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NYSERDA Energy to Lead Grant to Support Net-Zero Energy Living Lab on South Campus
A team led by Nina Sharifi, assistant professor of architectural technology in the School of Architecture, is undertaking a $1.59 million retrofit demonstration project and “living lab” for ongoing research using a South Campus dormitory at Winding Ridge. The pilot project aims to achieve net-zero energy, which means it captures as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year. In line with New York State decarbonization policy goals, the project prioritizes the reduction of emissions through building electrification and designing with materials not derived from fossil fuels. It is supported by a $1.39 million grant administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) REV Campus Communities Energy to Lead program and $200,000 from the Syracuse University Climate Action Plan.
The living lab will span the entire scope of the retrofitting project, from evaluating the existing building, modeling energy and costs, sourcing low-carbon materials, installing retrofit systems, evaluating energy use and collecting data once the building is reoccupied.
“The goal is to develop replicable approaches that can be applied to buildings constructed prior to 1980 in New York state. The pilot project will produce data that can help individuals, organizations and communities in cold climates reduce energy use through sustainable design, construction and technology integration,” says Sharifi.
“Our school is building a very strong, STEM-based research culture with connections to industry and Assistant Professor Sharifi, lead member on this exciting NYSERDA funded project, along with team member, Associate Professor Bess Krietemeyer, are leading that effort. Both are helping to redefine research not only at our school but also in the academy and in the discipline, which historically have not focused on or valued such a strong STEM focus,” says Michael Speaks, dean of the School of Architecture.
Students from the School of Architecture will be involved in all phases of the project. Bing Dong, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, will lead the sensing and occupant behavior aspects of the project. Two iSchool faculty members, Jason Dedrick and Jeff Hemsley, will design streaming displays of energy performance and student data analysis, including designing an app that will share information in real time. In addition, Krietemeyer will work in partnership with the Museum of Science and Technology to design an interactive exhibit linking this research to other retrofit efforts and communicating the energy and environmental impacts to the public.
“Creating the living lab on campus is possible because Campus Planning, Design and Construction has been incredibly supportive. Melissa Cadwell, energy systems and sustainability management coordinator, and the Syracuse Center of Excellence are critical partners in this project. Because of their support, students will have hands-on opportunities throughout all phases of the project,” Sharifi says.
“Syracuse University is proud of the broad cross-disciplinary team applying expertise from architecture, the iSchool and engineering to a real-world problem in sustainable energy. This project will provide a rich research environment for our students during the retrofit and after, as they track performance metrics and qualitative feedback on the project,” says Interim Provost John Liu.
Students are participating in building evaluation and modeling, analysis of manufacturing and supply chains for technology and materials, using lifecycle analysis tools to measure carbon impact, evaluating energy-saving technologies and working with faculty to document all aspects of the project to create a research-based model that other building retrofits can follow. They will also have opportunities to participate in design competitions and other public-facing events.
Sharifi hopes that the project will serve as a proof of concept for the integration of human health and wellness criteria—including lighting, air quality and materials—into an approach that is also financially feasible for buildings like this one. Over 300,000 similar buildings exist throughout the state, and the Syracuse and New York City Housing Authorities and residents are among potential stakeholders and beneficiaries of the project’s research outcomes.
NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris says, “The colleges and universities recognized through the Energy to Lead Competition are leading by example and moving our fight against climate change forward by engaging the campus community in one of the most pressing challenges of our time. Their compelling projects will deliver meaningful carbon reducing results, help develop future climate leaders and improve access to clean energy with solutions that can be replicated and brought to scale.”
New York State higher education institutions are eligible to join REV Campus Challenge and apply to Commercial & Industrial Carbon Challenge and Carbon Neutral for Economic Development. REV Campus Challenge members can also receive exclusive offerings and support through NYSERDA’s FlexTech Program to kick-start their campus clean energy efforts.
Buildings are one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in New York state, and integrating energy efficiency and electrification measures in existing buildings will reduce carbon pollution and help achieve more sustainable, healthy and comfortable buildings. Through NYSERDA and utility programs, over $6.8 billion is being invested to decarbonize buildings across the state. By improving energy efficiency in buildings and including on-site storage, renewables and electric vehicle charging equipment, the state will reduce carbon pollution and achieve the ambitious target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 trillion BTUs by 2025, the equivalent of powering 1.8 million homes. Energy efficiency accounts for 75% of the clean energy jobs across New York, and the state’s ambitious plan to reduce carbon pollution will result in an additional $1.8 billion in societal and environmental benefits.