Chang to Co-Lead Living Building Pilot Project

Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems Deputy Director, Michael Chang, will lead an undergraduate research team with Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Undergraduate Coordinator Dana Hartley.  Eight Sustainable Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURFers) will develop an interactive dashboard for the Georgia Tech Living Building.  Real-time data on energy and water usage, indoor health metrics, and other site specific factors, will be formatted for display in an interactive monitoring system.  This prototype is envisioned to interface with the operations, activities, and prevailing conditions with the Living Building as a center of reference.  From there information can be shown as users expand their reference frame outward through the scales of the campus, the city, the region, and the globe.

Some may regard building dashboards as a worthy, but unsuccessful experiment of many green buildings in the recent past.  However, Chang and Hartley think the Living Building puts the idea of a dashboard in a new context.  Chang explains, “Most building dashboards lose their novelty soon after building commissioning and become stale, obsolete, or inoperable within a few months of their debut. In contrast, this living monitoring system will adapt as the building moves through its lifecycle, as its occupants transition through, and as the climate and environment in which it resides evolves. Students in the future may have very different interests and needs than students today. They will benefit from the efforts of those that came before them, but so too will they be able to reconfigure the monitoring system – and hence the building also – to their contemporary interests.”

Keeping students involved in refining and reformatting the dashboard will initially be supported by re-centering the existing course, EAS 2420: Environmental Measures of Urban and Regional Change, taught by Chang and Hartley.  Here the SURFers will learn the fundamentals of systems thinking as it applies to the urban environment, and how to apply these principles through the creation and execution of complex computer models.  EAS 2420 will be required for all future SURFers.  In addition, SURFers will meet for weekly “hack-a-thons” during the Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 semesters.

Beginning in the Fall of 2018 the pilot project will phase into the development and launch of a new Vertically Integrated Project (VIP).  Chang and Hartley envision that the project can run in perpetuity as a VIP as a means to solve the stale building dashboard problem.  A living building should have a living monitoring system which will address the cascade of scales as they impact the Living Building through each of the seven performance metrics, or “petals,” that are key to the Living Building Challenge: Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity, and Beauty.

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Brent Verrill, Communications Manager, BBISS