(32e) Integrating Technological and Ecological Design for Sustainable Buildings On a University Campus | AIChE

(32e) Integrating Technological and Ecological Design for Sustainable Buildings On a University Campus


Gibbemeyer, E. L. - Presenter, The Ohio State University
Bakshi, B., Ohio State University


The Ohio State University has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050, an ambitious and currently out of reach goal.  Technological systems often find the task of carbon neutrality to be challenging and frequently impossible.  Therefore, we look to nature and ecosystems as examples of systems that have maintained sustainable levels of carbon, as well any other resource we care to examine.  Thus, instead of merely optimizing a technological system to have minimum carbon emissions, we also consider the surrounding ecosystem and optimize the entire system to minimize carbon in what we call “techno-ecological networks.”  For example, in optimizing a building, our technological system, we can optimize it to be as close to carbon neutrality as possible; however, by simply planting additional trees outside of it, we can further reduce its carbon footprint by accounting for the carbon these trees will sequester.  Including the ecosystem in our network allows us to reach a smaller carbon footprint that was previously infeasible when only looking at the technological components of our system. 


While there have been many studies evaluating and optimizing the Ecological Footprints of buildings, ecosystems are usually not included in the evaluation.   This means that any optimized solutions found in these studies could be further improved by also including the surrounding ecosystems.  We also plan to include behavioral variables such as choosing a thermostat set point.  Previously, we have incorporated these ideas into a simplified residential system; in this project, our techno-ecological network will be the real system of a segment of the OSU Columbus Campus that will include buildings and their surrounding green space.  This real system will allow us to continue testing the effects of including ecological and behavioral variables into this optimization framework of minimizing carbon footprint, water footprint, and cost.

Methods Employed

We will use software developed by the DOE to model our campus buildings, and the models will be verified using data collected by the OSU Energy Services and Sustainability office.  We then will begin making changes to technological variables to see what retrofitting options would lower our carbon and water footprints, as well as adding in the ecological variables through biophysical models including InVEST and CENTURY.  Once we have developed all the different variables, we will use optimization software to solve for scenarios that minimize carbon, water, and cost. 


Because our optimization is multi-objective, we will not simply obtain a single solution; we will find a Pareto optimal set of solutions.  However, we anticipate some variables to lead to “win-win” scenarios, such as installing a rainwater capture system to lower water footprint and also lower water utility costs.  In finding “win-win” scenarios, we hope to find opportunities for changes that can be made and allow this study to turn into a true “living laboratory” where students can become more ecologically conscious.  Nonetheless, for other variables, we will require a judgment call on the relative importance of our objectives if we want to be able to select a “best” scenario that we could implement on campus.