Buildings & Energy

In Context

The Energy and the Built Environment is all encompassing to include the energy usage of both buildings and their occupants. Studying how building occupants live and work within the built environment can enable us to understand more fully how and why energy is used. Working to educate and help building occupants better manage their own energy usage and the energy usage of the building will help to reduce the needless use of energy, greenhouse gas emissions, and also peak demand.

Picture of Indiana University's Sample Gates in winter time.

The built environment (buildings, roads, parking lots, pathways, etc.) profoundly affects the natural environment, wildlife, and people in many other ways as well. Buildings and impervious land-coverings disrupt natural hydrology and can contribute to flooding; dark roofs and pavements contribute to the urban heat island effect; the built environment contributes to light pollution, hiding the night sky and disrupting ecosystems (and light pollution also suggests wasted light, so wasted energy); and the air, thermal, and lighting quality in buildings can affect occupant health and well-being.

Climate change is becoming increasingly relevant to life on campus and the built environment is a significant portion of that. A considerable amount of energy use on campus is focused on buildings and how its occupants consume energy. Greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, are directly related to that energy usage. Working to reduce demand side consumption is one important aspect of this, but also integrating more renewable energies at the building level is important as well. Moving away from campus coal-usage to natural gas, solar, and geothermal will be necessary in the coming decades. This will help IU move closer towards its goal of a carbon neutral campus.