Building Occupant Network Dynamics

National Science Foundation #0903597
Amount: $2,959,966   
Duration
: 2009 – 2014
Title: Solving Urbanization Challenges by Design

Earth Institute #4-10552 
Amount: $31,985
Duration: 2008 – 2009
Title: Coupling Technology and Organizational Dynamics to Induce Energy Efficient Behavior

COLLABORATORS

FACULTY

Jiayu Chen
Assistant Professor, City University of Hong Kong

Patricia Culligan
Professor, Columbia University

George Deodatis
Professor, Columbia University

Rishee Jain
Post-doctoral Researcher, NYU

Vijay Modi
Professor, Columbia University

Richard Plunz
Professor, Columbia University

Jeffrey Siegel
Professor, University of Texas at Austin

Xiaoqi Xu
Post-doctoral Researcher, Harvard University

Ryan Wang
Post-doctoral Researcher, Harvard University

STUDENTS

Yilong Han
PhD Student, Virginia Tech

Ardalan Khosrowpour
PhD Student, Virginia Tech

Neda Mohammadi
PhD Student, Virginia Tech