Published: Jan. 11, 2024

John Zhai in front of his his classroom
Professor John Zhai alongside his 2022 students. The class was the first to use Zhai's newest textbook.  

Some architectural engineering text books were too general. Some were overly specific.

However, Professor John Zhai  has struck the perfect balance with his new book, earning him the College of Engineering and Applied Science Textbook Recognition Award for "Energy Efficient Buildings: Fundamentals of Building Science and Thermal Systems."

The single-authored textbook, released in August 2022, is used in two core courses in CU Boulder's architectural engineering (AREN) program: AREN3010 Energy Efficient Building, a required AREN undergraduate core course, and AREN5002 Building Science and Engineering II, a required AREN graduate core course. Other universities that have also adopted this book for their core courses include The University of Kansas, Concordia University, Shanghai Jiaotong University and others.

"This award is a recognition and encouragement of the effort of faculty to focus on the foundation of the engineering and the needs of the students, which often compete against the enthusiasm of researching cutting-edge technologies," said Zhai, an expert in building systems engineering and indoor air quality.

“Energy Efficient Buildings: Fundamentals of Building Science and Thermal Systems" builds on a 2020 book authored by Zhai: "Computational Fluid Dynamics for Built and Natural Environments" and follows the practical engineering design process from passive to active, from site analysis to building specific calculations and considers design aspects beyond techniques and systems such as life-cycle-cost, economics, human comfort, and health and productivity. The book also covers advanced topics such as building computer simulations that can link students' knowledge and interest to following advanced courses/topics in building system design and analysis. 

Book cover of John Zhai's new book
Book cover of Professor John Zhai's newest book.

In a nominating letter from CEAE Chair Karl Linden, Professor Linden stated that "students in AREN3010 and AREN5002 courses had constantly complained about previous textbooks, either saying the books were too general, such as most sustainable building design books, or too specific, such as those for mechanical/HVAC systems."

"Authoring a textbook is a labor of love and shows the dedication of faculty to student learning, especially in this case, where this book was written because no other book existed that could serve the needs of our students and others in architectural engineering programs around the world," Linden said.

In July, Zhai was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to address indoor air quality challenges in affordable housing in hot and humid climates. His work tackles indoor air quality issues arising from lower budgets, suboptimal design and the use of inexpensive building materials in the affordable housing sector.

Dean Keith Molenaar will present the award to Zhai during an upcoming college-wide meeting on Jan. 24.