Areas of Emphasis

ECIC promotes research at the intersection of energy, infrastructure, and climate science.

Recent research projects conducted by faculty, students, postdoctoral reserchers, and research engineers include:

  • Life-Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Electricity Generation and Storage Technologies and Common Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and Agricultural Building Technologies (Sponsor: California Public Utilities Commission; PI: Arpad Horvath)

    We have synthesized the state of data availability for cradle-to-grave life-cycle GHG emissions from major building technologies and electricity generation and storage technologies as specific to California as could be found. Results from 280 building technologies (120 unique) were organized across 9 categories and 27 subcategories. Many of the technologies in the list are common building materials, appliances, and process equipment used in the construction and operation of agricultural, residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. Target electricity generation technologies covered emissions from natural gas, solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and storage technologies.

  • Greenhouse Gas Benefits of Adaptive Reuse of Buildings and Prefabricated Construction for Housing (Sponsor: California Air Resources Board; PI: Arpad Horvath)

    This report analyzes potential strategies and scenarios to reduce embodied greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from housing construction methods, focusing on scaling up two innovative approaches: commercial-to-residential adaptive reuse and prefabricated, factory-built modules. Analytical models that utilize representative and actual case-study data, most of which comes from publicly available databases, are developed to compare GHG emissions from prototypical multifamily housing projects constructed with these innovative housing methods to more traditional approaches. Potential community impacts from adaptive reuse and prefabricated multifamily housing projects are also presented, as synthesized from local newspaper reports. Depending on the eligibility of the selected non-residential buildings, in terms of percentage of repurposed floor space (from 10% to 100%) and selection of adaptive reuse scenario (keep structural components and façade versus keep only structural components), 0.14 – 1.4 billion GJ of embodied energy and 5 – 70 million mt CO2 eq of GHG emissions can be avoided via commercial-to-residential adaptive reuse. Adaptive reuse can play an important role in addressing California’s emerging housing crisis in an environmentally beneficial manner. Modular housing could potentially achieve average GHG reductions on the order of 5% to 20% for most counties in the state compared to if the same number of housing units were constructed using more traditional site-built methods. The significance and uncertainty of the results must be considered, especially in the context of the limited number of module types and site-built types analyzed. Therefore, firm conclusions about the GHG benefits of modular housing cannot be made at this time. 

  • Environmental impacts of structural steel increase resulting from installation of green building features
  • Infrastructure needs of biofuels
  • How to design, build and maintain pavements in perpetuity in an environmentally minimal way
  • Will the California high-speed rail be more environmentally friendly than driving or flying?
  • Carbon footprint of a nuclear power plant
  • The water footprint of the life-cycle of fuels
  • Adaptation of infrastructure to a changing climate