Research Areas

  • Building science
  • Building energy use
  • Indoor environmental quality
  • Thermal comfort
  • Energy modeling
  • Building environmental monitoring
  • Building retrofits
  • Occupant behavior
  • Heat pump technology
  • Low-energy buildings

Current Research Projects

Assessing the impact of energy retrofit strategies for contemporary and post-war MURBs

Project Leads: Jay Gray and Helen Stopps

Project Sponsors: ecobee, The Atmospheric Fund, NSERC

This project will employ strategies such as energy submetering, indoor environment monitoring, air leakage testing and resident surveys to investigate the impact of energy retrofit strategies for post-war and contemporary MURBs.

For the contemporary MURBs, this project will be the first ever field-based study of smart thermostat performance in MURBs.  It will include installation of smart thermostats in at least 80 suites in two new condominium buildings. The operating algorithm will switch smart features on and off throughout a one-year monitoring period to gather baseline and smart thermostat performance data in tandem to control for occupant behavior differences between suites.

For the post-war MURBs, this project will use air leakage testing to assess changes to the leakage area of each suite envelope and interior partitions before and after two major retrofits: over-cladding and compartmentalization. This will be the first study to directly compare the effectiveness of these two retrofit strategies through a comprehensive assessment of uncontrolled air flow.

Together these two project parts will provide essential resident feedback and performance data to prove the energy and GHG reduction potential of these retrofit strategies in the two most important GTHA MURB typologies.

An Exploratory Analysis on the Effects of Wind Catchers and Solar Chimneys on Passive Cooling in MURBs

Project Lead: Wei-Chih (Jeff) Huang

As part of the Center for Global Engineering’s Initiative for Global Urban Shelter, the BEIE Lab is designing a passive cooling solution for new multi-unit residential buildings in Mumbai that will be constructed by India’s Slum Rehabilitation Authority. Passive cooling can help maintain thermal comfort in buildings without the use of electricity.  Specifically, the combined application of wind catchers and solar chimneys are being investigated to increase air movement at the suite level which can contribute to convective heat loss and evaporative cooling.

PMV and PPD thermal comfort indicators were used alongside local thermal comfort models to accommodate for acclimatization to local conditions.  Feasibility was established through spreadsheet calculations and computational fluid dynamics and EnergyPlus are now being used to optimize the design and integration of the wind catcher and solar chimney.

Wind catcher

Development of a low-cost moisture measurement method for assessing food dryness in developing countries

Project Lead: Marina Verz Zambrano (Co-supervised with Professor Heather MacLean, Civil Engineering, University of Toronto)

To reduce moisture-related microbial growth, food is often dried.  This practice is common in small farming operations in developing countries but there is a lack of cost-effective, efficient tools to assess the sufficiency of food drying in this context.  Visual inspection is the most comment dryness assessment method but this is subjective and often inaccurate.  As part of the Centre for Global Engineering’s (CGEN) Public Health Diagnostics Initiative (PHDi), the goal of this project is to develop a low-cost strategy to determine whether food as been adequately dried thus preventing food spoilage.  A review of existing moisture measurement methods has just been completed to evaluate their applicability and determine potential methods that can be adapted to the developing world context.

Marina's picture


Completed Research Projects

2015-2017 Impact of a Compartmentalization and Ventilation System Retrofit Strategy on Energy Use in High-Rise Residential Buildings

Project Lead: Matt Carlsson (Co-supervised with Professor Russell Richman, Ryerson University)

This project investigated the impact of a suite-based compartmentalization and ventilation strategy on the energy performance of a high-rise multi-unit residential building in Vancouver, B.C., using energy modeling software, EnergyPlus.  The simulation results show that this retrofit could potentially reduce annual heating energy demand by 51% compared to the existing building which had already undergone a re-cladding retrofit. When this retrofit was modeled on the building in its original pre-retrofit condition, the estimated heating energy reduction was 49%.  Building enclosure air-tightness improvements can potentially negatively impact air distribution in buildings with pressurized corridor ventilation systems, however the proposed retrofit should be applied in combination with, or before, an enclosure retrofit to prevent this outcome.  This study demonstrated that the potential energy savings benefit of a compartmentalization and in-suite ventilation system retrofit can yield similar energy savings as compared with a cladding retrofit.

2016-2017 Improving the Characterization of Infiltration and Natural Ventilation Parameters in Whole-Building Energy Models of Multi-Unit Residential Buildings

Project Lead: Cara Lozinsky

This project investigated strategies to reduce parameter uncertainty for infiltration and natural ventilation model inputs in whole-building energy models of MURBs.  Air leakage testing was conducted to determine the component infiltration rate of windows and window-wall interfaces so that a component-weighted rather than bulk infiltration rate could be used to reduce parameter uncertainty in energy modeling.  A pilot study to test various sensors for window operation monitoring was also conducted.


2016-2017 Achieving a Low Carbon Housing Stock: An Analysis of Low-rise Residential Carbon Reduction Measures for New Construction in Ontario

Project Lead: Christina Ismailos

The Province of Ontario, as well as local jurisdictions such as the City of Toronto, have set ambitious targets for carbon reduction in the building sector. Since residential housing accounts for a major portion of Ontario’s building stock, improving construction and design of this building type is critical for meeting these targets. This study demonstrated how houses can reach net-zero carbon performance by optimizing key components in the building envelope and mechanical system. An accompanying cost analysis revealed how each carbon reducing strategy ranks in terms of capital cost per carbon mitigated on an annual basis. This technical analysis operates within a larger policy framework, wherein energy savings should be monitored to define actual progress towards the decarbonization goals.

Low Carbon Housing Sample Graphic