Guest Editorial

J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2017;139(1):010301-010301-1. doi:10.1115/1.4035437.

Buildings, where we spend over 90% of our time, will likely be driven by disruptive innovations in the next century, as science and technology developments have been shaping our lives. Today's buildings consume one-third of the global energy and contribute to one-third of greenhouse gas emissions. Emerging challenges such as vulnerability to a changing climate and resource scarcity make it imperative to develop a forward-looking vision.

Topics: Structures
Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

Review Article

J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2016;139(1):010801-010801-6. doi:10.1115/1.4034825.

Today's building energy codes focus on prescriptive requirements for features of buildings that are directly controlled by design and construction teams and verifiable by municipal inspectors. Although these code requirements have had a significant impact, they fail to influence a large slice of the building energy use pie—including not only miscellaneous plug loads, cooking equipment, and commercial/industrial processes but the maintenance and optimization of the code-mandated systems as well. Currently, code compliance is verified only through the end of construction, and there are no limits or consequences for the actual energy used in a building after it is occupied. In the future, our suite of energy regulations will likely expand to include building efficiency, energy use, or carbon emission budgets over their full life cycle. Intelligent building systems, extensive renewable energy, and a transition from fossil fuel to electric heating systems will likely be required to meet ultralow-energy targets. This paper considers short and long-term trends in the building industry, lays out the authors' perspectives on how buildings may evolve over the course of the 21st century, and discusses the roles that codes and regulations will play in shaping those buildings of the future.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2016;139(1):010802-010802-8. doi:10.1115/1.4035061.

The health and wellbeing of building occupants should be a key priority in the design, building, and operation of new and existing buildings. Buildings can be designed, renovated, and constructed to promote healthy environments and behaviors and mitigate adverse health outcomes. This paper highlights health in terms of the relationship between occupants and buildings, as well as the relationship of buildings to the community. In the context of larger systems, smart buildings and green infrastructure strategies serve to support public health goals. At the level of the individual building, interventions that promote health can also enhance indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and provide opportunities for physical activity. Navigating the various programs that use metrics to measure a building's health impacts reveals that there are multiple co-benefits of a “healthy building,” including those related to the economy, environment, society, transportation, planning, and energy efficiency.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

Research Papers

J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2016;139(1):011001-011001-10. doi:10.1115/1.4034911.

This paper examines demographic, economic, and sociotechnical trends to the year 2050 that will shape future demand for buildings. It uses historical data and projections from the United Nations and other authoritative sources. The paper finds that it is likely that there will be more people, hence more or larger buildings in some regions. People are living and working longer, older people are becoming a macroeconomic burden, and proportionally fewer children are entering the demographic pipeline, all of which will contribute to smaller household sizes and allow more floor area per person, while also placing a premium on user-friendly and accessible buildings. International and rural-to-urban migration will continue to cause episodic shortages of affordable housing. Continuing urbanization will place buildings in increasingly larger, but not necessarily denser cities. Economic activity and inequality are likely to continue growing, thereby supporting much new building construction, while potentially failing to deliver adequate amounts of affordable housing. The changing energy price mix for buildings is likely to favor electricity. The occupational mix is likely to continue changing, leading some workers to become more mobile and others to enjoy more leisure time, albeit with great disparities across countries and occupations. Flexibility is likely to be prized in future commercial buildings, and residential buildings will continue to be used intensively for both work and leisure pursuits. Smarter buildings will need to remain user-friendly for occupants, even as an emerging transhumanism augments personal capabilities. Each of these factors will influence the amount and qualities of shelter we will require, the home/workplace split, the functions required of future buildings, and the energy and environmental footprints of buildings.

Topics: Structures , Cities
Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2016;139(1):011002-011002-8. doi:10.1115/1.4034909.

Major new metropolitan centers experience challenges during management of peak electrical loads, typically occurring during extreme summer events. These peak loads expose the reliability of the electrical grid on the production and transmission side, while customers may incur considerable charges from increased metered peak demand, failing to meet demand response program obligations, or both. These challenges create a need for analytical tools that can inform building managers and utilities about near future conditions so they are better able to avoid peak demand charges and reduce building operational costs. In this article, we report on a tool and methodology to forecast peak loads at the city scale using New York City (NYC) as a test case. The city of New York experiences peak electric demand loads that reach up to 11 GW during the summertime, and are projected to increase to over 12 GW by 2025, as reported by the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO). The energy forecast is based on the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model version 3.5, coupled with a multilayer building energy model (BEM). Urban morphology parameters are assimilated from the New York Primary Land Use Tax-Lot Output (PLUTO), while the weather component of the model is initialized daily from the North American Mesoscale (NAM) model. A city-scale analysis is centered in the summer months of June–July 2015 which included an extreme heat event (i.e., heat wave). The 24-h city-scale weather and energy forecasts show good agreement with the archived data from both weather stations records and energy records by NYISO. This work also presents an exploration of space cooling savings from the use of white roofs as an application of the city-scale energy demand model.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2016;139(1):011003-011003-9. doi:10.1115/1.4034981.

Assuming that buildings in our near future can achieve carbon neutrality, what next? More importantly, what is necessary in the short term to transform the way we design and think about buildings to achieve carbon neutrality and beyond? Can architectural pedagogy deal with how buildings integrate with the larger community and ecosystem around them, how buildings are constructed and/or manufactured to optimize resource use, and how they adapt to changes and are repurposed to meet future needs? Pedagogy for this future is about instilling a way of thinking about environmental design that is both conscious of and active in energy and carbon emissions, but also the health, wellbeing, and productivity of building occupants. Expounding on these questions, this paper will analyze current architectural curriculum and recent student design competitions against the U.S. Department of Energy’s Future of Buildings initiative. The discussion of the gap analysis results shows a deficiency about thinking about architectural design for the future. The paper will highlight where our design education succeeds and falls short toward preparing students. Additionally, thinking about this future context will highlight beneficial and detrimental aspects of the current pedagogical landscape to further whole-building design concepts to achieve a carbon neutral future for the built environment.

Topics: Structures , Design , Students
Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2016;139(1):011004-011004-6. doi:10.1115/1.4035062.

Better energy performance (i.e., net-zero or carbon neutral) is not the only dimension where better buildings quality is needed. It may just be the easiest one to measure. Three interrelated dimensions—productivity and its cousins, health and comfort—are the next in line. The building of the future will bring far more intelligence—and quality—to those dimensions, in order to compete for occupants and potentially to help to pay for the efficiency needed on the energy side. The economics of productivity and health gains or losses can dwarf—in upside or downside—what happens on the energy front. This paper describes specific drivers of health and productivity and comfort, and discusses their use in the design and occupancy of Rocky Mountain Institute’s (RMI’s) new net-zero building in Colorado as a test case to look at design and occupant engagement issues. The paper details the most important design and behavior tradeoffs encountered, and discusses paths to effectively resolving them and accelerating change.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2016;139(1):011005-011005-9. doi:10.1115/1.4035063.

Recent disruptions of communities due to natural hazard events such as hurricanes and earthquakes have led to increased calls for improved resiliency of the built environment. The “built environment” denotes constructed facilities such as buildings and bridges, as well as infrastructure systems such as power delivery, transportation roadways, and water utilities. “Resiliency” is defined here as the “recovery and adaptability” during and after events which disrupt civil infrastructure services. In the context of this paper, the critically important service is energy delivery, on which many other services such as communications and transportation networks depend. The robustness of the building energy supply can be significantly enhanced through on-site renewable sources such as photovoltaic panels coupled with storage batteries. The degree to which the energy demand is met by the on-site capacity in the future will be determined largely upon advances in renewable energy generation and storage as well as in efficiency gains for commonly used equipment and appliances such as lighting fixtures and cooling systems. In this paper, we propose an improved design approach for the energy capacity of existing and new buildings as part of a greater regional community in which the total energy capacity requirements are met through increasingly enhanced on-site permanent power links, as opposed to increased reliance on the existing power grid. The metrics for characterizing resiliency will be “robustness,” “redundancy,” “resourcefulness,” and “rapidity,” with the associated metrics for sustainability being self-reliance and intergenerational equity enhancement.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2016;139(1):011006-011006-6. doi:10.1115/1.4035151.

Energy addiction is regarded as the primary obstacle to humanity's sustainable future. The need to change lifestyles in consumer societies to become more sustainable is advocated without a clear understanding of what elements of modern life must undergo major transformations. One of the most overlooked aspects of this question is the role of buildings that serve as homes and workspaces. The energy use for maintaining such infrastructure, especially in urban areas, and operating key services like heating or cooling, lighting, delivering water, and collecting wastewater will inevitably grow as global population becomes increasing more affluent. This paper investigates the energy costs of several aspects of these key services in urban areas, specifically delivering and heating water and heating residential spaces in the five boroughs of New York City. It provides detailed geospatial calculations as an example of assessing energy costs based on physical principles (e.g., accounting for the effects of topography and building floor elevation to deliver water and heat, and energy losses in the water distribution system). The paper also serves as a demonstration of much-needed research to price out the cost of modern life in energy terms in order to identify major inefficiencies in our current urban infrastructure, as well as the potential for efficiency improvements. While these calculations do not directly incorporate observed data, the principles demonstrated here highlight the use of quantitative geospatial analyses (based on fundamental physics) in order to look at urban infrastructures, particularly for planning and designing new cities or rebuild existing ones.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

Design Innovation Paper

J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2016;139(1):015001-015001-10. doi:10.1115/1.4034980.

The additive manufacturing integrated energy (AMIE) demonstration utilized three-dimensional (3D) printing as an enabling technology in the pursuit of construction methods that use less material, create less waste, and require less energy to build and operate. Developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in collaboration with the Governor's Chair for Energy and Urbanism, a research partnership of the University of Tennessee (UT) and ORNL led by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), AMIE embodies a suite of innovations demonstrating a transformative future for designing, constructing, and operating buildings. Subsequent, independent UT College of Architecture and Design studios taught in collaboration with SOM professionals also explored forms and shapes based on biological systems that naturally integrate structure and enclosure. AMIE, a compact microdwelling developed by ORNL research scientists and SOM designers, incorporates next-generation modified atmosphere insulation (MAI), self-shading windows, and the ability to produce, store, and share solar power with a paired hybrid vehicle. It establishes for the first time, a platform for investigating solutions integrating the energy systems in buildings, vehicles, and the power grid. The project was built with broad-based support from local industry and national material suppliers. Designed and constructed in a span of only 9 months, AMIE 1.0 serves as an example of the rapid innovation that can be accomplished when research, design, academic, and industrial partners work in collaboration toward the common goal of a more sustainable and resilient built environment.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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