Jason Brown is originally from Arcadia, Florida. He received his BS in Engineering from Baylor University and his MS in Mechanical Engineering and Ph.D. in Architecture degrees from Georgia Tech. Prior to working in architecture, he engaged in experimental fluid mechanics with applications in biological cell culture, the sensory ecology of marine plankton, and the carbon cycle in the oceans. His current research activities include energy performance based decision-making, particularly during early architectural design, the modeling of physical systems in buildings, and calibration of energy models in support of building retrofits.
What do you enjoy most about your area of research?
At the risk of making up words to describe it, the ‘system-ness’ or ‘systemhood’ of buildings is what excites me the most. I’ve always been fascinated by the interactions of many different parts or processes, all coming together in a balance that can be understood, designed around, and controlled. Buildings involve many interacting processes mediated by the passive and active design elements of the building, its environment, and its occupants. Zooming out some, buildings themselves are part of the larger built environment system. Modeling the interactions among all these parts and processes and working with them is what I find the most engaging.
What advances will enable the built environment to better balance conservation and human comfort and sustainability?
Near term, retrofitting our existing stock of buildings is a good first step. Many older buildings were designed when energy performance wasn’t considered as important as it is now, use less efficient systems, and also are subject to performance degradation due to aging. Innovative HVAC systems and building controls can reduce the inefficiencies in building operations. For designing new buildings, bringing building performance assessments earlier into the design process through techniques like Integrated Product Delivery can help design teams make more informed and effective decisions. From a broader perspective, building rating systems like EnergyStar and LEED can play a big role by making high performance buildings desirable to both tenants and owners, thereby creating a vibrant market for green buildings. But such systems need to be tied to measurable, verifiable performance outcomes that quantify the fundamental objectives of stakeholders.
How will high-performance buildings of the future look/operate?
My guess for the longer term is that buildings will not only be more efficient consumers of energy, but intelligent participants in an energy distribution system. Buildings will have more intelligent predictive monitoring and control systems, incorporate storage and recovery of energy in thermal or other forms. More energy will be generated on-site, whether through renewables like solar or non-renewables in microturbines where waste energy from one process can be the input energy to another process. Larger-scale networks with buildings as one kind of ‘node’ can participate in a more efficient system of generation, distribution, and use of energy.
What is the role of the built environment in sustainable city and regional planning?
Most of us spend much of our time living and working in buildings. We leave our homes and go to work, shop, and engage in leisure - among other activities - in other buildings, and eventually return to our homes. Cities are systems that bring together buildings, and importantly the functions they enable, together with transportation and other service infrastructure to help societies function and evolve. As such the built environment is a central element of city and regional planning. If buildings become more active participants in energy generation and distribution, then their role in planning will take on added dimensions.
If you were not a teacher/researcher, what would you be doing?
I would still work with buildings, but as part of a design or retrofit team. When not doing that, my family and I would be in the woods.