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Building Materials for Energy Efficiency

Grant Number:   EG-17-007


3/1/17 - 2/28/19






Behrouz Shafei


Ames, IA




Iowa State University


Education and Outreach

Iowa is the 5th-highest energy-consuming state per capita in the nation, yet it needs to import more than half of its energy from surrounding states. One of the best strategies to reduce this dependence is through energy efficiency investments. Establishing a strong understanding and appreciation for energy-efficient building materials and their use in building envelope construction is a critical step for maximizing Iowa’s self-sufficiency while reducing its dependency on more environmentally damaging energy sources. With the STEM jobs expected to increase over 22% in Iowa over the next decade, a unique opportunity exists to develop an emerging workforce that will support building practices that concentrate on efficient building materials and design, thus promoting economic growth in Iowa. Based on a comprehensive review of the courses offered at the Iowa’s public institutions of higher education, there is a critical gap in the current curriculum that fails to provide a unified discussion of the topics that connect a fundamental understanding of building materials to practical needs and considerations essential for the design and construction of high-performance, energy-efficient building envelopes. To establish a citizenry that is not only aware of the current energy challenges facing the state, but also is capable of making informed decisions to meet these challenges, we propose to develop a set of interdisciplinary, adaptable educational modules for a diverse group of the state’s undergraduate and graduate university students, as well as students at Iowa’s community colleges, with the ultimate goal of better equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed for their professional careers in the building energy sector. The proposed educational modules will cover a range of important topics, including fundamental properties of building envelope materials, materials selection strategies, the essential functions of the building envelope, energy performance of buildings and the role that the building envelope plays in this performance, and building envelope design and construction practices. The project team, which consists of Iowa State University (ISU) and Kirkwood Community College (KCC), has a detailed plan to develop a platform for quick and easy dissemination of the proposed educational modules across Iowa. For the purpose of continuous assessment and improvement, the project team has established a strong support system, which includes the ISU’s Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), ISU’s Research Institute for Studies in Education (RISE), and COE-LAS Online Learning (ELO) Center. The project team has also reached out to potential instructors in the other community colleges in Iowa, including Iowa Lakes Community College and North Iowa Area Community College. Further to acknowledging the need to the proposed educational modules, they have expressed their interest and willingness to help the project team achieve the ultimate goal of maximizing the participation across Iowa. With flexibility designed into the educational modules, the instructors from the other universities and community colleges in Iowa are expected to be able to adapt the course in such a way that it fits the requirements of their respective programs and the background of their students.