Washington State University will partner with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to launch a joint appointment program. The program will establish a formal partnership for WSU faculty and NREL scientists to combine expertise and leadership in innovative research.

“We are excited to strengthen our relationship with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory through this newly formed joint appointment program,” said Christopher Keane, vice president for research at WSU. “Both WSU and NREL are leaders in energy efficiency, renewable energy technologies, and strategies to advance a modern and resilient power grid. This new agreement opens the door for significant research collaboration that will advance emerging energy research and development.”

By partnering together, WSU and NREL will leverage scientific knowledge and state-of-the-art facilities to solve complex, multidisciplinary challenges in energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, renewable power technologies, and smart grid integration. WSU’s partnership with NREL adds to the robust organizations of industry, government, and academia that WSU scientists collaborate with in the pursuit of groundbreaking research and development.

The joint appointment program will enhance research collaboration through funding proposals, publications, and research facilities. The program will also foster the exchange of ideas to expand research capabilities that lead to scientific breakthroughs and global recognition. Additionally, the program will increase funding opportunities for joint research from sources not available to WSU or NREL individually. The joint appointee remains the employee of the home institution, and the labor is shared. NREL scientists will also mentor and supervise WSU graduate students and post-docs through the program, providing the next generation of scientists with unique opportunities to train and learn in a national laboratory setting.

“We at NREL look forward to building and strengthening our partnership with WSU, and the joint appointments offer an excellent way to foster student and faculty exchanges,” said Ellen Morris, director of university partnerships at NREL. “This type of collaboration is critical to expanding the research portfolio for clean energy transition.”

NREL specializes in the research and development of renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy systems integration, and sustainable transportation. Located in Golden, Colo., NREL is a DOE research and development laboratory and is operated by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, a joint venture between MRIGlobal and Battelle.

Closeup of Julia Day
Julia Day

Julia Day, assistant professor in the WSU Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture’s School of Design and Construction and director of the WSU Integrated Design + Construction Laboratory, will be the first WSU-NREL joint appointee.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to work with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s leading experts in energy efficiency and occupancy behavior. The knowledge and resources available to me through this collaboration with NREL will help advance important research while also providing opportunities for funding and projects that will ultimately benefit both NREL and WSU.”

Day’s research focuses on aspects of occupancy behavior and resilient design in the built environment through the human-building interface. Occupant behaviors within the built environment can include both occupant interactions with building systems and occupant adaptions, such as adjusting a thermostat for comfort, switching lights on or off, using appliances, opening or closing windows, and moving between spaces within the building. Resilient design focuses on limiting the dependency on external inputs while supplying its own energy, water, waste, and sewer disposal needs. Day’s research specifically focuses on understanding how occupants’ interactions with buildings and interfaces can impact both energy and comfort outcomes.

“I am also interested in better understanding how we can use and leverage a building created for one purpose for another purpose; in other words, how can we design for flexibility and adaptability,” said Day. “I think we sometimes forget buildings are designed for people. We must be cognizant of how people interact with their built environment so that we can learn, produce better buildings, and minimize adverse energy and comfort impacts.”