Coupon Codes For Online Shopping
Coupon Codes For Online Shopping

Get Breaking News

Receive special offers from

Susan Doll and her research team are investigating indoor conditions in homes, including those
in the High Country.
Photo by Marie Freeman

Originally published: 2013-03-22 10:15:41
Last modified: 2013-03-22 10:15:41

ASU researcher focusing on interrelationships of people, buildings, energy and indoor air quality

by Susan King

Susan Doll considers herself a "systems thinker." 

An assistant professor of building science and renewable energy in Appalachian State University's Department of Technology and Environmental Design, she focuses her research on the interrelationships among occupants, building and system design, construction and operation, energy efficiency and indoor air quality issues. 

In June 2012, Doll received a $700,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to study the relationship between energy efficiency measures and indoor air quality.

Through a partnership with WAMY Community Action Inc., High Country families who are eligible for free weatherization assistance will have the opportunity to participate in Doll's ongoing research project at Appalachian.  

Doll's research is made possible by linking the indoor air monitoring component of her study with WAMY's existing weatherization services. 

"The award of the grant is very timely, because the accelerated rate of energy-efficiency measures being implemented in residential homes is outpacing our knowledge of the potential impacts on the indoor environment," Doll said.  

While the goal of WAMY's weatherization program is to reduce energy loss in the home, Doll's objective is to investigate the implications of weatherization on maintaining a healthy home environment.

Doll's master's degree in energy engineering from the University of Arizona and her doctoral degree in environmental health science at the Harvard School of Public Health shaped her understanding of the interactions between engineered systems, human health and the environment.  

Doll's early professional experience focused on human habitation in outer space with the Biosphere 2 project in Oracle, Ariz., and NASA's International Space Station.  

As a post-doctoral fellow at Columbia University's Earth Institute, Doll studied energy use by rural households in Rwanda, Africa. Later, as a consultant with the United Nations Development Programme's Millennium Villages Project, she conducted strategic planning and implemented energy, water and sanitation, building construction, communication and transportation improvements for a rural community of 25,000 residents.

Unlike a spacecraft that is completely airtight, or a mud and thatch hut that is almost like being outside, homes in the U.S. are somewhere in between. 

Depending on the wind conditions and indoor and outdoor temperatures, air moves into and out of a house through cracks and crevices, very much like "breathing."

"From an energy perspective, this is not so good in winter, when warm air is being replaced by cold outside air, or in summer, when cool interior air is being replaced by hot, humid outdoor air," Doll said. 

"But from an indoor air quality perspective, this exchange of outdoor air helps dilute and prevent the buildup of indoor contaminants," she said.

When weatherization measures are implemented, they can often change the characteristics and performance of a building. 

"The impact of weatherization on indoor air quality depends on the condition of the home, occupant activities, the energy-efficiency measures implemented and,  most importantly, proper ventilation," Doll said.

A variety of energy efficiency measures, including sealing, caulking or weather-stripping, adding attic and floor insulation and tuning or replacing inefficient heating systems, will be implemented during weatherization in study homes.

To investigate indoor conditions, Appalachian researchers are monitoring indoor air quality in High Country participant homes before and after weatherizing. 

Then, Doll and her research team members will analyze factors that can affect the air quality of a home. They will study  temperature and relative humidity, particles and organic compounds released by occupants, materials and cleaning products and the concentration of gases from both combustion appliances and natural sources, such as radon from the ground.

Doll's research team includes a staff project manager, four graduate assistants  and two supporting faculty members. 

To learn more, visit

For 50 years, WAMY has provided a variety of services to citizens of Watauga, Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties. 

With a focus on cultivating self-sufficiency, WAMY helps families increase their education level, find better employment, save money on energy costs and provides afterschool programs for children who would otherwise be at home alone and builds partnerships with other community organizations, including Appalachian. 

To find out if you qualify for free weatherization and a chance to participate in Doll's study through Appalachian's partnership, visit the website or call (828) 264-2421.