The Ecosystem Engineering Design Lab (EcoEDL) is focused on two areas of energy research, green living walls for buildings and embodied energy analysis for ecological design and management.
Currently, the EcoEDL has partnered with Green Roofs for Healthy Cities to determine the thermal, hydrological and ecological properties of various green wall and green roof designs. The integration of living materials into building envelopes (i.e., walls and roofs) is in its infantile stage in the US, but is mature in Germany and other European countries.
Dr. David Tilley has participated in UMD's Solar Decathlon team with the Engineering and Architecture Colleges; leading efforts to incorporate living components. The EcoEDL has also partnered with the Hughes Agro-Ecology Center in Maryland to develop workable models for trading in ecosystem services, which includes carbon credits, nutrient trading, water quality improvements, and other benefits provided to the human population by natural and engineered ecosystems.
The EcoEDL published a study showing that manufacturing ethanol from the cellulose in switchgrass had marginal to negative benefits based on its embodied energy balance (i.e., more energy was diverted from the economy to make the ethanol than was contained in the ethanol. See Energy vol. 34 (2009) pp:410–436.