The Future of Nebraska Engineering
Construction and Integrated Building Systems
Many of the national leaders in the construction industry have headquarters in Nebraska. Engineers at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln are striving to make buildings smarter, more efficient and more worker friendly.
Gregor Henze, associate professor of architectural engineering, is defining the concept of “smart buildings.” To make commercial buildings more energy-efficient, Henze is using predictive optimal control, a technology to regulate the temperature inside a building. Henze hopes in the future, buildings will learn from their environments and make temperature control decisions based on that information. “We can be more intelligent about how we use energy while maintaining comfort and enhancing productivity,” he says.
Kevin Houser, assistant professor of architectural engineering, and Clarence Waters, associate professor of architectural engineering, research the power of lighting. Houser’s research seeks to fine-tune the radiant energy spectrum of light sources to get the strongest visual response with as low a light wattage as possible, while maintaining energy efficiency. “Lighting design is a balance between science and the more ethereal, artistic side,” he said. “It also requires divergent thinking and treating each project as a unique entity.” Waters studies lighting and power distribution systems for buildings.
Chuck Berryman, associate professor of construction management, focuses his research efforts on the utilization of fly ash in concrete pipes used for culverts, drainage and similar applications. His six design mixes were compared to current concrete designs and fared just as well in some cases, better in other. Yet, there are challenges. “As the technology evolves, the quality of fly ash is becoming very good,” Berryman said. “And that technology offsets many of the variables faced when fly ash was first introduced to the concrete industry.”
Lily Wang’s research focuses on noise control and room acoustics, including modeling, auralization and concert hall design. “Much of what I’m looking at deals with human perception and how to quantify this in acoustics,” she said. “When you go into a concert hall, there’s this quality of spatial impression that makes you feel surrounded by music. But what gives you that impression?” With her Faculty Early Career Development grant from the National Science Foundation, the assistant professor of architectural engineering is working to answer that question, using a simulation process that examines the extent to which changes in the directional patterns of sound over time affect the distribution of acoustic energy in a room as well as human perception of the sound field.
While his colleagues focus on building materials and processes, Terry Stentz, associate professor of construction management, studies a human factor—the effect of sleep deprivation on railroad workers. His research examines occupational accidents, injury risk and fatigue as they relate to workers’ job performance and safety. “We know train crews get fatigued—how can we minimize that fatigue, while maximizing performance and alertness?” Stentz said.
Timothy Wentz, associate professor of construction management, and Stuart Bernstein, assistant professor of construction systems, also bring the human touch to engineering. Both have incorporated Service Learning into their curricula as a way to tie community involvement with education. Bernstein’s students did home makeovers on two 90-year old homes for Family Housing Advisory Services of Omaha. “Service learning is important because students can learn more and learn deeper,” Wentz said. “And both students and the university have the opportunity to give back to the community.”