Modeling the Implications of Fugitive Gas Emissions on Building Heat Upgrade Decisions; The New Bridge to Renewable Energy: Relative Advantage and Compatibility

Robinson, Mary (Maddie), School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Foley, Rider, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Clarens, Andres, EN-Eng Sys and Environment, University of Virginia

Current decision-making tools for building owners choosing whether or not to update their infrastructure fail to incorporate environmental considerations with cost considerations. This means that things like leaky infrastructure, global warming potential, the cost of carbon, and their impacts into the future are not considered. We are creating a model that incorporates all of these inputs to the system and integrates the two pillars (financial and environmental) into one unified decision. It also takes into account different scenarios and sensitivities based on the progression of US policy toward natural gas and emissions. It is crucial to consider the human and social dimensions of this tool to make sure it is useful to all who may need it. Every single building has the capacity to reduce emissions and each minute reduction lessens the effect of climate change, so the more people that are considered in adaptations of this model for means more emissions we can help eliminate.

While my technical project focuses more on looking at individual decisions to incorporate renewable technology into their buildings, my STS research will focus more on the implementation of different technologies on a larger scale. I will be analyzing the integration of these technologies into society through a wide lens using the Diffusion of Innovation theory and a narrower lens using the Theory of Moral Language. Diffusion of innovation looks at the factors that make a technology capable of properly and ethically integrating into society, and moral language analyzes the effect of oratory and literary works on public opinion. I will be interviewing people who work in and around these fields to understand more about the capabilities of these technologies within society and why some are successful and others are not. I will also be using literary and rhetorical analysis to understand the impact of public works on the success of these technologies and their tradeoffs from multiple points of view. I expect to have a more thorough understanding of which tradeoffs people are currently willing to sacrifice for a more sustainable future, and how we can overcome or mitigate others to integrate these technologies into society. With both my technological research and my STS research in concert, I hope to improve people’s abilities to understand our path to net zero – in terms of their own decisions as well as the ripple effects they have on society.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
sustainability, renewable energy, fugitive emissions, heating, modeling, ethics, moral language, diffusion of innovation, environment

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Engineering Systems and Environment
Technical Advisor: Andres Clarens
STS Advisor: Rider Foley
Technical Team Members: Jackson Sompayrac, Nicole Beachy, Hana Sexton, Aidan Jacobs

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