Civil and Environmental Engineering

Contact Information

Kaven Hall, 117A
Phone: +1-508-831-4895

Steven Van Dessel

My research addresses sustainable building design and the development of new building technologies, with a special focus on the study of adaptive building envelop systems. One of the goals of this research is to develop new design strategies whereby building envelopes can be thermally optimized in response to climatic conditions and user preferences, in order to conserve energy and optimize comfort. This research entails the use of energy modeling tools, experimental investigations, and the development of practical applications.  The broader perspective of this work is to realize lightweight building systems that offer new approaches for developing leaner and more sustainable construction systems that minimize material consumption, optimize energy use, and reduce costs. In this work I am working with undergraduate and graduate students on projects that deal with the theoretical and practical challenges of sustainable building design. Examples of such projects include participation in the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competitions, which focuses on the design of zero-energy buildings. Such projects are designed to offer opportunities to students that are interested in expanding their knowledge of environmental design, energy modeling tools, new materials, construction detailing, and the practical planning and construction of building projects.

Research Interests

  • Sustainable Design
  • Adaptive Building Envelopes
  • Architectural Engineering
  • Building Technology


  • Diploma of Architect, Sint-Lucas Institute, Brussels Belgium, 1990
  • PhD, University of Florida, 2000

Featured Publications

  • Steven Van Dessel, Benjamin Foubert, “Active thermal insulators: Finite elements modeling and parametric study of thermoelectric modules integrated into a double pane glazing system” Energy and Buildings, Vol.  42 (2010) 1156–1164
  • Xu Xu, Steven Van Dessel, “Evaluation of an Active Building Envelope window-system”, Building and Environment 43 (2008) 1785–1791
  • Ritesh A. Khire, Steven Van Dessel, Achille Messac, and Anoop A. Mullur, “Study of a Honeycomb-Type Rigidified Inflatable Structure for Housing”, Journal of Structural Engineering Vol. 132, No. 10, October 2006, pp. 1664-1672
  • Khire, R. A., Messac, A., and Van Dessel S., “Design of a Thermoelectric Heat Pump Unit for Active Building Envelope System,” International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer, Vol. 48 (2005) pp. 4028-4040
  • Van Dessel, S., Chini, A. R., “Feasibility of Rigidified Inflatable Structures for Housing,” ASCE Journal of Architectural Engineering Vol. 9, Issue 1, March, 2003, pp. 1-10.
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