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Research & Innovation

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Elevate advocates for change and accelerates climate action with research and innovation.

Through research, we make the case for equitable climate investments by elevating our customers’ lived experiences and grounding them with local and national data, analysis, and tools.

As a program implementer working with and for communities, Elevate has a unique “on-the-ground” perspective. We collaborate with partners such as federal agencies, national labs, universities, municipalities, utilities, affordable housing providers and community organizations. These collaborations contribute to a broad range of perspectives and drive initiatives that advance equitable clean energy investments.

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Our research and innovation leads and supports services across the organization. Many initiatives integrate multiple subject areas such as housing, transportation, health, community, and economic development.

Building Electrification and Decarbonization

Electrifying Chicago’s La Paz Apartments

In order to have a chance of combatting the climate crisis, we need to eliminate fossil fuel use in the next one to two decades. Burning fossil fuels (typically oil or gas) to provide heating, cooling, and hot water in buildings can be a significant source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

We’re working with Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp in Chicago to electrify their La Paz Apartments, home to 44 families with incomes below 30% of the Chicago average. All building equipment and systems that use natural gas will be upgraded to use electricity. Each household will be upgraded with a new high-efficiency heat pump for space heating and cooling, a new programmable thermostat, and a new electric stove. Common areas will also be upgraded with heat pumps for water heaters and clothes dryers. Full electrification of La Paz is estimated to reduce energy by 61% and save residents an annual $11,300 in utility costs. After the upgrades are complete, Elevate will monitor indoor air quality and energy use. In addition, we will continue working with La Paz to provide consulting advice on how to integrate solar and demand response strategies at the property.

Deep Retrofit Packages to Cut Climate Emissions

We’re working with the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the City of Chicago, and ComEd to look at the potential for energy savings in Chicago’s housing stock. The three-year project will develop and test retrofit solutions that aim to show that the typical Chicago home can reduce energy use by 50%. This is just one climate action strategy that dramatically cuts carbon emissions, while also saves money for Chicago homeowners by reducing their energy costs. In the next year of the project, these retrofit packages will be put to the test in a selection of Chicago homes. Read more about the project.

Healthy Homes and Indoor Air Quality

Breathe Easy

Breathe Easy was a three-year study in partnership with the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) that evaluated indoor air quality and asthma outcomes for different types of ventilation systems. During the study, we installed ventilation systems and monitored indoor air quality in 40 homes with 52 residents with asthma. Measuring air pollutant concentrations showed that all types of ventilation systems effectively reduced pollutant concentrations to improve indoor air quality. Read more about the project in our blog.

The first of a series of peer-reviewed papers from the Breathe Easy project is now published in the journal Science of the Total Environment. The first paper focuses on indoor air quality impacts, while subsequent papers will focus on asthma outcomes.

Stove Electrification Project

We published a report assessing the health and safety, performance, and cost-effectiveness of different stove types to create a detailed comparison for decision-makers who are considering converting to electric stoves from gas. This information supports our building programs, and helps educate the public about the health benefits of moving away from gas appliances, especially gas stoves.

Water Affordability and Equity

Chicago and Evanston Water Affordability Analysis

We’re working with the Metropolitan Planning Council and the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant on a water affordability analysis for the City of Chicago and City of Evanston to help them transform their assistance and affordability approaches. By using real billing data, we can make a solid case to show the inequity and unaffordability of water bill and debt burden that people carry. As the climate changes water will only become more vital to people’s lives, so working on affordability challenges now will have long-term impacts.

The Chicago Water Affordability Analysis was published in January, 2022.

All Publications

View Elevate’s full database of publications.

Work With Us

We’re always interested in expanding our partnerships and developing new projects. Contact Director of Research & Innovation Rachel Scheu if you’re interested in collaborating.

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