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The Green Building Research Lab
The Green Building Research Lab

Recently, cities across the country have enacted green building policies requiring builders to meet certain standards of efficiency and sustainability. In Portland, the city requires all new city-owned buildings be constructed with water and energy saving technologies, renewable energy systems, green roofs, and a percentage of recyclable materials. Measures such as these have given rise to new technologies in the green building industry as well as innovations in building design and the Green Building Research Lab (GBRL) at Portland State University is modeling and testing the efficacy of many of these new technologies and designs.

The GBRL is a partnership between the School of Architecture, the College of Urban & Public Affairs, and the Maseeh College of Engineering & Computer Science. The lab was established to support fundamental and applied research in green building technologies and green building design, and to provide learning resources for students studying building science. The lab was created with the support of a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation through the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at PSU and the support of the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies (OR-BEST) Signature Research Center. The lab has also received grants from the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Energy, and industry groups.

Notable projects undertaken by the GBRL have included an extensive study of combined photovoltaic and green roofs, the testing and monitoring of an energy efficient Green Modular Classroom designed by faculty in PSU’s Department of Architecture, and an investigation of Phase Change Materials for use in buildings constructed to the Passive House super-insulated standard.

The GBRL works with companies in the green building industry by supporting their research needs. Companies within the industry can collaborate with the lab on research projects or make use of the state of the art technology the lab has available and proceed with projects on their own. For a fee companies working with the lab have access to infrared instruments, tools for indoor environmental quality measurement, computational resources for building energy, fluid dynamics and climate modeling, energy performance and assessment capabilities, and the characterization of the thermal properties of building materials. Other resources offered by the GBRL include software (a Green Roof Energy Calculator and the Mitigation Impact Screening Tool) as well as research summaries available at the lab’s website.

“We work with companies to evaluate specific technologies both in the laboratory, where we do controlled experiments, and in the field at building sites,” Dr. David Sailor, Professor in the Department of Mechanical & Materials Engineering and Director of the GBRL, said. “We look at technologies objectively, from a researcher’s point of view, to evaluate their performance.”

Working with the lab, companies can test the performance of technologies, develop computer models capable of predicting performance in different climates and in different regions around the world, and determine what, if any, flaws a technology has. Architects and builders can employ the tools and resources available through the lab to measure the amount of energy savings a technology incorporated into a building has produced, to monitor the quality of runoff water from a green roof, or evaluate the thermal performance of a building. And these are only a few examples of the services the lab can provide and facilitate.

While the GBRL supports industry research, the lab is also a learning and research center for students and faculty from a number of disciplines including mechanical and materials engineering, architecture, urban studies and planning, chemistry, and biology. As an interdisciplinary lab with faculty members from the colleges of Engineering & Computer Science, Urban & Public Affairs, and The College of the Arts, the GBRL is an excellent resource for cross-departmental research collaborations. For students, the lab provides the opportunity to work with companies involved in the green building industry, researching, monitoring, and evaluating technologies implemented in buildings today and testing those that might be on the cutting edge in the years to come. For both students and faculty, the lab makes its equipment available free of charge.

Whether working with students, faculty, or companies in the green building industry such as Lifetime Windows & Doors, Solterra Systems, Solarworld, or BASF, the Green Building Research Lab is available to help find and evaluate solutions for improving the performance of buildings into the future.

For more information about the lab and its services visit: Green Building Research Lab.

Authored by Shaun McGillis
Posted January 30, 2013