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K-State Today

December 14, 2015

Day presents at Defense Energy Innovation Summit

Submitted by Sarah Hancock

Julia Day, assistant professor of apparel, textiles, and interior design in the College of Human Ecology, presented "Untapped Savings: Occupant Behaviors" at the Defense Energy Innovation Summit recently in Austin, Texas. The Defense Innovation Initiative is an effort to identify and adapt breakthroughs in areas such as energy, medicine, materials and systems to support national security.

The U.S. military spends $4 billion a year on energy, and Day's work could help the Department of Defense find ways to decrease that figure.

Day's research seeks strategies other than capital improvements for energy reduction in buildings. Her poster gained positive attention at the session because much energy research is focused on specific technologies, such as automated blind systems that aim to allow daylight into buildings and thus save money on electric lighting. The downsides of such systems are that they are expensive and building occupants do not always like them — they may cause glare or heat gain, for example. The controls in newer buildings can be complicated, and that is when human behavior comes into play.

People interact with buildings, so when energy-saving technology controls are overly complex, Day said people react with, "I'm scared to touch it because I might break it" or "I don't care if I break it because I want to be comfortable." The interface between buildings and occupants is where Day's main interest lies. Some building designs are going back to basics and providing occupants with more control because people do not always like automated systems. However, when people are given more control, training becomes necessary.

"People have been occupying conventional buildings — with little access to lighting and thermal controls — for so long that they've almost lost the ability and understanding for how to interact with their environment. They need to be aware of how their actions affect the overall building's energy use," Day said.

As a result of her attendance at the poster session and conversations with summit attendees, Day was asked to submit a proposal to design a pilot study to identify energy savings based on building occupant behaviors at a U.S. Air Force Base. The Department of Defense is looking for good ideas to fund.

"The Defense Innovation Initiative is pursuing ways to sustain and advance the capabilities of the 'force of the future.' This effort reflects one example of how K-State researchers are engaging with the Department of Defense [DOD]," said Joel Anderson, development director in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

"As we continue to focus on goals associated with K-State 2025, working with DOD helps faculty pursue research opportunities. We want to better support researchers to align their expertise with relevant communities of interest, research needs and interests found within the multi-agency world of DOD," he said.

Day was pleased with how her research was welcomed.

"I wasn't sure how this behavioral approach would be received, but they were really excited about it," Day said.