Sustainability in construction
Modular Construction Research Group
University of Alberta, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Our group's research in the area of sustainability in construction includes analyzing the performance, systems, codes, and standards that influence the built environment's ability to meet sustainability goals, and the capacity of the construction industry to improve against sustainability metrics in manufacturing facilities and on construction sites. Research projects examine sustainable solutions in the context of modular and offsite construction, and the residential building sector in particular.
A multi-criteria lifecycle assessment framework for evaluating building systems design
Incorporating the interdependencies of building systems during the design phase will increase the potential technical performance of the building as a whole and reduce its lifecycle cost and the environmental impact.
• Incorporates the behaviour of building systems (e.g., heating system and building envelope) to account for the interdependencies amongst the building systems
• Evaluates the design of building systems in order to reduce their lifecycle cost and environmental impact.
Analysis of NetZero Energy Homes (NZEHs) stakeholders, design, and performance
NetZero Energy Homes (NZEHs) have emerged as a promising solution to alleviate the energy strain that residential buildings exert on limited natural resources, thereby reducing the detrimental impact on the environment. Meaningful progress has been made in this regard; however, there still exist outstanding issues that must be addressed. In this regard, we conduct comprehensive studies of NZEHs, including stakeholder analysis as well as energy simulations for design, actual energy performance, and design improvement. The holistic knowledge gained can be employed to promote NZEHs in the residential market, as well as to improve the design and operation of NZEHs.
Impacts of the Alberta Building Code (2014) on energy-efficiency requirements on housing
Effective November 1, 2016, new homes constructed in Alberta, Canada, are required to comply with “Section 9.36: Energy-Efficiency Requirements” of the Alberta Building Code (2014). This section introduces energy requirements for building envelope that are approximately 57% more strict than those in the previous code. It is important to investigate the implications of these changes on housing construction practice and energy performance, and to develop a methodology for selecting cost-effective approaches for code compliance. In this context, this research investigates the details of the new code, characterizes current practice, develops least-construction-cost approaches to meet the code’s energy requirements, and assesses the lifecycle economic performance of a code-compliant house. Three approaches are pursued with respect to ensuring code compliance: (1) develop least-construction-cost upgrades for building envelope (attic ceiling, above- and below-grade walls, and windows) that meet code-specified thermal insulation values specified in the prescriptive path of the code; (2) carry out approach (1) with energy-efficient tankless domestic hot water system and optimal window sizing for reduced lifecycle operation cost; and (3) develop least-construction-cost upgrades for the performance path of the code. To perform this assessment, a 30-year lifecycle analysis is conducted using HOT2000 simulations to estimate the energy performance and operation cost of a home in Edmonton, Canada. By deploying approach (1), a reduction of approximately 12% on energy consumption is achieved with a return on investment (ROI) of −3.44%. By applying approach (2), a reduction of energy consumption of approximately 27% is obtained with an ROI of 68.08%. Alternatively, in approach (3), a reduction of energy consumption of approximately 10% with an ROI of 527.21% is achieved. By applying the methodology developed in this research, least-construction-cost code-compliant upgrades can be easily identified for other climatic conditions and other locations in Canada.
North Ridge CO2 analysis report comparison between modular and onsite construction
The residential construction practice of on-site wood framing has been widely applied in North America and has been considered to be a reliable, efficient, low-cost construction method for housing. However, the reality today is that technological innovation, higher costs, and the need for sustainable construction are challenging this method. In particular, there has been a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions due to construction-related activities, and an alternative to on-site construction thus needs to be considered. In particular, the purpose of this research is to compare through a case study on-site and modular construction practices in terms of their respective effects on CO2 emissions.
Evaluating the energy performance of school buildings through real-time monitoring
Energy consumption in school buildings represents enormous annual cost for school boards nationwide. However, a large portion of the energy used in schools is wasted due to inefficient equipment use and occupant behaviour. To reduce the operating budgets of school districts in terms of energy costs, an effective energy management strategy must be developed and applied. This research presents a framework of an electrical management program to evaluate the energy performance of school buildings. The examination of building energy performance incorporates the analysis of historical electricity consumption data and the establishment of building energy benchmarks. A real-time monitoring plan is also proposed in order to continuously track the energy performance of school buildings and identify any energy-saving opportunities. This research study is based on a project with Edmonton Catholic School District (Facility Services). The methodology proposed in this research can be used as a reference by school districts to categorize school buildings based on energy performance and identify electricity-saving opportunities.
Integrated evaluation framework for sustainable residential construction
Sustainable development issues and environmental concerns continue to gain headlines amid growing demand for housing in Canada. Current building practice adheres to traditional methods that are associated with high labour costs, negative environmental impact during and after construction, and minimal technological advancement. The goal of this research is to develop an integrated sustainable development framework for residential construction incorporating green building rating system standards, best practices, and automation.
Post-design control system for integrated residential space heating systems
A ground source heat pump is an effective and environmentally-friendly system for space heating and cooling in residential buildings. For cold regions, where heating demand is typically greater than cooling demand, multi-source heat pumps integrating renewable energy sources are an environmentally-friendly alternative that ensures occupant comfort. This research investigates the performance of multi-source heat pump systems in residential buildings in cold regions. One year of monitoring data is collected from a four-storey residential building located in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. This data is analyzed to evaluate the performance of the multi-source heat pump system. Enhanced heating system control is also devised which shows potential benefits for system efficiency improvement and non-renewable energy source savings. A system control set point forecasting model is also proposed for the purpose of reducing operation costs.