Ulrike Passe, professor of architecture at Iowa State University, is available to talk about her research of energy-efficient buildings, natural ventilation and sustainable design.

Passe co-authored a study in which she and her colleagues developed a model to test how tree shading and air flow affect a building’s energy use and indoor temperatures during sweltering heat. Some key takeaways from the study:

  • Cooling a building is more difficult than heating it, as you’re forcing heat out of the building which in turn increases the surrounding temperature.
  • Low-income neighborhoods are disproportionately affected by extreme heat events.
  • The researchers found that different landscaping can improve temperature control in buildings during extreme heat: The closer a tree to a house, the bigger reduction in temperature. The same goes for a larger tree next to a house.
  • Researchers also worked on a mobile app in which users could enter information about their home to help health officials improve warning systems and target heat-related messages to particularly vulnerable neighborhoods.

“Why can’t we better predict how air moves within and away from buildings? There are centuries of good examples, but they were designed intuitively. And we’ve given away that knowledge because of forced air,” Passe said. 

Passe is director of the ISU Center for Building Energy Research. She also helped lead the Interlock House, which uses building design for climate control rather than mechanical means such as air conditioning.