Student Living is excited to announce the launch of the Off-Campus Housing Search website. This newly available resource supports expediting the housing search process in addition to connecting Syracuse University students seeking roommates and subleasing opportunities. Exploring the Syracuse University…
School of Architecture Research Team Helping to Improve Energy Efficiency of Low-Income Dwellings
If you live in a cold-weather city in the United States—say Syracuse—you know all too well how uncomfortable it can be to wake up and feel a draft of cold air seeping into your home or apartment.
Instead of reaching for a sweater or donning another layer, researchers in the School of Architecture are advocating cutting-edge steps to make low-income housing units more energy-efficient, thanks to being selected to negotiate a contract for a $5 million award as part of Phase 2 of the Advanced Building Construction Initiative with the Department of Energy.
In the process, they hope to improve the lives of these residents while providing a blueprint for how cold-weather cities across the country can retrofit existing multifamily homes to better withstand the elements.
Think of it as wrapping up these energy-inefficient buildings in a thick, airtight, waterproof coat that will keep warm air inside during the cold winter months, and ensure a dwelling stays a little cooler during the hot summer months.
“We’ve got a vast number of existing buildings that are going to be around for a while. Many of these were built prior to building codes that require improved energy performance. Rather than demolish these older buildings and build new construction, which can be incredibly energy-intensive, there’s a tremendous opportunity for energy savings through deep energy-efficiency retrofits. Making retrofits affordable and appealing to the market is a multifaceted challenge and one of the reasons why the Department of Energy’s Advanced Building Construction Initiative was developed,” says Bess Krietemeyer, associate professor in the School of Architecture and the project lead.
The project is the collaboration of a multidisciplinary team, led by Syracuse University’s School of Architecture in partnership with the Syracuse University College of Engineering and Computer Science and SyracuseCoE. Project partners also include Taitem Engineering, Cycle Architecture, Signetron, TKFabricate, FunForm, Tremco, Eldred Harris, and VIP Structures, with strong collaboration with New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
“We are so proud of associate professor Krietemeyer and the entire team for securing such an important grant,” says Michael Speaks, dean of the School of Architecture. “Over the last several years, this team has dramatically increased the research profile of our school and has, in addition, developed strong new partnerships with other colleges and research units on campus, most notably the College of Engineering and Computer Science and SyracuseCoE. We are excited to see the results of this grant and look forward to continued growth in the research profile of our school and the University.”
Krietemeyer touts three major innovations that are at the core of the project: a highly-insulated envelope system that provides thermal performance and airtightness at the walls, roof and foundation while being attached to the exterior of an existing building; a high-efficiency mechanical pod system featuring real-time performance monitoring for heating, cooling, ventilation and hot water that is incorporated into the envelope panel system; and pre-retrofit assessment software that captures the building’s measurements to facilitate the retrofit design configuration and panel fabrication.
One of the goals of the project’s energy-efficient retrofit system is that it can be configured and installed on a building in as little as one week, reducing labor costs while offering minimal disruptions and better comfort for the occupants.
Besides improving tenant comfort and energy performance, Krietemeyer and her team envision a design that will enhance the building’s visual appeal while providing additional benefits, like better indoor air quality, reduced noise of surrounding high-traffic areas, and greater durability and resiliency in extreme weather.
“The low-rise, multifamily building types are all over the Northeast as well as other cold climate regions across the U.S. We’re targeting low- to moderate-income buildings in cold climates, which are typically poorly insulated, to make it easy for building owners to implement. Creating access to healthier and more comfortable housing options is one of our major motivations,” says Krietemeyer.
Krietemeyer says her team has been in consultation with the Syracuse Housing Authority to determine solutions that meet the building owner’s needs while addressing the concerns, considerations, and desires of the tenants.
The project has identified which University buildings will serve as the model for their retrofitting efforts: two apartment buildings on South Campus.
“We see this as a model that can be replicated across these cold climate regions, first targeting these low-rise, multifamily housing units. But because our approach is so modular and scalable, we easily see this solution being applied to mid-rise multifamily buildings, or even, eventually, single-family homes,” says Krietemeyer.
Phase 2 builds upon Phase 1 of the project, which was announced in July 2020 and featured a $625,000 contract from the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Building Technologies Office to research, develop and test advanced building construction technologies and practices to reduce energy bills.
Besides Krietemeyer, the following Syracuse University faculty and staff served as co-principal investigators for the project:
- Amber Bartosh, assistant professor in the School of Architecture
- Nina Sharifi, assistant professor in the School of Architecture
- Jianshun “Jensen” Zhang, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, Syracuse Center of Excellence Faculty Fellow and director, building energy and environmental systems laboratory in the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS)
- Ed Bogucz, associate professor in ECS
- Tamara Rosanio, associate director of partner programs with SyracuseCoE