PSU lab builds a green reputation
David Sailor, Portland State University
Visitors to Portland State University’s Green Building Research Laboratory are routinely invited to pose in front of a Flir Systems infrared thermography camera.
The camera helps identify leaks in building envelope systems. It also gauges body temperatures, resulting in blue and red dreamlike images that lend a surreal air to the windowless room.
The mix of cutting-edge science and curio will drive PSU’s research prospects for decades. The lab has already been nationally recognized, with $1 million in recent federal appropriations, as a leader in developing environmentally sound construction methods.
Intel Corp., the Santa Clara, Calif.-based tech behemoth that employs 15,000 in Oregon, has contributed the lab’s centerpiece wind tunnel, which tests whether environmental materials can withstand huge gusts. Other area businesses have begun commissioning the lab to perform materials studies.
In slightly more than 12 months, the lab has contributed to a National Science Foundation-funded study of integrated green roofs and solar panels, tested phase-change materials and studied how operable windows affect the environment at a 383-unit campus residence hall.
The lab, which contains about $650,000 worth of equipment, has also helped students test whether schools in Portland and Beaverton are energy efficient.
“We’re interested in two different areas: How it’s built and how well it’s functioning,” said David Sailor, professor of mechanical and materials engineering in PSU’s Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science.
The lab could help the state develop a critical industry sector. Buildings account for nearly 40 percent of both energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.
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