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CS News Fall 2011

CS News:
Assistant Professor Kamin Whitehouse - Making Conservation Pay

Assistant Professor Kamin Whitehouse is
collaborating with colleagues from the
School of Architecture and Darden School
of Business on a $2 million NSF grant to
improve the energy efficiency of buildings
and homes.

There is no more efficient way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and cut back on the greenhouse gases we emit than by making our homes and offices more energy efficient. Many homeowners and businesses are hesitant to invest in conservation, however, because they cannot justify the upfront investment for the future savings such conservation will produce.

Assistant Professor Kamin Whitehouse understands their predicament. The principal investigator on a four-year, $2 million grant from NSF, he and his colleagues are committed to developing smart building energy systems that will reduce heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) energy use by 30 percent to 50 percent with a start-up cost of less than $500 per home and a return on investment for homeowners within two years. They set similarly ambitious goals for businesses.

Whitehouse will reach this goal by moving beyond such traditional measures as adding insulation and replacing windows, focusing instead on instrumenting a series of test facilities with sensors and user interfaces. These devices will allow building occupants to better control the building temperature and enable the building itself to automatically respond to the occupants and their activities.

“Right now, the prevailing wisdom is that buildings should be efficient in their steady state of operations,” Whitehouse says. “We believe that by controlling buildings dynamically, you can achieve even higher levels of efficiency.”