$1M HUD Grant Led by Architectural Engineering Professor to Explore Air Quality for Veterans With COPD


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Brent Stephens

Chicago, IL—October 10, 2019—A $1 million research grant was awarded to Illinois Institute of Technology to study the impact of home air quality on the health of veterans with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant was announced Thursday. The research will be led by Brent Stephens, Illinois Tech’s civil, architectural, and environmental engineering department chair, along with Mohammad Heidarinejad, an assistant professor in architectural engineering at the university.

“We want to know how much indoor air quality matters for people with COPD,” Stephens said. “We are working with veterans, but the research results could help everyone with COPD and give doctors new tools for helping their patients. I’m an engineer, but this project has public health implications.” 

Chicago area veterans being treated at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center will be part of the research. For two years, veterans will use high-efficiency air cleaners in their homes. Air quality results and COPD health outcomes will be compared with the results of those without air cleaners.

Stephens will be working with Israel “Rudi” Rubinstein, associate chief of staff for research at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. According to the grant application, the Jesse Brown facility had nearly 11,000 clinic visits and 700 emergency room visits from patients with COPD in FY18, costing more than $2.3 million for treatment, according to the grant application.

Stephens will also be working with Chicago-based nonprofit Elevate Energy to investigate potential housing-related factors that may contribute to COPD exacerbations. In addition, the utility of using low-cost indoor air pollution sensors will be evaluated as part of the study. If the low-cost sensors are deemed effective, this could be an easy tool for doctors to help assess whether home air quality may be impacting the COPD of their patients.

About Illinois Institute of Technology

Illinois Institute of Technology, also known as Illinois Tech, is a private, technology-focused, research university, located in Chicago, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering, science, architecture, business, design, human sciences, applied technology, and law.
 One of 21 institutions that comprise the Association of Independent Technological Universities (AITU), Illinois Tech offers exceptional preparation for professions that require technological sophistication, an innovative mindset, and an entrepreneurial spirit.