Colorado School of Mines

To assess the impacts of community-scale, holistic, residential electrification retrofits in low-income, pre-manufactured home communities

  • Amount $500,000
  • City Golden, CO
  • Investigator Paulo Tabares-Velasco
  • Year 2022
  • Program Research
  • Sub-program Energy and Environment

This grant looks to add to the body of research on residential electrification by examining the collective effect of installing an integrated set of electrification technologies in concert with one another, as opposed to individually. This research will study the effects of coordinating the functionality of these integrated technologies across homes in an attempt to identify possible additional community-level benefits, focusing on an under-studied subset of the housing stock: pre-manufactured homes. Pre-manufactured homes are a particularly important aspect of the housing stock given that low-income populations disproportionately rely on these buildings and there is the potentially unique opportunity for electrification upgrades to be installed since these homes are produced in regularized, standardized ways. A highly collaborative and interdisciplinary team led by Paulo Cesar Tabares-Velasco, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Colorado School of Mines, will assess the benefits and challenges associated with installing holistic, community-scale electrification and energy retrofits in at least two low-income, pre-manufactured mobile home communities in Colorado. Additional co-PIs include experts in electrical engineering and microgrid management systems (Mohamad El Hariri), computer science and digitization in the built environment (Gabriel Fierro), behavioral economics of residential energy decisions (Ben Gilbert and Ian Lange), and political science and energy policy (Kathleen Hancock). The collaborative and interdisciplinary team has developed an integrated electrification home-retrofit package called "eHDER." The suite of eHDER technologies consists of (1) ensuring an energy efficiency building envelope with thermal storage; (2) an upgraded heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system; (3) use of digital home energy management systems and smart controls that also provide community-level feedback; and (4) installation of renewable distributed energy resources in the form of solar photovoltaics. Up to 90 homes will be outfitted with the full eHDER package.Given the community-scale focus of this work, this project prioritizes collaborations between local organizations, and the academic team will work with three different organizations to help engage study communities, implement the physical eHDER retrofits, and manage continued study operation and management. These partners include the Colorado Energy Office, the local utility in Black Hills Energy, and the nonprofit organization GRID Alternatives to assist with community solar installation. Most notably, the project will work with Resident Owned Communities (ROCs)—mobile home communities that have collectively purchased their homes and the land underneath them—to engage residents in the two study sites. A local, ROC-certified nonprofit, Thistle, will assist with community engagement and ongoing project management.In addition to academic publications and the energy system retrofits, project outputs are also expected to include an open-source dashboard, validated and publicly available community energy models, new course materials on sustainable communities, and video reports intended to engage broader non-technical audiences. The team will also engage the participation of a Technical Advisory Committee comprised of community leaders, city and state engineers, utility representatives, and policy experts to help design the research and expand the team’s outreach.

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