Buildings and cities are largely to blame for climate change. Could they also be part of the solution?
The HERB-Lab is a cross-disciplinary research group which aims to transcend the disciplinary boundary of architecture. We integrate architectural, environmental, and data science knowledge to advance healthy, sustainable, and occupant-centric buildings. This research lab is directed by Dr. Nancy Ma, Assistant Professor of Architectural Engineering at WPI.
Breaking down the disciplinary walls
The HERB-Lab comprises researchers from architecture, engineering, data science, and public health working together to find new integrative solutions within the aligned fields of indoor environmental quality, environmental health, human-building interaction, building performance simulation, statistics, and machine learning. We envision this kind of interdisciplinary research is the best way to profoundly address critical social and environmental sustainability challenges.
Building performance for occupants and energy efficiency
People are the reasons why buildings exist. The indoor environment critically affects occupant health and comfort, especially since humans spend most of the day indoors. Meanwhile, occupant activities, preferences, and behaviors contribute to a significant amount of building energy consumption. Nearly 50% of building sector energy is used to maintain occupant health and thermal comfort conditions. However, improving thermal and air quality can often result in higher energy consumption. This facilitates a systematic consideration of the impact of the built environment on health, wellbeing, and energy usage.
Building simulation, design, and data visualization
The HERB-Lab explores performance‐based design of buildings, paying attention to the design process, design decision-making, and tools that support design, visualization and communication, all of which need to interact in a proper manner to ensure that buildings are created that meet the expectations of all stakeholders.
Internet of Things smart buildings and machine learning
Data is the new oil, and integration is the enabler. Underpinning the goals of indoor environmental quality and occupant health, sustainability and climate resilience, we are already witnessing a huge proliferation of data analytics for enhanced performance outcomes at various stages of the building life cycle—design, construction, operation, renovation and eventual decommissioning phases. The HERB-Lab leverages building and environmental data to improve occupancy estimation, occupant satisfaction, thermal comfort, energy efficiency and conservation.