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A Socio-technical Approach to Increasing the Use of Natural Cooling in Residential Buildings

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Research Team

Our Motivation:

“Global warming is driving longer and more intense cooling seasons worldwide. This problem is especially pertinent in regions with rapid urbanization, fast-growing populations, urban heat island effects and increasing incomes. The result is rising cooling-driven energy demand, creating a vicious cycle that leads to higher levels of carbon emissions. Our work aims to break the cycle by harnessing the potential of natural cooling.”


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Research Contribution

Methodology to better understand how occupants navigate cooling requirements in a space.

Validated computational model for integrating local natural ventilation patterns into a building energy model.

Method for testing and optimizing relevant interventions to decrease cooling driven energy use and measuring impact on overall energy use, finances, and occupant well-being.

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Practical Problem

Projected increases in cooling energy expenditures due to global warming, urbanization, and rising incomes will exacerbate climate change impacts, forming a vicious cycle that further drives cooling energy demand.

Breaking this cycle demands the adoption of cooling via natural / passive methods.

However, even in areas with climates that are amenable to natural cooling, mechanical cooling still dominates and represents a large missed opportunity for emissions abatement.

Conceptual Problem

Designers, owners, and building operators/users seek to maintain occupant thermal comfort in the face of rising temperatures.

In the status quo, the solution is mechanical cooling, which exacerbates the problem of higher temperatures.

While cooling via natural/passive methods, i.e. natural cooling is an option, sub-optimal implementation curtails its effectiveness.

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A method to better understand how various stakeholders can navigate cooling requirements in a space.

Produce high confidence recommendations for interventions to maximize natural cooling use.

This multi-pronged approach will leverage insights from behavioral science, building energy modeling, and computational fluid dynamics.

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Added Value For The Industry

Support building owners in lowering energy bills associated with decreased use of mechanical systems, while simultaneously creating a more comfortable occupant experience.

Provide useful insights for building operators seeking to maximize savings with energy-efficient cooling.

Aid designers seeking to create energy-efficient buildings with high confidence recommendations for optimizing natural cooling potential.

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Cooperation Partner


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Year 2022

Research became awarded: A Socio-technical Approach to Increasing the Use of Natural Cooling in Residential Buildings


Jan 2023

Build model and validate using data from building on campus 


Mar 2023

Identify candidate buildings for surveys and data collection in the Bay Area


Jun 2023

Collect survey data and validation data from candidate buildings


Sep 2023

Determine appropriate intervention for candidate buildings using model


If you want to participate in the project please reach out to Juliet Nwagwu Ume-Ezeoke.

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