Designing Retrofits for Energy-Efficient Apartments

Warm thanks to our 2023-24 Syracuse University student residents, who are already participating in this U.S. Department of Energy research project designed to improve energy efficiency and comfort in existing buildings!  

We look forward to welcoming the cohort of 2024-25 students who will be residing in the newly retrofitted buildings and helping to assess the retrofit effectiveness.

Syracuse faculty in the School of Architecture and College of Engineering are leading a multidisciplinary team to design a building retrofit approach that would help combat climate change. Our team was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to retrofit two apartment buildings on Syracuse University’s South Campus. The apartment buildings will be retrofitted during summer 2024 with these new features:

  • New air conditioning
  • New high-performance windows
  • New heating and ventilation system, including an energy recovery ventilation (ERV) system, offering improved energy efficiency and fresher indoor air 
  • New highly insulated exterior wall panels
  • New insulated roof

What are residents saying about the project?

“Living in Lambreth Lane is great! I’m amazed at how easy it is to help with this important DOE project. Studying energy use and air quality in buildings is crucial for our comfort and health. Looking forward to seeing the positive impact it’ll have!” – Aicha

“The experience has been great so far. I honestly don’t have to do a whole lot. I have a minor in Sustainable Construction, so I’m really interested to see where this project goes.” – Isaac

About the Project

Why is this research being done?
Buildings in the United States are responsible for 75% of total U.S. electricity use, 40% of energy use, and 35% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Efforts to make buildings more efficient in these areas can be slow, disruptive, and costly.

The goal of this project is to test a building retrofit design that will reduce energy use, provide healthy indoor air and comfort, and improve the building’s appearance. The retrofit design includes a prefabricated exterior wall system for improving air-sealing and insulation, and a high-efficiency mechanical system for heating, cooling, ventilation, and hot water heating. 

For society in general, this research is testing Advanced Building Construction (ABC) retrofit technologies for existing buildings. These are designed to drastically reduce energy use in existing buildings. Real-world tests of these technologies are an important step in bringing them to market.

How did students get involved?
Prior to the start of the 2023-24 academic year, students were invited to participate in the project by signing up to reside in one of the apartment buildings located at 221 Lambreth and 231 Lambreth. Many residents of these two apartment buildings have contributed to the success of this research project simply by living in the apartment buildings and, occasionally, providing input about their opinions on the buildings, such as air quality, appearance, and comfort level.

This spring, we are inviting students to indicate their interest in residing in one of these two retrofitted buildings and participating in this study during the 2024-25 academic year. Student residents will be invited to weigh in on noticeable improvements in indoor air quality, thermal comfort (including newly installed cooling!), building aesthetics, and more.

This DOE research study will measure how the apartment buildings’ energy use, indoor air quality, and comfort conditions differ before and after they are retrofitted. Environmental data has and will continue to be collected using sensors on the interior and exterior of the buildings over the course of the year to measure things like temperature, humidity, air quality, and insulation. No individual-specific information will be collected, and no data will be shared with any representatives of Syracuse University who are not members of the research team. In the rare case when sensors require repair or replacement, Syracuse University Housing or Facilities staff will coordinate with residents to access sensing equipment.

What do students gain from participating?
As a participant, student residents are invited to provide input on their own opinions about the buildings: are they too hot or cold? Is the air fresh or stuffy? How does the building look and feel? The students gain insight into how building characteristics—and occupants—can make a positive environmental difference! 

Participating students have direct experience on a multimillion-dollar study funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, with unique opportunities to contribute to research findings that inform the way we design, construct, and operate our future buildings and cities.

When does this study happen?
During the summer of 2023, environmental sensors were installed in interior and exterior locations of 221 and 231 Lambreth Lane apartment buildings. Throughout the 2023-2024 academic year, the research team collected baseline data related to the indoor air quality and energy efficiency of the apartment units in these two buildings. Construction of the retrofit is scheduled for the summer of 2024. Throughout the 2024-2025 academic year, “post-retrofit” data will be collected to assess how much more efficient, healthy, and comfortable the buildings are after the retrofit design has been installed. Participants who elected to reside in the buildings during the pre-retrofit period (2023-24 academic year) will have first choice to continue living in the retrofitted buildings the following academic year.
How do I sign up?
1. Review the Additional FAQ, below.

2. Contact the Principal Investigator, Associate Professor Bess Krietemeyer of the School of Architecture, to let her know you’re interested.

3. Professor Krietemeyer will work directly with you and Syracuse University’s Housing Office to secure your spot at either 221 or 231 Lambreth Lane.

4. Sign the Consent Form, which requires your signature to participate. You can email a signed copy of the form to Professor Bess Krietemeyer (

Who do I contact with more questions?
Associate Professor Bess Krietemeyer of the School of Architecture is the lead researcher on this project. Please contact Prof. Krietemeyer with your interest in residing in one of these buildings, or if you have any questions.

Download a Project Consent Form with all the information.

Additional FAQ

What should I know about this research study?
Your participation is completely voluntary. You can always choose not to take part. You can ask and get answers to any questions you have before you decide whether to participate. If you agree to participate, you can change your mind later without giving any reason. Your decision will not be held against you. There will be no penalty or loss of benefits. You do not waive any of your legal rights by signing this form. You will get a signed copy of the consent form, to keep.
Is there any way being in this study could be bad for me?
There are no predicted risks that could harm you. In some cases, you may find research equipment to be unattractive. Installed research equipment may also require a minimal amount of electrical power to operate.
Is there any way being in this study could help me?
You will better understand your building’s energy use and indoor air quality based on the data collected in this study.

For society in general, this research is testing Advanced Building Construction (ABC) retrofit technologies for existing buildings. These are designed to drastically reduce energy use in existing buildings. Real-world tests of these technologies are an important step in bringing them to market.

What happens if I say, “Yes, I want to be in this research?”
If you agree to participate, the Syracuse University Office of Student Living (OSL) will let you know if/when a research team needs to visit your apartment to maintain installed energy monitoring equipment. A building staff member will always be with the researchers whenever entering your apartment unit. Installed sensors measured:

Indoor Temperature
Indoor Humidity
Indoor Air Quality
Whole-Home Energy Usage
Heating Energy Usage
Water Heating Energy Usage

Data measured by installed equipment will be transferred through a cellular modem. Researchers will not use your WiFi network. All personally identifiable information (your name, phone number, and email) will be stored on a password-protected computer that is only shared with the project team. All measured data will be identified through a unique ID that is not your name, phone number, or email.

2024-25 student residents may be asked to provide their opinions about their thermal comfort and indoor air quality through an online survey. All personally identifiable information collected during surveys will be stored on a password-protected computer and only shared with the project team. Any information linking you to your responses will be removed before sharing or publishing the data.

Are there alternative procedures if I do not want to be in this research?
Participation in this research is completely voluntary. You may decide to participate or not participate. Your decision will not be held against you, and there will be no penalty or loss of benefits.
What happens to all the information and data collected for the research?
Every effort will be made to protect the data and limit the use and disclosure of your personal information to anyone but the research team.

• Data regarding indoor environmental conditions and energy usage will be collected as a part of this research.

• All personal information connected to measured data or your survey responses will be removed before sharing the results. Only the project team will have the ability to link data and your survey responses.

• All data will be coded with a unique ID that removes your identity from your data. A database that links your information to data will be encrypted within a password- protected computer and kept private.

• Personally identifiable information will be protected in a way that is appropriate for the type of data. Printed copies of this information will be stored within a locked file cabinet. Digital copies of this information will be stored within an encrypted file. Any of this information that is sent electronically will be transmitted via encrypted email.

• Personally identifiable information will be stored by the project team for three years after the study is complete. After three years, this information will be destroyed.

• When results are reported or published, data will be combined, and direct identifiers removed to protect your identity.

Information you provide in the study will be treated as confidential. Every effort will be made to protect and limit the use and disclosure of your personal information. However, there may be circumstances when this information must be shared as required by law. Other organizations that may have access to information from this study include the CDOEIRB, representatives of the Department of Energy Human Subjects Protection Program and its accrediting organization, other federal regulatory agencies, and the sponsor of the study.

Will my information be used for future research?
All personally identifiable information will be removed from the data and samples collected in this project. The data and samples with your information removed may be used for future research or shared with other researchers without your additional consent.
What are my responsibilities if I take part in this research?
As a participant, you will be responsible to allow research and building staff access to your apartment unit to install or repair research equipment. You are expected to leave installed equipment in place and use your apartment unit as you normally would. You should not disturb or alter the research equipment. You will also be invited to complete online surveys.
What happens if I say yes now but change my mind later?
Participation in this study is voluntary. You can change your mind and leave the research at any time. It will not be held against you if you stop taking part in the study and there will be no penalty. All research equipment will be removed from your apartment unit within five days of your withdrawal request. If you withdraw before the online surveys are administered, you will not be invited to complete them.
Can I be removed from the research study without my consent?
The principal investigator or research sponsor can remove you from the study without your approval. Reasons for removal may include no longer meeting the eligibility criteria, not following study procedures, or tampering with research equipment. You will be told if you are removed from the study.
Should I participate in a research study?
To learn more about participating in a research study and the questions you may want to ask beforehand, please review this guidance from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Contact Information: 
Principal Investigator: Elizabeth A. (“Bess”) Krietemeyer
201 Slocum Hall, Syracuse, NY 11234