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Energy-Related IEQ Research: Setting Priorities

The indoor environment—inside office buildings, schools, commercial buildings, and residences—is where people spend 90% of their time. The quality of the indoor environment, including pollutant concentrations and thermal conditions, affects the health and productivity of a building's occupants. Indoor environmental conditions are largely determined by the design, operation, maintenance, and use of buildings and by the surrounding outdoor environment. The same factors determine building energy performance; thus, energy and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) must be addressed in a coordinated manner.

Because of the complex linkage between IEQ and building energy use, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has for many years recognized the need for research on IEQ. DOE's research goals include ensuring that energy programs do not degrade IEQ and supporting development of energy-efficient technologies and practices for maintaining a high level of IEQ. With growing evidence that large health and productivity gains could be attained from practical improvements in IEQ, a group of state energy organizations has recently expressed its support for an expanded program of energy-related IEQ research. Consequently, the Association of State Energy Research and Technology Transfer Institutions and DOE have jointly supported the development of an agenda for high-priority energy-related IEQ research. Locally, the California Energy Commission, with assistance from the California Institute for Energy Efficiency, has taken a lead role in sponsoring this agenda. William Fisk, Head of EETD's Indoor Environment Department, has led a multidisciplinary team of scientists and building engineers from around the country in the development of this agenda.

The resulting research agenda, available at http://eetd.lbl.gov/ied, describes how building energy use and IEQ are linked, summarizes ongoing research, and identifies a set of 35 highest-priority research areas related to the following goals:

  • identifying IEQ problems and opportunities;
  • developing and evaluating energy-efficient technologies and practices for improving IEQ; and
  • encouraging or assisting the implementation of technologies or practices for improving IEQ.

The agenda document includes a one- to three-page description and justification of each research priority. Consistent with the focus on "energy-related" research priorities, building ventilation, and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems are very prominent in the agenda. Research related to moisture and microbiological problems, particularly in hot and humid climates, is also prominent in the agenda. The agenda tends to emphasize research on residences, small commercial buildings, and schools because these types of buildings have been underrepresented in prior research. Most of the research areas apply to both new construction and existing buildings. Nearly all of the recommended priority research and development project areas include tasks intended to facilitate the communication and implementation of the research results. In addition, the priority agenda includes several projects specifically designed to facilitate or stimulate the use of existing energy-efficient technologies and practices for improving IEQ. Recently, the California Energy Commission has used the agenda to develop its first solicitation for energy-related IEQ research.

— Ted Gartner

For more information, contact:

  • William Fisk
  • (510) 486-5910; fax (510) 486-6658

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