ENG/EFRI FY 2010 Awards Announcement

Science in Energy and Environmental Design (SEED) Awards

The Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) office awarded 14 grants in FY 2010, including the following ten on the topic of Science in Energy and Environmental Design (SEED):

Predicting energy performance
The project “Risk Conscious Design and Retrofit of Buildings for Low Energy” (1038248) will be led by Godfried Augenbroe of the Georgia Institute of Technology, with colleagues Christiaan Paredis, John Peponis, and C. F. Jeff Wu, also of Georgia Tech, and Ali Malkawi of the University of Pennsylvania.

Improving the energy performance of the built environment, through both new designs and retrofits, offers significant energy savings.  Frequently, however, the predicted and actual energy performances of buildings do not match up.  Current simulation models do not accurately predict the combined effect of the many uncertainties affecting the efficiency of the wide variety of interacting systems in buildings.  To address this inadequacy, the researchers will monitor 240 buildings of different ages, designs, and environmental characteristics, and use the data collected to develop theory and models that consider uncertainty in energy performance.  Ultimately, uncertainty analysis and risk assessment may allow better decisions about new designs and retrofits aimed at reducing energy needs.

Determining shades of green
The project “BUILD - Barriers, Understanding, Integration - Life Cycle Development” (1038139) will be led by Melissa Bilec of the University of Pittsburgh, with collaboration from researchers Alex Jones, Amy Landis, and Laura Schaefer, all from the University of Pittsburgh, and Stephen Lee of Carnegie Mellon University. 

Life cycle assessments are a powerful tool for elucidating environmental impacts, but they are seldom used to understand the sustainability of buildings, from raw materials to rubble.  The researchers will investigate the scientific and engineering barriers to wider use of life cycle assessments and assess possible solutions.  Combining these results with case studies of high-performance buildings, the team will develop a dynamic, real-time framework for determining life cycle impacts of green buildings.  The framework will be capable of connecting to models of other systems, enabling the simulation of, for example, buildings incorporating cogeneration, and it will allow users to explore different scenarios for better decision-making.

Interactive building intelligence
The project “Framework for Advanced Sustainable Building Design:  Smart Micro-grid Enabled Buildings Interacting with Utility-Side-of-the-Meter Electricity Markets” (1038230) will be led by Michael Caramanis of Boston University, with collaboration from researcher John Baillieul of Boston University, and from John Fernandez and Leslie Norford of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

In a holistic approach, these researchers aim to reduce energy costs and improve energy sustainability for individual buildings in a way that shares these benefits with surrounding neighborhoods and beyond.  At the heart of each advanced sustainable building (ASB) will be an internal virtual energy market that is responsive to building capabilities, safety requirements, occupant preferences, and weather conditions.  This internal market will rely on an intelligent micro-grid to optimize and coordinate energy production, storage, and consumption within the building, even among smart appliances and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.  The ASB’s internal market will be designed to interact with the built environment and external electricity markets to enhance their competitiveness, flexibility, reliability, and efficiency, particularly with respect to distributed energy generation, storage, and use.

Buildings, off the water grid
The project “Design for Autonomous Net-Zero Water Buildings” (1038257) will be led by James Englehardt, with collaboration from researchers Kenneth Broad, Miroslav Kubat, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Kamal Premaratne, all from the University of Miami. 

The treatment and conveyance of drinking water and wastewater consumes a significant amount of energy.  One approach to reducing energy costs as well as the types of needed treatments is through autonomous net-zero water buildings. In this project, the research team will build on current technologies that allow many functions of water monitoring, quality control, and operation and maintenance to be decentralized, and develop a decentralized, low-energy direct potable reuse system.   They will design water treatment to effectively destroy contaminants common to homes and workplaces (such as endocrine-disrupting pharmaceuticals), create novel algorithms for real-time risk assessment, and investigate concepts of architectural and socio-cultural acceptability.

Getting some good out of greywater
The project “Solar Optics-based Active Pasteurization (SOAP) for Greywater Reuse and Integrated Thermal (GRIT) Building Control” (1038279) will be led by Maria Paz Gutierrez, with collaboration from researchers Slawomir Hermanowicz and Luke Lee, all from the University of California-Berkeley. 

This project will investigate technologies for buildings’ external walls to address the need for better energy management and water conservation. The researchers aim to create a system that cleans greywater while modulating the day and night temperature shifts in buildings.  Water from sinks, baths, and showers will flow into a building’s exterior walls.  These walls will be specially designed with panels of biologically-inspired microlens arrays to collect solar energy.  Ultraviolet light and photoactive titanium dioxide will disinfect the water while it’s inside the walls, so that it may be reused.  As the water flows out of the walls and through the building floors, it will serve as thermal storage and conduction control for the building, until it is needed.

Responding sustainably to environmental changes
The project “Creating Opportunities for Adaptation Based on PULSE (Population in Urban Landscape for Sustainable Built Environment)” (1038264) will be led by Jelena Srebric of Pennsylvania State University, with collaboration from researchers Christoph Reinhart and John Spengler of Harvard University. 

The growth of cities brings many changes to outdoor and indoor environments, including evolving patterns of energy consumption and associated emissions.  This project aims to identify and test opportunities for urbanites and buildings to better adapt to environmental conditions and energy performance requirements.  Researchers will create a multi-scale model that spans a whole urban neighborhood in order to capture the effects of buildings on energy flows for cooling/heating/lighting.  Simulations from this unique model, along with sensor network data and inhabitant input, will inform the development of new urban design performance metrics to improve the sustainability of buildings and neighborhoods.

Windows controlling and generating energy
The project “Toward Zero-energy Buildings Based on Electrochromic Windows (ECW) and Energy-harvesting ECW” (1038165) will be led by Minoru Taya, with collaboration from researchers Joyce Cooper, Yasuo Kuga, Christine Luscombe, and Christopher Meek, all from the University of Washington. 

Adjusting the amount of voltage applied to electrochromic windows (ECWs) changes their opacity and controls the amount of light and heat that can pass through.  To substantially reduce the energy needed to cool and heat buildings, this project will develop ECWs and energy-harvesting (EH) ECWs based on a set of new switchable dyes and polymers.  Dye-sensitized solar cell technologies will locally power the ECWs as well as other electrical systems.  The researchers will study the fundamentals of sensor/controller systems for optimal use of the EH-ECWs in a given room.  A life cycle assessment will build environmental considerations into EH-ECW technology development, and the system’s performance in a number of building types and locations will be modeled.  These will inform the team’s methodology for moving towards the design of zero-energy buildings.

Tuning temperature to occupants
The project “Occupant Oriented Heating and Cooling” (1038271) will be led by Cameron (Kamin) Whitehouse, with collaboration from researchers Anselmo Canfora, Stephanie Guerlain, Hossein Haj-Hariri, and John Stankovic, all from the University of Virginia. 

This project aims to produce novel sensing systems that are carefully attuned to building occupants in order to more strategically and effectively deliver comfort based on their needs. The researchers anticipate that significant energy can be saved by sensing the identities, locations, and activities of building occupants, and automatically optimizing building operation.  Their system design will include novel sensing technologies to better estimate both current and future building occupancy, novel types of heating and cooling equipment, and new designs for the building envelope to enable faster and more efficient responses to occupancy changes.  The results of this research may be applied to other aspects of building operation, such as lighting and water heating, creating a foundation for the next generation of intelligent buildings.

A responsive building skin
The project “Energy Minimization via Multi-Scaler Architectures from Cell Contractility to Sensing Materials to Adaptive Building Skins” (1038215) will be led by Shu Yang, with collaboration from researchers Nader Engheta, Peter Jones, Jenny Sabin, and Jan Van der Spiegel, all from the University of Pennsylvania. 

This project endeavors to advance the fabrication of structured soft materials and devices that are responsive to light, heat, moisture, and other environmental changes.  The concept for these new materials and devices will be found in the ways that living cells interact with pre-designed geometric patterns and alter them to generate new surface effects.  The researcher will use this understanding to design and engineer passive materials, integrated smart sensors, and optical/electrical circuits that can configure their own performance based upon local conditions.  The responsive building skin formed by these materials and devices may eventually serve as a model for user-friendly and highly adaptive building components that can minimize energy consumption and adverse environmental effects. 

Breathing walls, circulating water
The project “Living Wall Materials and Systems for Automatic Building Thermo-Regulation” (1038305) will be led by Zhiqiang (John) Zhai, with collaboration from researchers Frederick Andreas, Yifu Ding, Kurt Maute, and Hang (Jerry) Qi, all from the University of Colorado at Boulder. 

This research team will create intelligent and integrated building envelope systems with smart materials and innovative structures that mimic living creatures’ respiratory and circulatory systems.  The new wall structure will have embedded systems of air, water, and a special material that can absorb and release heat as the temperature changes.  Proper design and control of this material and the creation of novel micro-vascular fluid systems, for circulating gas and liquid, will autonomously manage heat gain and loss for the structure.  The researchers’ ultimate goal is to develop an energy-saving structure and systems that promptly, effectively, and efficiently adapt to the surrounding environment, even under dynamic conditions. 

Summaries of the Renewable Energy Storage (RESTOR) Projects

- Cecile J. Gonzalez, NSF, cjgonzal@nsf.gov -