Residential Building Systems Group

The Residential Building Systems group (RBS) works on problems associated with whole-building integration involving modeling, measurement, design, and operation. Most of its tasks focus on the movement of air and associated penalties involving distribution of pollutants, energy and fresh air.

Good HVAC systems supply heating, cooling, and ventilation to maintain occupant comfort and building integrity with minimal energy use and environmental impact while providing a safe and healthy indoor environment. Although many energy-efficient component technologies are already available, their integration and operation as part of the building system are not well understood, and installation quality continues to be a problem. As a result, existing systems are the largest energy consumer in buildings (about 40% of sector source energy in the United States) and most do not meet all of these goals.

The impact of behavior on energy use in buildings is enormous—estimated to be on the order of 10 quads of potential savings. But understanding how people and organizations use energy and make decisions that impact energy use continues to be a challenge. Reducing energy and carbon isn't just about technology, it's about behavior and decision making.

People spend more time at home than any other location. Many also inhale more air pollutants at home than elsewhere. Our research promotes healthy and energy efficient homes through understanding of pollutant sources and analysis of opportunities to reduce health risks and disease burdens. A specific focus is the relative benefits and costs of emission source reduction, air cleaning, and smart ventilation.

In new construction we can achieve significant goals, such as net-zero energy almost trivially but this affects only a small fraction of the residential buildings in the country. To achieve any significant savings requires that we address all homes and a whole-house approach is needed due to the diversity of energy uses in homes and our desire to do no harm.

Providing ventilation air is a building service necessary to provide acceptable indoor air quality. Infiltration and ventilation can account for up to half the space conditioning load in most buildings. Providing acceptable indoor air quality while optimizing energy is the core of this research area.