Buildings require vast amounts of materials for construction and consume about 40% of the world’s energy, thus impairing significant environmental and economic costs. Working collaboratively across various science and engineering disciplines, the program carries out fundamental and applied research on new materials and approaches for the control and storage of energy. We focus primarily on the discovery and study of new materials and systems with an ability to change their heat transfer and storage properties in response to external stimuli. Some exemplar projects include the development of solid-solid phase change materials with variable transparency for the attenuation of solar radiation, the development of new materials to store heat compactly and indefinitely for precise and on demand use, and the study of new heat transfer mechanisms using smart material-enabled thermal-rectification strategies. An overriding goal of our work is to enable the next generation of climate-responsive building enclosure systems that can react semi-instantaneously to changing weather conditions to control building temperature.
The Architectural Engineering program at WPI conducts research on the design, construction, and operation of buildings and built environments in the context of changing climate, sustainability, emerging technologies, and scientific discoveries. Working across disciplines, the program carries out research in the following areas:
Advanced materials and systems for energy efficiency and thermal comfort
Human-environment interactions for well-being and building performance
The interactions between humans and the built environment significantly influence people’s comfort, health, and happiness, and understanding them is key to decisions about how buildings operate. One primary research goal is to advance knowledge of how the indoor environment affects occupants’ perception, comfort, emotional state, and work/learning performance. We also apply this knowledge in the context of the smart building operation - and beyond - to understand how building performance can be optimized to promote rather than compromise people’s well-being through a complex systems approach.