Professor of architectural engineering Gregor Henze approaches energy research not by studying its supply side, but by studying the interplay between supply and demand.
“Commercial and residential buildings consume approximately 40 percent of the energy in the U.S., which is more than both transportation and industry,” says Henze, who is a fellow in CU-Boulder’s Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute. “My research deals with introducing elasticity into commercial building electrical demand to make buildings part of the solution to grid innovation needs.”
At the heart of this work is understanding how to integrate a building with the energy grid and allow the building to manipulate the daily supply and demand patterns of electricity.
Recently, he and his students worked with a Chicago company to introduce a software-as-a-service platform that manipulates the performance and electric demand of a building’s heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system by harnessing thermal mass (the mass in and of the building, such as structure, furniture, and books).
Once the optimization system has determined how energy is stored and released by the building’s thermal mass, it implements strategies that optimize the building’s HVAC operations as a function of electricity prices, hourly temperatures, humidity, solar radiation, and carbon emissions.
CU architectural engineering students learn their trade through hands-on work starting in their very first year. Hands-on design projects courses, extra-curricular opportunities such as Engineers Without Borders, and exciting co-op and internship experiences prepare our students with the technical, professional, and team skills that make them competitive for jobs after graduation. Students also have the opportunity to gain professional exposure through student societies on campus, which include the Architectural Engineering Institute and the Illuminating Engineering Society.
Architectural engineering tracks are available in construction management, electrical/lighting systems, mechanical systems, and structural systems. There also is an option to pursue a track in engineering science.
The department has a wide variety of laboratory facilities, including a state-of-the-art building energy facility, an illumination laboratory, and one of the largest structural laboratories in the Rocky Mountain region, all of which offer opportunities for independent study as well as undergraduate and graduate research. Students can participate in research on building efficiency and often work with the University of Colorado facilities management department and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. Other research opportunities include construction safety, energy-efficient lighting, and a host of structural testing projects on sustainable and energy-efficient materials.
Undergraduate students are encouraged to pursue research opportunities through independent study, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, the Discovery Learning Apprenticeship program, or research assistantships with faculty.
CU graduates in architectural engineering are working at such companies as Accenture, Whiting-Turner Contracting, Elkhorn Construction, Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction, The Shaw Group, Sage Associates, Design West Architecture, and at lighting firms such as Cooper Lighting, LiteControl, and MCLA, to name only a few.
About 20 percent of CU-Boulder engineering bachelor’s graduates (college-wide) continue onto graduate school, gaining admittance to top schools such as MIT, Princeton, Harvard, Cornell, Stanford, University of California Berkeley, and the University of Texas at Austin.
Employment for architectural engineers is estimated to show average growth of between 7 and 13 percent through 2016. Significant growth is expected for jobs in energy efficiency and renewable technologies of building energy systems. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
The average starting salary nationally for an architectural engineer in 2010 was $55,265. CU-Boulder graduates with a bachelor's degree in architectural engineering reported an average starting offer of $50,923.