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Prefab for Humanity

Students installing insulation into prefab forms

According to the Alabama Association of Habitat Affiliates (AAHA) families eligible for Habitat homes spend up to 30 percent of their income on utility bills. In Alabama the majority of those expenditures are directed towards heating and cooling the houses. Auburn Professors Justin MillerRyan Salvas, and Robert Sproull are collaborating with AAHA to develop a method for heating and cooling habitat houses more affordably and efficiently. Specifically, the team is investigating the use of pre-fabricated radiant assemblies that can provide thermal comfort through the control of sensible temperature by way of heat flow to and from the device.

Historically, this technology has been widely used to provide warmth in cold climates, but its use as a method of cooling in the hot humid South presents a more complex challenge. If successful, this approach promises to require less energy than the conventional all-air compressive refrigeration systems typically installed in residential construction. The research being conducted by Miller, Salvas and Sproull seeks to provide proof of the concept by coupling radiant assemblies with solar thermal technology and shallow geothermal wells, an alternative low energy solution to heating and cooling a residential structure can be achieved economically.

Students from the Masters of Integrated Design and Construction program participated in the study helping to design and conduct experiments, analyze data, and create presentations. The ultimate goal is to provide a radiant system design that is efficient, affordable, and durable enough to be utilized by a Habitat for Humanity home. AAHA and the Lee County Habitat for Humanity Affiliate are committed to this study with the aim of building a house to test these systems full scale.