EVALUATING ecoMOD: Building Performance Monitoring and Post-Occupancy Evaluation of an Ecological, Modular House

EPA Grant Number: SU832505
Title: EVALUATING ecoMOD: Building Performance Monitoring and Post-Occupancy Evaluation of an Ecological, Modular House
Investigators: Quale, John
Current Investigators: Quale, John , Marshall, P. Paxton , De Carvalho, Patricia Vaz , Donovan, Adam , McCarthy, Alex , Tramba, Alison , McKeithen, Amelia , Kanoria, Anand , Klepac, Andy , Kidd, Benjamin , Tuncer, Betul , Yamakoshi, Brooke , Shiflett, Carol , Zennie, Caroline , Logan, Chad , Dunn, Chris , Calabrese, Christina , Wesner, Debora , Uang, Elaine , Kahley, Elizabeth , Modesitt, Greta , Mays, JP , Palmer, Joshua , Shirley, Lauren , delRe, Leyland , Holmquist, Mark , Young, Matthew , Sathre, Melinda , Lewis, Michael , O’Donnell, Molly , Guan, Ping , Schmitt, Rosalyn , Foster, Sally , Foster, Sarah , Gambill, Scottie , Zhang, Toby , Becker, Tristan , Faulconer, Whit
Institution: University of Virginia
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2005 through August 31, 2006
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Many people in this country cannot afford well-built houses, much less the energy required to run them. Newly built low-income single-family homes tend to be trailers or some variant of manufactured housing. While they are affordable and easily installed in various locations, they tend to fail on other counts. Suffering from uninspired architectural design and environmental concern typically defined by a slight upgrade in insulation, many houses are built in ways that waste energy and water and encourage indoor air quality problems. Vast resources are spent on inefficient and wasteful structures, with a significant negative impact on our environment and our health.

The University of Virginia School of Architecture ecoMOD project seeks the EPA P3 Award to support the post-occupancy and building monitoring phase of a multi-year research and design / build project. The purpose of ecoMOD is to create ecological, modular, low-income houses through a partnership with a non-profit housing organization – Piedmont Housing Alliance (PHA). University of Virginia students are collaborating to design, construct and ultimately test a series of three houses over the next few years. In an attempt to minimize sprawl and utilize smart growth principles, none of the three ecoMOD houses will be sited on undeveloped land. The first site is an urban infill lot in a low-income, predominately African-American neighborhood in Charlottesville, Virginia. The scope of this request is to support a rigorous evaluation of the first house, which will be completed in the summer of 2005.

While many recent building projects, and indeed, most student design/build projects, make claims of environmental responsibility, few attempt to carefully analyze the environmental impact or energy efficiency of the final product. The second and third houses of the ecoMOD project will not be designed until we have at least a full year of building performance data, and the results of a post-occupancy evaluation. Our hypothesis is that a house built using rigorous environmental criteria will have a positive impact on the homeowners and the community, and in the broadest sense, the planet. With better indoor air quality, and lower energy and water bills, the impact for the homeowners will be immediate. More subtle benefits include the greater rate of groundwater recharge on site, reduced carbon emissions, PHA's increased capacity to build more homes (due to lower construction costs), and reduced use of building products with toxic materials or known carcinogens.

The educational goals are threefold. The faculty and students will benefit from the experience of putting their ideas about sustainable design to the test with an actual client, site and budget. Armed with the results of the evaluation of the first house, the students working on the second and third house will benefit from a critical feedback loop. PHA will learn about the environmental impact of conventional versus more responsible building strategies, and ultimately the greater Charlottesville area will have three houses that demonstrate that sustainable design does not have to be reserved for the wealthy.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 17 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

environmental impact; building performance monitoring; post occupancy evaluation; design criteria; life cycle analysis; sustainable design; sustainable industry; affordable housing; modular housing; architecture; landscape architecture; engineering; pollution prevention, alternative materials; construction materials; environmentally conscious design; environmentally preferable products; green design; green home building; Mid-Atlantic; Virginia, RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, Sustainable Environment, Energy, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Environmental Engineering, energy conservation, cleaner production, ecological design, environmental conscious construction, green building design, alternative building technology, alternative materials, modular home, energy efficiency, engineering, pollution prevention design, construction material, environmentally conscious design

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report