Courtesy IBACOS

Unlike its neighbors in its suburban neighborhood north of Pittsburgh, the Best Practices Research Alliance Energy Efficiency Lab Home is unoccupied … sort of.

While no humans live there, a version of their anticipated behavior and contribution to the indoor environment does in the form of room heaters and humidifiers.

Those appliances are set to simulate everything from body heat and moisture from normal breathing to hot showers and a pot of pasta on the stove, giving IBACOS researchers a broader and more realistic picture of how the various energy-use systems installed in the Lab Home perform.

And it's not guesswork. Researchers are relying on 20-plus years of data collected, analyzed, and collated into detailed schedules, specifically the Building America’s House Simulation Protocols. “We’re using statistical averages for occupant behavior, which is the closest we can be without actually having people live in the house,” says Dave Stecher, a building performance specialist at IBACOS. “Think of it as the EPA rating on a car,” a best-guess gauge of fuel economy that includes the average driver’s tendencies.

The Building America schedules accommodate time of day (such as when the occupants are likely sleeping, bathing, cooking, or not in the house) and room functions (namely kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry areas), and scale up or down for the number of occupants and their ages, among other factors and variables.

To learn more about IBACOS and the Best Practices Research Alliance Energy Efficiency Lab Home, go to and