Energy-wise construction programs receive U.S. zero energy design designation

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WSU’s Energy Conscious Construction (ECC) undergraduate and graduate certificate programs have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) with the Zero Energy Design Designation.

Awarded by the DOE’s Building Technologies Office, the designation recognizes programs that are preparing building professionals in the design and construction of sustainable buildings and distinguishes those that teach zero energy design best practices. WSU’s program was one of 14 educational institutions across the U.S. to receive the designation this year. 

WSU’s ECC certificate programs focus on the design and construction phases of single-family and low-to-midsize multi-family housing. The ECC courses which launched earlier this year have had promising student enrollment with the first graduates with the certificate anticipated summer of 2024. The programs provide students and design professionals with the chance to learn about minimizing residential buildings impact on the natural environment. The programs, housed in the School of Design and Construction and offered online through WSU Global Campus aim to close a gap in comprehensive energy efficiency training for students as well as for working professionals. Omar Al-Hassawi, assistant professor in the school, received a 3-year, $750,000 Department of Energy grant to develop the curriculum. 

The work is important because residential housing is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions and climate change, accounting for 23% of all energy use in Washington, said Al-Hassawi. The state’s 2021 version of its residential energy code is considered one of the most rigorous in the United States, upping requirements for energy efficiency in everything from windows to insulation. The state building code was also recently updated to require electric heating in all new commercial buildings — an effort to combat carbon emissions and climate change. 

Courses in the programs provide training in areas such as energy modeling and simulation software; mechanical systems that impact a building’s performance; integration of smart technologies, evaluation of the energy performance in buildings; and state codes, standards and rating systems. There is also a one-semester comprehensive design experience as part of the professionally oriented master’s degree program which is anticipated to launch in summer of 2024.  

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