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Environment
March 18, 2015

Boston community teams up to improve energy efficiency with clean technology

A research team at Boston University is working to reduce energy costs and improve energy efficiency with clean technology in a low-income housing community.

A research team at Boston University is working to reduce energy costs and improve energy efficiency with clean technology in a low-income housing community. The group of professors and graduate students is looking at air conditioning and heating use in Madison Park Village, a low-income community outside of Boston, with the help of residents to understand how economic, environmental, engineering, and sociological concerns affect energy use.

When office and residential buildings are hot during a snowstorm or chilly on a hot August day, it’s not surprising that buildings account for more than 40 percent of energy use and carbon emissions in the U.S., says Robert Kaufmann, a professor in the earth and environment department. The group of researchers has set out to change that for Madison Park Village residents by understanding how they use energy and finding clean-technology solutions that improve efficiency — and comfort.

“To solve problems, you have to understand how people live and the challenges they experience,” says Robert, who hopes to find a scalable solution and develop a model for other low-income housing communities.

Wells Fargo provided a $75,000 clean technology and innovation grant to the university to support the research. Jim Quirk, Wells Fargo Insurance sales executive, says, “We’re proud to be a part of a project that will improve the lives of local residents and encourage academic research that will have a far-reaching environmental impact.”

The research team, organized through the university’s Sustainable Neighborhood Lab, is made up of professors with expertise in sociology, engineering, finance, and energy efficiency. Marta Marello, the project manager, says, “It’s rare that we’re able to take a multidisciplinary approach to research that directly affects a community. We’re developing a roadmap to improve efficiency and cut costs — and we’ll be able to see the change in this community firsthand.”

A version of this story also appeared in the 2014 Wells Fargo Annual Report (PDF).

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