The Buildings & Energy Efficiency research thrust area at the Center for Energy Innovation encompasses multidisciplinary expertise in energy efficiency, especially the energy efficiency of buildings and structures. In addition to materials for sustainable energy applications and building sciences, the Center’s research also works toward sustainable and resilient buildings. We are interested in mitigating climate change-related urban risks.

Our faculty's research activities include material engineering, heat and mass transport in porous media, thermofluids, phase change processes, advance thermal insulation, radiation control technologies, and functional coatings, as well as thermal storage and building-integrated solar technologies. Our facilities enable prototyping as well as lab and field exposure testing of system-scale photovoltaic modules, heat storage systems, and building envelopes.

Our faculty also provide energy and sustainability audits and assessments advancing quantitative environmental assessments for building’s whole-life, as well as analysis of life-cycle embodied energy and energy usage dynamics. Our research has been supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Department of Defense, Fulbright Foundation, National Science Foundation, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and numerous industrial partnerships.


    • The Building Energy Efficiency and Temperature Control Materials Lab, led by Jan Kosny and Cordula Schmid, focuses on the research and development of novel sustainable technologies and on evaluating & adopting innovative approaches to minimize the environmental footprint of the building and construction sectors while enhancing buildings’ energy performance. The lab's research encompasses transforming the sustainability of buildings, energy usage, and durability characteristics through a novel approach integrating material engineering with technology. Current works are focused on advance thermal insulation systems (nanoporous materials, vacuum insulation, multilayer technologies, and high temperature insulation), thermally massive and thermal storage technologies, battery thermal control systems, and advance building envelopes.
    • The Photovoltaic Prototyping and Testing Lab, led by Cordula Schmid and Jan Kosny, focuses on the research and development of novel Photovoltaic (PV), Solar Thermal and hybrid PV-Thermal technologies. The unique PASAN solar simulator allows module producers and PV system developers access to some of the most precise performance measurements in the industry to rate the production output based on accurate lab-scale measurements of system-scale PV prototypes, designed in-house. State-of-the-art climate chambers allow analysis of the long-term performance, UV impact, and aging testing in variety of climatic conditions. The research includes lab and field exposure testing of PV performance, durability analysis, PV prototyping, and buildings integration of PV technologies.
    • The goal of the SENSORS (Structural Evaluation with Nondestructive, Smart, Optical, & Remote Sensing) Research Group, led by Alessandro Sabato, is to advance innovative sensing and data analytics to tackle built environment problems, specifically to address resilience, sustainability, and safety issues of engineering structures and infrastructure. The group combines technologies such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems, and Wireless Sensor Networks with non-contact measurement techniques and automated detection algorithms to solve real-world, engineering-related problems.
    • At the BUREK Lab (Building Resilience through Knowledge) led by Jasmina Burek, students work on interdisciplinary projects and apply engineering, life cycle assessment (LCA), and decision-making models to find solutions to climate change and environmental problems, including those related to buildings, energy efficiency, and sustainability.
    • The Sobkowicz Research Group is interested in the study of polymeric materials for environmental sustainability. They use the tools of applied polymer science, transport phenomena, and chemical functionalization to manipulate processes and structure with the aim of improving properties in sustainable materials. The group is also interested in science communication to improve public understanding of the role plastics play in our society and ecosystems.
    • In the Re-Engineered Energy Laboratory (REng|Lab) led by Juan Pablo Trelles, researchers re-engineer the use of direct use of renewable energy towards sustainable processes. A special focus of the REng|Lab is the utilization of solar radiation and renewable electricity for chemical synthesis.
    • The Structural Engineering Research Group (SERG), led by TzuYang Yu, is specifically interested in the deterioration and aging of civil infrastructure systems (both materials and structures), including the investigation and inspection of material and structural deterioration mechanisms. Researchers use various nondestructive testing (NDT) and structural health monitoring (SHM) techniques to assess the structural and rheological conditions of building materials and systems for their thermal and hygrothermal performance.  
    • The Wei Research Group, led by Jianqiang Wei, focuses on the study of sustainable building materials, upcycling of solid wastes into high-value infrastructure materials, development of novel cementitious binder and low-carbon/carbon-negative concrete, degradation analysis of concrete materials, 3D printing of cement composites and concrete, and the design of ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC). The group integrates multi-scale material characterization, nanoengineering, thermodynamics, and emerging manufacturing techniques to design advanced materials for future buildings.
    • Amir Ameli - thermal insulation materials, especially polymer foams
    • Jasmina Burek - passive houses, zero-energy buildings, resilient buildings, rescued schools, lifecycle assessment
    • Jan Kosny - building enclosure materials and systems, thermal insulation and heat storage, and building integrated solar technologies
    • Christopher Niezrecki - building thermal inspection using UAVs
    • Alessandro Sabato - infrared thermography, drone-borne inspection, autonomous damage detection, nondestructive evaluation
    • Margaret Sobkowicz-Kline - renewable polymers, plastics processing and recycling, polymer blends and nanocomposites, materials for sustainable energy applications, agricultural plastics and biomaterials
    • Cordula Schmid - building-integrated PV (BIPV), thermal storage, lifecycle assessment
    • Juan Pablo Trelles - computational thermofluid analysis, modeling of phase change thermal energy storage systems, thermofluid design optimization, computational fluid dynamics (CFD)
    • Jianqiang Wei - sustainable building materials, low-carbon cement composites, solid waste upcycling, 3D concrete printing 
    • TzuYang Yu - finite element (FE) and finite difference (FD) modeling of building materials, computational electrodynamics, stability analysis, radar NDE, stability behavior of concrete structures, nondestructive structural health monitoring