Affordable Net Zero Housing and Transportation Solutions

Most affordable homes are energy inefficient. As a result, low-income families typically dedicate three times as much of their household income to energy costs than the average family. Developers frequently lack tools, proven technology and implementation packages for cost-effective, integrated net-zero energy solutions for low-income communities. For Leigh Raymond and his interdisciplinary team of researchers, a world where the affordable housing sector is both sustainable and budget-friendly is within reach.

The team’s vision is to transform the affordable housing sector so that on-site renewable energy and smart home and transportation technology are the rule rather than the exception. Raymond’s team will create and apply unique, integrated tools for optimal design and operation efficiencies and will implement these new strategies through a partnership with the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority and Energy Systems Network.

The team’s approach is to identify optimized technology packages, smart home and electric vehicle management algorithms and software and new social and economic designs by field-tested the technologies in four affordable housing developments currently being planned in Indiana.

But this Big Idea Challenge team isn’t stopping there. “You just can’t solve these problems with exclusively technical solutions. We could engineer better systems, but if you aren’t thinking about the people using those systems, you’re not going to solve the problem,” Raymond says. “We can also come up with great ways to communicate with residents, but if we don’t have the technology to implement those strategies, we can’t solve the problem either.”

By engaging occupants in more sustainable behavior through communicating energy management strategies with residents and implementing smart technologies, while improving quality of life, Raymond and his team believe that this new approach will revolutionize net-zero living and the affordable housing sector.

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“You just can’t solve these problems with exclusively technical solutions. We could engineer better systems, but if you aren’t thinking about the people using those systems, you’re not going to solve the problem,” Raymond says.

Read full Purdue Newsroom press release

Team Photos

Principal Investigator: Leigh Raymond, professor of political science

Team: James Braun, Herrick Professor of Engineering; Director, Center for High Performance Buildings; Panagiota Karava, associate professor of civil engineering; Srinivas Peeta, Jack and Kay Hockema Professor in Civil Engineering; Director, NEXTRANS Research Center; Ilias Bilionis, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Sabine Brunswicker, associate professor of technology leadership and innovation; Director, Research Center for Open Digital Innovation; W. Travis Horton,, associate professor of civil engineering; Torsten Reimer, associate professor of communication; S. Laurel Weldon, Distinguished Professor of Political Science; Director, Purdue Policy Research Institute; Paul Mitchell, President and CEO, Energy Systems Network; Jacob Sipe, Executive Director, Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority