Center for Built Environment, turning 20, helps shape building industry

(iStock photo)

As the Center for the Built Environment turns 20 this year, its leadership lays claim to research offering building operators, managers and designers new tools to enhance energy efficiency, environmental quality and livability for residents and workers — from the open-office plan and the cubicle to multifamily structures.

“My goal is to influence the world, to influence the industry,” says CBE Director Edward Arens. “Our graduates are all in significant industry positions and making a difference. It’s been great to see CBE partners out in the forefront, coming up with projects that employ innovative approaches and really push the limits.”  

He also commends the center for “pushing these ideas relentlessly, and providing the scientific evidence that these things are possible.”

The center’s research falls into two broad areas: developing new ways to test buildings in operation, and studying technologies that hold promise for making buildings more environmentally friendly, more conducive to productivity and more economical to operate. 

Everyone may have ideas about cubicle life and comfort, but the Center for the Built Environment applies science to the subject. (iStock image)

Both areas are supported by fundamental research into human physiology, indoor airflow, thermal performance of building systems and an extensive occupant-survey program.

A few of CBE’s projects have included:

  • Development of an Occupant Survey, which has been conducted in more than 1,000 buildings.
  • Testing, refining and promoting a more efficient temperature control system that uses low-wattage devices embedded in a network of chairs, foot warmers and fans.
  • Studying how a lack of speech privacy affects building occupants.
  • Integrating commercially available “smart” ceiling fans and communicating thermostats to improve energy efficiency and comfort in small commercial buildings and multifamily homes.

CBE formed under the auspices of the National Science Foundation Industry/University Research Program.

Today it has 40 industry partners and a research team of nearly a dozen fulltime faculty and staff, supported by post-doctoral scholars, graduate students, and visiting scholars from around the world.

Learn more about CBE's work.