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Vivian Loftness - Carnegie Mellon University. Pittsburgh, PA, US

Vivian Loftness

University Professor | Carnegie Mellon University


Vivian Loftness is an internationally renowned researcher, author and educator with 30+ years in environmental design and sustainability.


Vivian Loftness is an internationally renowned researcher, author and educator with over 30 years of focus on environmental design and sustainability, advanced building systems integration, climate and regionalism in architecture, and design for performance in the workplace of the future. Her areas of expertise include: architecture/urbanism and climate change and resilience, architecture/urbanism and energy/carbon, indoor environmental quality, health and productivity, the changing nature of work, and advanced building systems and systems integration for environmental quality and health.

Areas of Expertise (7)

Changing Nature of Work

Environmental Quality

Environmental Design



Advanced Building Systems Integration

Health and Productivity

Media Appearances (5)

How to Slay Energy Vampires with Smart Power Strips

EnergyPortal.eu  online


To combat these energy vampires, Vivian Loftness, a professor and former head of the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University, suggests unplugging them. However, constantly plugging and unplugging devices can be inconvenient. That’s where smart power strips come in.

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Solar Windows? New Tech Could Change How You Power Your Home

CNET  online


"I don't actually see in the next 10 years that we will think of [solar] windows as an alternative to rooftop photovoltaic," Vivian Loftness, a professor at Carnegie Mellon's Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, told CNET. Loftness, the former head of the university's School of Architecture, has decades of experience in environmental design and sustainability.

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New Smart Surfaces Guidebook Makes Adoption of Cost-Effective Heat Reduction Strategies Widely Available to City Planners, Architects, and Engineers

GreenRoofs.com  online


Vivian Loftness, Professor, and Former Head of the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University noted the importance of the guidebook saying, “investments are made every day that could significantly improve the quality of our cities and towns. Designing smarter surfaces for our roofs, parking lots, streets and sidewalks can significantly reduce summer temperatures and flooding in our neighborhoods, while adding landscapes for walkability and solar collection for low carbon energy. This Smart Surface Guidebook provides beautiful illustrations and quantifies how we can update our neighborhood surfaces for a more sustainable future.”

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A ‘postcard from the future,’ Oak Park building is one of three in the state to prove it creates as much energy as it uses

Chicago Tribune  online


“A net zero building is absolutely where we have to go,” said Vivian Loftness, a professor and co-director of the Center for Building Performance & Diagnostics at Carnegie Mellon University.

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The Future Of Office Work

Carnegie Mellon University  online


oftness (right), an architecture professor, anticipates that the lessons we've learned in quarantine will change the way we work. Design for less density, working from home or masking in the office when you have a cold, as well as increasing ventilation and wiping down surfaces offers healthier workplaces that should be the norm, she said. Ergonomics will be more important for working at home, and videoconferencing and collaboration tools, like Zoom, are here to stay. She also believes that confidence has grown in worker productivity from home, and employees will have more flexibility to work remotely.

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Vivian Loftness Publication






Industry Expertise (3)

Architecture and Planning



Accomplishments (5)

Connected World Magazine 2017 Pioneers Award (professional)


AIA Pennsylvania Medal of Distinction (professional)


Awarded Senior Fellow, New Buildings Institute (NBI) (professional)


Awarded 2018 Professional Leadership Award, Northeast Sustainable Energy Assoc (NESEA) (professional)


Awarded Senior Fellow, Scott Institute for Energy Innovation (professional)


Education (2)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology: M.Arch., Architecture

Massachusetts Institute of Technology: B.S., Architecture

Affiliations (5)

  • International Living Futures Institute : Board of Directors
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA) : Board of Directors
  • NordForsk Sustainable Urban Development and Smart Cities Research : Board of Reviewers
  • Biophilic Design Initiative (BDI) : Leadership Council
  • Delos WELL Living Lab : Scientific Advisory Board

Articles (5)

Vivian Loftness is an internationally renowned researcher, author and educator with over 30 years of focus on environmental design and sustainability


2022 Indoor acoustic quality is one of the critical indicators for occupants’ health, comfort, and productivity in contemporary office environments. Post-occupancy evaluation (POE) is usually employed to examine in situ acoustic measurements to ensure indoor acoustic quality. However, prevailing acoustic performance evaluation does not often consider the technical attributes of building systems (TABS) to holistically investigate the significant correlations between objective acoustic field measurements and subjective POE. As such, this study proposes to cross-examine in situ and perceived acoustic quality indices with TABS to quantify critical factors leading to enhanced occupant satisfaction. Statistical analyses suggest that technical building attributes can significantly influence occupants’ acoustic satisfaction compared to sound levels recorded in contemporary offices. For instance, lowering the distributed noise level from above 40% to 2% can lead to an average 21% increase in occupant satisfaction. Ultimately, incorporating environmental measurements with physical building attributes from an occupant-centric perspective can uncover applicable design guidelines for achieving optimal acoustic quality with the highest occupant satisfaction.

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Mitigating and adapting to climate change with a taxonomy of smart urban surfaces

Journal of Physics Conference Series

2021 Rapid urbanization is replacing natural land with dark, impervious surfaces. This has led to dire urban consequences including rising temperatures and stormwater deluge, resulting in significantly higher energy costs, greater stormwater damage, and associated health and comfort impacts. These issues can be mitigated using smart surfaces, those with high reflectivity and permeability, which can achieve sustainable and regenerative cities. The current literature on the benefits of urban surfaces is very segmented, focusing on either one specific surface type or one property of surfaces. A smart surface taxonomy with correlated heat, and water metrics has been developed to fill this gap. A range of city surfaces in three broad categories - roofs, streets and sidewalks, and parking lots - have been identified with various levels of reflectivity, permeability. Through literature review, the taxonomy reveals surface temperatures that range from 29.7°C for a green roof to 74.3°C for a black roof. Also, the taxonomy reveals Rainfall retention potential ranging from 1.27 mm for impervious pavement to 86.4 mm for bioswales. The development of a smart surface taxonomy with quantified benefits for mitigating or adapting to climate change will be critical for decision-makers to make informed decisions on city surface choices.

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Biophilic office design: Exploring the impact of a multisensory approach on human well-being

Journal of Environmental Psychology

2021 Experiencing nature provides a multitude of health benefits. Biophilic design has emerged as a design approach that aims to reconnect occupants with the natural environment. We evaluated the impact of a multisensory biophilic environment on occupants' cognitive performance, stress, productivity, mood, connectedness to nature, and attention. Thirty-seven participants in three cohorts were exposed to three biophilic design interventions (visual, auditory, and a combination (multisensory)) and a baseline condition, with weekly variations over eight weeks. A wrist-worn stress sensor, daily surveys, and scheduled executive function tasks were administered. Cognitive performance improved in all biophilic conditions compared to baseline. Most satisfaction with workplace appearance, and visual privacy was reported in visual and multisensory conditions, and stress ratings were lower in the multisensory condition compared to baseline. The results demonstrate that immersive biophilic environments can improve occupants’ satisfaction and cognitive performance, while reducing stress. The findings highlight the need to consider non-visual factors in biophilic design.

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Life cycle assessment (LCA) of natural vs conventional building assemblies

Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews

2021 Natural earthen and bio-based building materials are critically needed to dramatically reduce energy-intensive and extractive construction practices that are the hallmark of the modern building industry. Building assemblies such as cob, light straw clay and rammed earth were shown to provide an optimal indoor environment for occupant comfort and health. Despite these advantages, natural materials are still not widespread in mainstream construction for two primary reasons: technical data is inadequate to quantify their energy performance in different climates, and environmental measures are missing to perform decision making throughout the design process. This paper presents an environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) of natural earthen and bio-based materials compared to conventional building materials in 6 climates: hot desert, desert, semi-arid, Mediterranean, temperate, and continental. Results show that, when coupling the embodied and operational environmental impacts, the natural assemblies reduce energy demand by 32–59% in the hot desert climates, 29–55% in semi-arid climates, 46–73% in Mediterranean climates, 34–57% in temperate climates and 27–50% in continental climates as compared to conventional assemblies. The operational impacts are shown to be highly dependent on the thermal properties and climate zone, but in all cases natural assemblies outperform conventional assemblies. In particular, light straw clay and insulated rammed earth are the top performers for all 6 climates. The work presented in this paper contributes critically needed environmental quantifications to catalyze the advancement of healthier and more environmentally sound commitments to ecological construction worldwide.

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Using Machine Learning to Predict Retrofit Effects for a Commercial Building Portfolio


2021 Buildings account for 40% of the energy consumption and 31% of the CO2 emissions in the United States. Energy retrofits of existing buildings provide an effective means to reduce building consumption and carbon footprints. A key step in retrofit planning is to predict the effect of various potential retrofits on energy consumption. Decision-makers currently look to simulation-based tools for detailed assessments of a large range of retrofit options. However, simulations often require detailed building characteristic inputs, high expertise, and extensive computational power, presenting challenges for considering portfolios of buildings or evaluating large-scale policy proposals. Data-driven methods offer an alternative approach to retrofit analysis that could be more easily applied to portfolio-wide retrofit plans. However, current applications focus heavily on evaluating past retrofits, providing little decision support for future retrofits. This paper uses data from a portfolio of 550 federal buildings and demonstrates a data-driven approach to generalizing the heterogeneous treatment effect of past retrofits to predict future savings potential for assisting retrofit planning. The main findings include the following: (1) There is high variation in the predicted savings across retrofitted buildings, (2) GSALink, a dashboard tool and fault detection system, commissioning, and HVAC investments had the highest average savings among the six actions analyzed; and (3) by targeting high savers, there is a 110–300 billion Btu improvement potential for the portfolio in site energy savings (the equivalent of 12–32% of the portfolio-total site energy consumption).

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