Monthly Archives: June 2015

Too hot, too cold, or just right: Green Seed project evaluates indoor thermal comfort

In 2009, the UW Climate Action plan was created to establish a climate-neutral campus. Although smart meters make measurements of power usage in University buildings available to administrators and researchers, the related indoor environmental quality had not been evaluated.


Data collecting station in the Student Legal Services office.

CEE faculty Amy Kim and Dorothy Reed, project co-investigators, along with ISE graduate research assistant Stanley Wang and Yiming Liu, CEE engineering technician, examined the thermal comfort of the LEED-certified Gold Husky Union Building in the Green Seed Fund project Indoor Environment Quality Assessment. Measuring indoor environmental quality through both occupant comfort surveys and in-situ measurements of temperature and humidity, two measurement stations were installed in a commercial kitchen environment and the one in a small office.

The office occupants were overall satisfied with the thermal comfort of the building. Nevertheless, slightly lower and higher room temperatures were observed during early mornings and late afternoons in the summer. The free-cooling strategy, night ventilation, was successful in reducing the indoor temperature to a comfortable level in the morning. However, without a mechanical air-conditioning system, the rise in outdoor temperature during the summer afternoons, in combination with the higher occupancy rate, increased the temperature in the office spaces to exceed the 80 percent ASHRAE acceptability limits (which defines the ranges of acceptable indoor environmental conditions to achieve thermal comfort). The survey showed that occupants found the lower temperature in the morning acceptable but were bothered by the higher temperature in the afternoons.


Data collecting station at Firecracker in the HUB.

Objective measurement of the two kitchen areas, cooking and dishwashing, showed frequent exceedance of 80 percent ASHRAE acceptability limits as defined in ASHRAE 55-2013 Section 5.4. Most of the kitchen employees reported complaints about the indoor operable temperature, including low air movement that caused discomfort with high temperature and sweating. An overwhelming number of respondents, almost three-fourths, indicated that most of the time they felt uncomfortable working in the kitchen. They suggested adding additional mechanical cooling systems.

The results presented here are preliminary and data collection continues through 2015.


Through Green Seed Fund grants, the UW seeks to engage faculty, students, and staff in opportunities that advance sustainable research while contributing to campus sustainability goals. Successful proposals use the campus as a living, learning laboratory and help the UW find solutions to the most pressing environmental issues.

Flipping the classroom: Student engagement soars in new approach

After a decade of teaching Fluid Mechanics, one would think a professor with a well-functioning course would be content to continue the instructional routine. Not Alex Horner-Devine.

Horner-Devine, associate professor of hydrology and hydrodynamics, wanted to experiment with altering the delivery of his CEE 347 Fluid Mechanics class, bringing a portion online and incorporating new tools inside and out of the classroom.

Anonymous Account | Creative Commons 2.0

Anonymous Account | Creative Commons 2.0

Called “flipping a class,” the core idea is to invert the traditional instructional approach: lectures and material that used to be covered during lecture are now accessed at home via video in advance of class. Students then use class time to perform learning activities and engage in collaborative learning.

There are many ways to flip a class, and Horner-Devine chose what he called a “partial” flip. Taking specific aim at derivations, he sought to improve the delivery and understanding of applications and consequences by providing derivations in a pre-recorded video. Students watched the video the day prior to class and completed a straightforward comprehension quiz attached to the video. Lecture then began with “clicker-style” questions, answered by mobile device, to test students’ understanding of the material.

The clicker questions were eye-opening for both Horner-Devine and the students. With the whole class now participating beyond the usual vocal minority, not only can the instructor better gauge the class’ comprehension, but students can now see their understanding.

“When the results are displayed the students get immediate feedback about whether they understood key concepts and also whether the rest of the class did,” said Horner-Devine. “That is a greater motivation to make sure you get the story straight.”

Working in pairs, the questions also allowed for peer learning and a greater level of fun and engagement. Horner-Devine even threw in some Seahawks-related questions during this winter quarter class.

Horner-Devine found the outcome far more successful than he anticipated.

“Students were much more curious about the details of the derivations and engaged in the subsequent discussion of the derivations than in previous years,” said Horner-Devine. “Letting students digest the derivations on their own time and decoupling that process from our discussion in lecture meant that the discussion wasn’t bogged down by the necessary drudgery of the mathematical derivation.”

Darcy Akers awarded Dean’s Medal

As a student in the classroom, researcher in the lab, and a leader in professional and humanitarian work, Darcy Akers has excelled in many areas during her time in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Akers, a senior, has been honored with the 2015 College of Engineering Dean’s Medal for Academic Excellence.

Each year, the UW EDarcy_Akersngineering dean recognizes two exceptional students for academic excellence. Students are selected from among those nominated by department chairs and evaluated on criteria including grades, rigor and distribution of courses, research experience, extracurricular activities, and leadership.

Akers, who will graduate this June magna cum laude, was recognized by faculty as an extremely bright student and a strong leader. A member of Engineers Without Borders for four years, Akers has assumed progressively larger roles in the organization. As the International Project Director, she managed a project in a rural Guatemalan community, which involved leading her team, authoring extensive technical reports, and managing interpersonal relationships on the ground in Guatemala.

For the past three years, Akers has worked as an Intern Engineer with the City of Bellevue – Transportation Department. Incorporating her experience with the city’s new traffic signal system data into an independent study, one of her nominators states that “the result could easily be a system that gives the city’s engineers a better understanding of the system’s performance and ways to track that performance under revised control decisions.”

Akers has also participated in multiple research projects, Engineering Rome study abroad, and is a College of Engineering Peer Mentor. She is the recipient of a number of scholarships, including the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Undergraduate Student Award, Coral Sales, and Emerging Leaders in Engineering.

After graduating, Akers will work for the City of Bellevue Transportation Department as a Signal Operations Engineer.

“Darcy is a truly exceptional student that comes around only a few times in one’s career as a professor,” wrote a faculty member in his nomination letter.

Congratulations, Darcy!

CEE to host NASA decadal survey workshop

From June 23 – 25, CEE will host the NASA decadal survey workshop, Globalizing Societal Application of Scientific Research and Observations from Remote Sensing: The Path Forward. Organized by Faisal Hossain, hydrology and hydrodynamics associate professor, the workshop will produce a roadmap for the application of NASA satellite data and action items required in the coming decade for NASA Applied Sciences and Capacity Building programs. The application themes include ecological forecasting, disaster management water resources, agricultural efficiency, energy management, public health, carbon management and air quality. The workshop will connect the regional stakeholder community from around the world with the NASA Applied Science research community to explore ways to globalize societal applications of remote sensing, particularly in South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, West Africa, and Central America.

NASA decadal survey


Zhou receives 2015 Undergraduate Research Mentor Award

Nicolette Zhou, CEE PhD candidate, has received the 2015 Undergraduate Research Mentor Award. The award recognizes mentors for outstanding efforts in guiding undergraduates to become scholars.

Each year, students presenting their work at the Undergraduate Research Symposium are invited to nominate their mentor for special recognition. A committee then selects a few awardees from among those nominees to honor at the symposium. Zhou was one of six mentors and the only graduate student selected to be honored this year.

Dean and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Ed Taylor recognized the awardees at the opening of the symposium on May 15.Nicolette Zhou

Zhou’s research focuses on improving the removal of trace organic contaminants during wastewater treatment through bioaugmentation with bacteria capable of degrading these contaminants.

“I have greatly enjoyed mentoring undergraduate researchers and watching them grow in their abilities and understanding,” said Zhou.