November R&T Forum U.S. Policy Options to Decrease Emissions of Carbon Dioxide to Mitigate Changing Climate

Carbon dioxide is the dominant human-generated greenhouse gas responsible for changing climate. The two largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. are from electric utilities and transportation activities. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that greenhouse gases are a threat to public health, their emissions needed to be regulated. In 2009 through the Endangerment Finding, the EPA indeed found that climate change is a threat to public health. As a result of these decisions, the Obama Administration implemented new fuel economy standards for vehicles and proposed standards of carbon dioxide emissions from existing powerplants through the Clean Power Plan (CPP). These policies were a large part of the U.S. commitment to decrease carbon dioxide in the Paris Climate Agreement. The Trump Administration has not been supportive of these initiatives. But due to the Endangerments Finding, they cannot just cancel but need to replace these policies. The Trump plan to replace the fuel economy standards was released earlier in August and the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) plan was released a few weeks later to replace the CPP.
 
Professor Driscoll’s presentation examines the approaches, benefits and costs of ACE compared with the CPP and no policy options. Carbon dioxide emissions standards for U.S. power plants will influence the fuels and technologies used to generate electricity, alter emissions of pollutants, and influence ambient air quality and public and ecosystem health. ACE is an “Inside the fence line” approach which improves the heat rate efficiency of individual power plants. As a result, older coal plants are made more efficient and operate for longer periods resulting in increases in carbon dioxide and emissions of co-pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and fine particulate matter which impact human health. In contrast, the CPP would use a “beyond the fenceline” flexible approach that promotes energy efficiency and renewables. Carbon standards to curb global climate change can also provide immediate local and regional health and ecosystem co-benefits, but the magnitude depends on the design of the standards. 

International Building Physics Conference, IBPC2018 a success!

September, 2018 —  SyracuseCoE and Syracuse University hosted IBPC2018, the International Building Physics Conference. The tri-annual event had a broad reach and brought over 300 guests from 33 countries, but it was the enthusiasm of discussions for scientific discovery in building physics that made this event a success. We’d like to thank all of our sponsors for making IBPC2018 possible, as well as our accomplished speakers for presenting engaging and innovative material. Thank you to all participants for their valuable contributions!

Thank you as well to the IABP and our conference chairs, co-chairs, and technical committee for all their efforts and support in the organization and execution of the event.

We wish everyone the best with continuing research, and look forward to reconvening in Copenhagen, Denmark! In the meantime, please check out the IBPC2018 photo album to relive some of the best moments from the conference.

Experts from 33 Countries Convene in Syracuse for the 7th International Building Physics Conference

Experts on the science and engineering of buildings and urban environments convened in Syracuse, NY September 23 to 26, for the 7th International Building Physics Conference (IBPC). More than 300 attendees from 33 countries gathered to present original research and findings, demonstrated and exhibited innovative green building technologies, and discussed future challenges and opportunities.

The theme of the conference was “Healthy, Intelligent, and Resilient Buildings and Urban Environments.” The conference program included six keynote presentations, more than 250 podium and poster presentations, workshops, networking, and more.

The conference takes place every three years as part of the official international conference series of the International Association of Building Physics (IABP). The IBPC2018 is the first time the conference is being held in the United States; previously, the conference was held in Eindhoven, The Netherlands (2000); Leuven, Belgium (2003); Montreal, Canada (2006); Istanbul, Turkey (2009); Kyoto, Japan (2012); and Torino, Italy (2015).

Read more here.

Canada Day a Success!

Phyllis Yaffe, Consul General of Canada in New York, delivers a speech on Canada’s and New York’s collaborative and innovative green building history

On Wednesday, April 4, SyracuseCoE and the Consulate General of Canada in New York partnered for a panel discussion on the state of the green building field in Canada and New York. Phyllis Yaffe, Consul General of Canada in New York, kick-started the afternoon with a speech that examined Canada’s and Central New York’s collaborative history in the engineering and designing of environmentally friendly structures, saying that together, Canada and New York “build things together, make things together and take care of the land around [their] borders.”

Afterwards, Canadian green building experts, Laura Kennedy of Nedlaw Living Walls, Hazel Sutton of the Building Owners and Managers Association Canada, and Erik C. Backus, Director of Construction Engineering Management at Clarkson University, explained the new technologies in Canada’s green building sector, the real estate market’s reaction and leadership to such changes, the policies supporting new innovations, and New York’s role as a leading partner.  The panel was moderated by SyracuseCoE’s Executive Director, Ed Bogucz.

The event was a success, with people coming from both New York and Canada to join in on the conversation.  Following the panel, the activities moved to the reception, where the conversation continued over good food and drinks.

March R&T Forum: Envisioning ‘Honorable’ Transportation for Clean Communities of the Future

March 2018: This month’s Research and Technology Forum featured presentations from Dr. Paul Mutolo and Barry Carr who share insights on past, present and future transportation technologies and supporting energy infrastructure. Dr. Paul Mutolo kicks off the event with an “encore performance” of his TEDx talk, addressing the impacts of current transportation systems, exploring whether they are “…borrowing from our past and our future simultaneously,” and providing a vision for future “honorable” transportation. Afterwards, Barry Carr reviews current programs designed to promote alternative transportation options – including electric, natural gas and hydrogen-powered vehicles – as well as future transportation technologies. The program concludes with an introduction to a regional start-up company that is working to establish a network of grid-tied, onsite produced hydrogen stations to power advancements for fuel cell vehicles of tomorrow.

Presenters:

Dr. Paul Mutolo, CEO, Standard Hydrogen Corporation, and Director of External Partnerships, Energy Materials Center at Cornell University

Barry Carr, Coordinator, Clean Communities of Central New York

 

February R&T Forum: Shaping a Greener Future for New York

Waterways are more and more attractive to industry for transporting raw materials, especially energy crops and their residues from agriculture, forestry and food production operations. In addition, a growing demand for green products and materials provide economic, ecological and social sustainability. This presentation explored the possibility of utilizing New York’s Canal System as a statewide regional revitalization and transportation system, to bridge the gap between bioenergy and petro-based chemicals. The presentation drew from experience of the Green Chemistry Belt at the Rhein-Main-Danube-Canal System and the Straubing Harbor in the State of Bavaria, Germany located on the river Danube.

This R&T forum was presented by Dr. Klaus Doelle, who has over 26 years combined professional experience in the commercial sector including chemical process development, paper manufacturing, materials, design, manufacturing, energy production, waste water treatment and patent management. The presentation was moderated by Andrew Maxwell, Senior Program Manager & Innovation Strategist for the Syracuse-based C&S Companies.

Presenter:

Dr. Klaus Doelle, Associate Professor, Department of Paper and Bioprocess Engineering, Environmental Science, Director TRINITY Institute, SUNY-ESF

SyracuseCoE Accepting Applications for Funding of 2018 Paid Student Internship Opportunities

SyracuseCoE is accepting applications for its 2018 Industry Collaboration Internship Program. Through this program, SyracuseCoE Partner companies can help students fine-tune their technical skills through hands-on experience in science, engineering, and architecture. The program supports paid internship opportunities, offering students the chance to work directly with a SyracuseCoE Partner company to develop their knowledge within the industries of indoor environmental quality (IEQ), high performance/green building, clean renewable energy, and water resources.

As well as developing their technical skills, the program also aims to introduce students to local industry leaders, establishing valuable relationships that serve to increase post-graduation student retention in the Central New York area.

To date, over 93 students have worked with 31 Partner firms, supported by the annual fees paid by companies participating in the SyracuseCoE Partner Program.  This summer, SyracuseCoE hopes to fund up to 8 internship opportunities with its Partner firms, providing up to $3,000 per internship.

View the 2018 Industry Collaboration Internship Program page and application.

HEALTHfx: The Benefits of LEED-Certified, Energy-Efficient Buildings

In 2015, the Willis H. Carrier Total Indoor Environmental Quality Lab at SyracuseCoE was the site of the first COGfx Study, which examined the way buildings and their environments affect people’s behavior.  Now, a 16-year research study – known as HEALTHfx – conducted by Harvard University experts has found that LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) -certified buildings across the United States and five other countries, including China, India, Brazil, Germany, and Turkey, account for a near $6B in personal health and climate benefits.

Using Harvard’s Co-BE (Co-Benefits of the Built Environment) Calculator, the study examined energy cost savings, emission, reductions, and health co-benefits.  The results showed that energy-efficient buildings around the world have already amassed an estimated $13.3B in overall benefits, while averting 33 megatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reducing air pollution.  In the U.S., these benefits will prevent an estimated 172-405 premature deaths, 171 hospital admissions, 11,000 asthma exacerbations, 54,000 respiratory symptoms, 21,000 lost work days, and 16,000 lost school days.

However, only 3.5% of total commercial buildings in the United States are considered LEED-certified; thus, the study also asserts that the health and energy advantages of energy-efficient buildings be considered during future policy creation, building design, and operation of current developments.

Read the full study here.

 

SyracuseCoE Announces 2017 Innovation Fund Recipients

SyracuseCoE is proud to announce that four Upstate New York companies have been named the 2017 Innovation Fund recipients, with awards totaling $40,000. The Innovation Fund is supported by funding from the SyracuseCoE Partner Program and is designed to support Partner firms’ efforts to overcome barriers to the commercialization of potentially transformative innovations.

The four award-winning companies and their projects are:

  • LC Drives is developing next-generation electric motors that are smaller, lighter, and more energy efficient. This project will support the development of an improved rotor cooling approach to keep the rotor and magnets cooler, allowing for the manufacture of smaller, more powerful motors and generators.
  • Standard Hydrogen Corporation will advance its collaboration with experts at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) with its Innovation Fund award, adding the U.S. Department of Energy lab to its ongoing collaboration with SHC’s New York State university partners.
  • Air Innovations will redesign a proposed revolutionary personal Cooling and heating system that could change the way we manage personal comfort within workspaces, while reducing building energy costs.
  • Bush Technical’s innovative micro-scroll compressors have multiple commercial applications for spot-cooling products. This project will allow Bush Technical to work with Syracuse University engineering students and faculty to develop a production machine and process that will optimize the finishing process.

“The Innovation Fund awards highlight Central New York’s expertise in environmental and energy systems, as well as area companies’ enthusiasm for innovation and commercialization of new technologies,” said Ed Bogucz, SyracuseCoE executive director. “These awards are intended to help companies bridge the gap to commercialization of new products, as well as to provide thoughtful, constructive feedback from a panel of reviewers with expertise in the application of new technology in the marketplace.”

Proposals for the 2018 SyracuseCoE Innovation Fund will be invited to submit beginning in February.  To date, awards from SyracuseCoE’s Innovation Fund have totaled more than $330,000 and supported 25 clean energy projects throughout New York State, creating or retaining 35 jobs and increasing revenues by more than $406,000 with reported cost savings of $516,710 and increased capital expenditures of $756,881.

Eligibility for Innovation Fund awards is extended to all current members of the SyracuseCoE Partner Program. Proposals may include collaborations with non-Partner Program firms and academic partners; however, proposals must be submitted and led by members of the SyracuseCoE Partner Program.

Nominate a Factory Tour

Nominate a Factory Tour

 

Verification

Development of a Photovoltaic Cell Utilizing a Proprietary Manufacturing Process

For more than 30 years, solar photovoltaics (PV) technology has tried to feasibly compete with coal-fired power generation as a source of grid tied electricity—with limited success. However, with continued advancements in technology and the rising price of fossil fuel-powered energy, a path to grid parity for solar PV exists. Some analysts argue that 100% of our current energy demands could be met with a mere 1% of our land area blanketed with solar cells. For these reasons, grid-connected solar PV represented the fastest growing energy technology on the world market through 2009. The question is—how do we reduce the cost of producing solar PV while increasing production throughput? Syracuse University partner Antek is working to solve this dilemma.

In January of 2008, Anthony Terrinoni of Antek was connected by the Syracuse Center of Excellence with SU Professor Eric Schiff concerning an opportunity to collaborate on research into a novel method of solar cell fabrication. In the standard process, thin wafers of silicon and phosphorous are heated in large ovens and exposed to boron gas. Through extensive research, the team has discovered a process that involves “spritzing” the wafers with a proprietary mixture of chemicals—which could reduce production costs by 10 to 20%. Antek’s proprietary manufacturing process not only reduces overall cost of production, but also minimizes carbon emissions associated with the process and results in an increase in open-circuit voltage compared to current solar PV cells on the market.

With funding from SyracuseCoE, Antek has produced a prototype solar cell that demonstrates the reduced production costs, and has also proven the thin film layer to be durable and resistant to environmental impact. The company is currently exploring a path to market and was recently accepted into Syracuse’s Clean Tech Center. Antek also recognized the importance of “think global, buy local.” By partnering not only with local distributors, but also with local module manufacturers, Antek envisions that they will be able to create a packaged solar PV product comprised entirely of technologies developed in New York State—creating high-value technical jobs in the region. “The Center of Excellence was the spark at the inception of the solar cell project, having supported the research and development stage, and now assisting with its commercialization,” says Terrinoni. “In all aspects of the product life cycle, the CoE has been a model partner and has showed its commitment to fostering positive economic change in the local area.”

In February 2010, work began on increasing solar cell performance and the development of a business plan/investor presentation. An intern from the Johnson School, Benjamin Barrington, brought in-depth knowledge of the solar industry, allowing for the rapid completion of both. As of September 2010, Antek is attempting to raise capital for a demonstration solar panel.

Integrated Computer Simulation Environment for Performance-Based Design of Very-Low Energy and High-IEQ Buildings

The US Department of Energy (US DOE) has announced a $560,296 grant to a Syracuse University (SU)-led project to develop a virtual design studio to help building designers evaluate architectural and mechanical options in order to maximize the energy savings of residential and commercial buildings while ensuring healthy, comfortable and productive indoor environments.

The Virtual Design Studio project is led by Jensen Zhang, L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science, and Michael Pelken, SU School of Architecture. The project is being developed in collaboration with Syracuse-based firm and SyracuseCoE building Patron and tenant CDH Energy, the Florida Solar Energy Center and SyracuseCoE, which provided matching funds. This project adds a new capability to SyracuseCoE’s extensive portfolio of research and demonstration assets and projects that are advancing energy-efficient building products and services.

“The Virtual Design Studio will integrate a suite of performance simulation models, a virtual building database and a knowledge base of architectural design principles to achieve fully coordinated, integrated and optimized building design,” says Zhang, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “Buildings designed and constructed using a performance-based energy and IEQ design process that optimizes the interaction between the building envelope and a building’s HVAC systems can save between 30 percent and 75 percent of energy costs while providing better indoor environmental quality.”

According to the US DOE, the nation’s 114 million households and more than 74 million square feet of commercial floor space account for about 40 percent of the country’s primary energy consumption, as well as 39 percent of carbon dioxide, 18 percent of nitrogen oxides and 55 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions.

In addition to helping the nation achieve energy independence by reducing its reliance on fossil fuels to heat and cool aging and inefficient buildings, the Virtual Design Studio project is expected to help create high-value jobs in both the supply and demand sides of the energy-efficient building market. Therefore, the project will directly support of the country’s economic recovery and development effort.

In total, the US DOE has awarded more than $76 million for 58 advanced energy-efficient building technologies and commercial building training programs throughout the United States. The Virtual Design Studio project was one of five projects awarded a grant under the rubric of “Analysis, Design and Technical Tools,” which focuses on improving the simulation of complex interactions between building elements, including climate, building envelope heat and moisture transfer, internal heat gains, lighting power, HVAC equipment, controls, thermal and visual comfort, and energy costs.

“These projects will help the US lead the world in advancing energy-efficient technologies,” says US Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “Energy-efficient commercial buildings will help our country cut its carbon emissions and energy costs while the training programs will upgrade the skills of the current workforce and attract the next generation to careers in the emerging clean energy economy.”

An Intelligent Urban Environmental System (i-UES) for Central New York Water Resource Management

A unique three-year longitudinal and vertical study of Central New York’s Three Rivers system—involving the Oswego, Oneida and Seneca rivers—has revealed that oxygen resources have become degraded by several stressors, including the impact of wastewater treatment plants, nonpoint runoff, an increase in invasive zebra mussels and channelization of the fl ow. As oxygen is necessary to support life in aquatic ecosystems, its measurement is essential for gauging the overall state of water bodies; in one of the study’s surveys, more than one-third of the 90-kilometer length of the river system failed to meet the New York water quality standard.

This research has shown the importance of utilizing innovative technology to manage and monitor complex aquatic ecosystems in urban settings. Oftentimes, programs for treating water systems are implemented without robust data to identify the true source of the problem. The value of this case study comes from the large number of cause-and-effect relationships that were clearly identified through the monitoring system.

Steven Effler, Director of Research at the Upstate Freshwater Institute, and Charles Driscoll, University Professor of Environmental Systems Engineering in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science at Syracuse University, recently presented the results of this Syracuse Center of Excellence Collaborative Activities in Research and Technology Innovation (CARTI) water research project—“An Intelligent Urban Environmental System (i-UES) for Central New York Water Resource Management”—to SyracuseCoE’s Scientific Advisory Committee. SyracuseCoE awards CARTI projects using funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Coauthors of the study are Anthony R. Prestigiacomo and Adam J.P. Effler of the Upstate Freshwater Institute.

While much attention has been given to the impact of rivers on lake water quality, there had previously been little done to track the effects of lake outflows on receiving rivers. The water quality of these rivers is of great concern in order to protect their multiple uses—recreation, navigation, power generation and waste discharge—and to support regional development. Currently, the ability of the water systems to absorb the waste sent into them is significantly reduced.

“This study illustrates some of the complexities and challenges in managing urban water systems,” says Driscoll. “There are multiple factors associated with the low oxygen concentrations in the Three Rivers system. As a result, multiple approaches will be needed to improve the oxygen status of the river.”

To assess the water quality of such large river systems, the study conducted eight longitudinal surveys—four in summer 2007 and four in summer 2009—collecting data from more than 50 sites, utilizing special instrumentation that measures temperature, conductance (the capacity to conduct electricity), turbidity (muddiness of water due to stirred up sediment), chlorophyll levels and dissolved oxygen. The “boundary conditions” that show the baseline measurements were collected by solar powered robotic monitoring platforms at the outflows of each lake.

With much conclusive evidence pointing to the oxygen depletion in the Three Rivers system, the research team recommends long-term, routine monitoring of the system, utilizing robotic systems. The researchers suggest that simply improving processes at individual wastewater treatment plants will not be enough to impact the system, and the team must continue to define dynamics and provide insights for rehabilitation. A water quality model can then guide management decisions for a recovery process.

These findings have had extensive media coverage, including The Syracuse PostStandard, Science Newsline, Science Daily, Red Orbit, and Terra Daily.

CDH Energy To Monitor Green Homes

SyracuseCoE Patron CDH Energy has partnered with SyracuseCoE to install monitors in all three of the innovative green homes built as part of the Near Westside Initiative. These homes are the result of the “From the Ground Up: Innovative Green Homes” competition, built in collaboration with the Near Westside Initiative, Syracuse University School of Architecture, Home HeadQuarters and SyracuseCoE, which fosters advanced thinking about design, sustainability, and cost-effective building practices for the single-family home.

These innovative homes provide a new vision for one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods and demonstrate the value of design within a disinvested and demographically diverse community. These small domestic projects wed high standards of living with advanced technology and design to encourage revitalization of the Near Westside and similar neighborhoods across the country. At the Live/Work/Home (317 Marcellus St., Syracuse), for instance, CDH Energy attached temperature and air fl ow sensors to the heat recovery ventilator. In the basement, they installed a dedicated gas meter, as well as sensors on the mini-boiler, the hot-water heater, and the underfloor radiant heating circuits. Data will be collected every 15 minutes and fed into an Internet database for analysis.

The monitors will collect data for a total of three years to document energy consumption. SyracuseCoE will fund the monitoring project with part of a federal appropriation it received in December 2009 through US Rep. Dan Maffei (NY-25).

Ultrafine Particles and Cardiac Responses: Evaluation in a Cardiac Rehabilitation Center

Epidemiologists study the factors that affect the health and illness of populations. These doctors and scientists know from years of research that particulate matter air pollution causes people to suffer from some forms of heart disease which, for some, can have fatal consequences.

But what is causing this? The term “particulate matter” (PM) describes a wide range of particles, and what isn’t clear is the direct effect of specific particulate matter components. Determining exactly what role each different component found in PM pollution—organics, metals, ultrafines, etc —plays in our everyday cardiovascular health is what Mark J. Utell, with the help of the University of Rochester, is measuring. Researchers suspect ultrafine particles, the very smallest of these particles at less than 100 nanometers in diameter, play a significant role in causing ill health.

A team of varied experts was put together to participate in this project, including: epidemiologists, who study factors of health and illness in populations; environmental health scientists, who study relationships between health and the environment; cardiologists, who deal with heart and blood vessel illness and health; analytical chemists, who study chemical composition of natural and artificial materials, primarily at the molecular level; and biostatisticians, who use math to analyze, understand, and interpret data to establish relationships between factors.

The research team’s observational study incorporates several research elements. The data collection of the current project tests patients at a cardiac rehabilitation center who are recovering from serious heart attacks. The team records sensitive heart electrophysiological measurements—the electrical signals emitted by biological cells and tissues—during rehab exercise and collects blood samples. Similar cardiovascular endpoints have been examined in other subgroup populations in Rochester, NY, allowing the researchers to compare data.

Information from this study offers a better assessment of adverse health effects from inhalation of common pollutants. Considering this direct relationship along with environmental conditions and populations becomes a basis for understanding more general health risks. This data can and hopefully will be helpful in creating public policy that addresses ultrafine particles, large particulate matter, and air quality in general.

Integrated Energy Recovery Ventilation and Air Purification System (HEPAiRx)

For adults and children suffering from asthma and other upper respiratory illnesses, clean air can mean relief and feeling better. However, in recent years, energy efficiency requirements have resulted in tighter building construction and renovation. While this has helped conserve energy, a resulting decline in indoor air quality may be a cause for the increase in asthma and upper respiratory illnesses. North Syracuse, NY, company Air Innovations, a SyracuseCoE Silver Partner, believes this situation can be corrected.

Previous funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) allowed Air Innovations to design and develop an air purification system that brings more fresh air into a room without high energy consequences.

The result is an integrated, packaged, portable air conditioner that heats and cools the room, brings in fresh air, filters out pollutants, and creates a positive pressure in the space to keep airborne pollutants from other spaces, such as microorganisms and allergens, from entering the room. The system is designed to take over complete environmental control of a room, such as a bedroom, and reduce airborne particles and gaseous contaminants. By doing so, the bedroom can be isolated from the rest of the house.

With funding from SyracuseCoE, Air Innovations was able to test the Integrated Energy Recovery Ventilator, also called a Ventilating Room Air Purifier and trademarked HEPAiRx®. Working with Clarkson University, two separate studies to evaluate the air quality and health of asthmatic children were designed and implemented. In the first, 45 units were placed in participants’ bedrooms for an 18-week period. In the second, 20 units were installed and evaluated over a 14-week period.

The studies monitored air quality along with the health of the rooms’ occupants under different situations. The researchers collected information to compare using the unit against not using the unit. Forced Expiratory Volume and exhaled breath samples were collected from the individuals with standard breath sampling equipment. The results indicated reduction in lung inflammation in the subjects using the HEPAiRx®. Air samples were measured showing substantial reductions in the particulate and gaseous contaminant levels. Questionnaires were used to evaluate changes in quality of life such as the use of medication, sleeplessness and sick days. Subjects generally reported better sleep and a reduction in medication.

These two separate studies determined that the unit significantly improved the IAQ and reduced asthma symptoms. Participants were given the option of keeping their units or receiving a cash payment for participation. Most reported improved quality of life for their children, with 95% opting to keep the latest model of HEPAiRx® in the second study. Further studies will be conducted in winter 2010 to determine the medical intervention cost savings of the HEPAiRx®.

“We are fortunate to have won multiple, competitively awarded matching grants from SyracuseCoE, NYSERDA, CenterState CEO and NYSTAR to pursue our dream of helping people, especially children, get some relief from their asthma by using clean and green technologies of fresh air for ventilation and high-efficiency particulate air filtration,” says Larry Wetzel, PE, Chairman of the Board, Air Innovations, Inc.

In December 2009, Air Innovations was named the 9th fastest growing small business in Central Upstate New York. In August 2010, the company was named to Inc. magazine’s list of America’s 5,000 Fastest Growing Privately Held Companies. HEPAiR® is U.S. patented.

Biosensors with Low Cross-Reactivity for Waterborne Contaminants

Dr. Philip Borer, CEO of AptaMatrix, Inc. and chemistry professor at Syracuse University (SU), has conducted research to develop a new method to identify nucleic acid sequences—short strands of DNA or RNA—attracted to microorganisms. Borer calls this Direct Sequence Analysis, or the DSA Method. Using this new method, Borer’s team can quickly find the DNA/RNA strands, called “aptamers,” that recognize and bind to chlorine resistant waterborne microorganisms—such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia—which cause debilitating illnesses that can be fatal for infants, senior citizens, or immune-compromised individuals.

The short nucleic acid strands are identified using next-generation technologies that are coming into wide use for determining subtle differences between the DNA genomes of different people. “We are delighted to have two of these next-gen instruments—the first in Syracuse—at AptaMatrix,” says Borer. “The company can sequence nearly a billion DNA fragments per week, which is important because finding aptamers is like searching for a needle in a haystack.” he said. In addition to aptamer discovery, AptaMatrix does sequencing for academic and industrial researchers.

AptMatrix and SU scientists engineered the aptamers that bind directly with a target organism into a “molecular switch.” Thus the outcome of this research—a DNA/RNA molecule that changes its shape on binding with the target—has been dubbed the AlloSwitch™. The shape change is coupled to a change in light output from the switch to provide a biosensor that can detect the target. Because of its selectivity and sensitivity, other non-harmful or beneficial microorganisms in the water will not react to the AlloSwitch™.

Building off his success in capturing aptamers using the DSA method, Borer’s new project aims to discover dozens of high-affinity sequences for each target. Those having the lowest off-target effects will be chosen for commercial biosensors that are specific for Cryptosporidium or Giardia and that do not react with other common components of public water supplies.

“We are especially grateful to SyracuseCoE, NYSTAR, and the SU CASE Center for critical early support for our work,” says Borer. “The techniques developed in this SyracuseCoE funded research project have laid the groundwork for what should become the primary method by which thousands of biosensor targets—proteins, microorganisms, toxins, etc.—are detected.” Borer and his team submitted patent applications in March of 2009 and 2010 for aptamer discovery, and have been awarded three patents on the AlloSwitch™ technology, owned by SU and licensed to AptaMatrix.

Distributed Demand Controlled Ventilation for Improving Indoor Air Quality

The interest in controlling Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) stems from the desire to create and maintain healthy and safe work environments for the many people around the world who work in office buildings. This means being able to immediately detect the presence of pollutants and contaminants, alert those in charge, and mitigate the problem or reduce the impact on the indoor environment.

The Syracuse Center of Excellence headquarters includes a Total Indoor Environmental Quality (TIEQ) laboratory for research in this area. But the new building also serves as an example of the latest technology in IAQ and “intelligent built environmental systems.” An intelligent system is designed and built to monitor the environment, perceive changes in conditions, and make automatic adjustments to the indoor environment to achieve optimal performance.

Current HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) technology exists for demand-controlled ventilation (DCV). This regulates the amount of fresh air brought into a building based on the carbon dioxide (CO2) generated by the occupants’ activities. DCV provides good IAQ and is more energy efficient than older systems.

However, a recent study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal government technology agency, shows that DCV may result in higher levels of unhealthy air pollutants such as the volatile organic compounds (VOC) that are emitted in an office environment from plastics and other synthetic materials, cleaning chemicals, and copying and other office equipment. These “passive emissions” can accumulate in the building during unoccupied periods, when the CO2 levels are expected to be low, prompting the DCV to shut off or drastically reduce the supply of fresh air. Some of them cannot be eliminated from the office environment, so controlling  them becomes important.

Researchers at Syracuse University are taking DCV one step further by investigating distributed demand controlled ventilation (DDCV). In this project, investigators are testing methods that rely on a network of distributed sensors and environmental control systems to adjust the supply of fresh air for each occupant based on local conditions. This approach ensures that each occupant will receive the correct amount of fresh air indicated by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) at reduced energy consumption. The DDCV approach will also address such important considerations as occupancy, activity, floor area, passive emissions and ventilation efficiency in individual occupied spaces. To this end, a mathematical model and experimental methods have been developed to evaluate practical design and control methods, and optimize the mechanical equipment for improved IAQ and lower energy consumption.

The new system, operating at a higher level of intelligence, monitors individual offices and cubicles as well as the interaction of the air throughout larger office spaces. Regulation of fresh air control and contaminant detection is then based on the conditions or needs in the individual areas. This distributed approach to IAQ will achieve maximum comfort, health, and safety for workers throughout a building.

Characterizing Non-Point Salt Contamination To Streams and Groundwater

While not particularly thought of as a health hazard, high levels of salt are being found in streams and groundwater—affecting our watershed and therefore our overall water quality. Through SyracuseCoE-funded research conducted in Fishkill Creek in Dutchess County, NY, Stuart Findlay of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem studies, along with Don Siegel and Li Jin of Syracuse University, found that the major culprits are road salt (contributing to more than 80% of the issue), water softeners (5-10%) and wastewater treatment plants (about 1%).

While it’s easy to assume that streams and groundwater are more contaminated with salt in the winter months when there is a large amount of road salt application, the opposite can be equally true. High concentrations of salt have been found in the summer months—painting a clear picture that something is holding onto the chloride, making it last through the summer and perhaps affecting animals in the streams during their breeding season and their young in early growth stages. In Dutchess County, NY, about 20% of the private wells show salt contamination at levels that would advise caution for people on severely salt-limited diets. Since large areas of New York rely on individual water wells, it presents a problem once the groundwater is contaminated. It may take a long time to see rising salt levels in groundwater and it will also take a long time for levels to decline, even if salt applications are reduced.

Through a new model, researchers found that by reducing salt application in half, the concentration decreased by only 20.7%, while doubling it increased concentration by 34.2%. The model suggests a lag in delivery of the salt, so the road salt applied now will more than likely show up in the future. These results provide an educational model that help us manage expectations of what is down the line for our watershed if we don’t act to mitigate salt levels in the water. Next, there is a need to find modifications to road salt, different ways to apply salt so it remains only on the road and/or begin to reduce the application rate.

“Salt pollution of our environment is an increasingly important issue,” Findlay tells us “but the bright side to the problem is that it can engage citizens and local officials to be more aware of apparently benign materials we spread into the environment that can come back to trouble us.”

Characterization of the Ambient Air Quality in Syracuse, NY, and Identification of Its Origins

How is the outdoor air quality in Syracuse, New York? That depends on a number of factors. Is it a hot humid day in July or a cold clear one in January? Maybe it is early Sunday morning, or afternoon rush hour with major construction on the interstate highway.

Pollution in the atmosphere can induce a wide variety of adverse effects including: increased mortality and morbidity in the public, deterioration of buildings and monuments, acidification of lakes and rivers, and forest and crop damage. Although the US has substantially improved air quality over the past 30 years, there are still a number of problems that are attributed to air pollution.

By modeling the evolution of traffic emissions in a similar fashion to that done for freeways in Los Angeles, Max Zhang, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University, developed models that relate automated traffic data and weather-related measurements to predict pollutant concentrations.

A team of researchers led by Philip Hopke, Bayard D. Clarkson Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for Air Resources Engineering and Science (CARES) at Clarkson University, collected data at two towers—one at Upper Onondaga Lake Park and the other near the SyracuseCoE headquarters in downtown Syracuse. Myron Mitchell, Professor and Director of the Council on Hydrologic Systems Science, Department of Environmental and Forest Biology at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, also contributed his expertise, maintaining the collection towers and providing modeling data.

Studies from around the country have established that vehicles play a major role in a community’s air quality. The Clarkson researchers suspect that the two major highways that cross Syracuse—I-81 and I-690—have a definite impact on the city’s surrounding air. These two highways, adjacent to the SyracuseCoE headquarters site, are being monitored with two Autoscope traffic cameras mounted on the top of the Urban Ecosystem Observatory tower, providing real-time traffic volume, speed and size classes. A graphical user interface is also being used to process the traffic data. Now that the SyracuseCoE headquarters construction has been completed, most of the data has been collected and the team is finalizing the analysis of the information.

“We are analyzing the wealth of collected data to determine the impacts of the interstate highways on local air quality. These results should help inform local officials as they make choices regarding the future for I-81,” says Hopke.

Using their model based on actual information about Syracuse, the researchers intend to develop other models that can predict future pollutant concentrations using easily collected traffic data. With this kind of information, controlling and improving the quality of the air we breathe every day becomes a possibility.

Open Web Services-Based Indoor Climate Control System

How often have you sat at your desk—at work, in school, at a computer lab—and felt uncomfortable with your indoor environment? Is air too warm and stuffy, or too cold to concentrate? Even worse, the reason we often feel too hot in the winter and too cold in the summer is because of HVAC systems that are wasting energy by over-conditioning the building. While building automation systems (BAS) that deal with these problems have existed for a long time, they currently do not take advantage of the Internet technologies that transformed many other computing domains—and that are user-friendly for office workers, students, and general public alike.

To deal with this dilemma, CollabWorx— known for its signature Web-based real-time collaborative workspaces—has developed a smart building control product that reduces energy costs and increases energy efficiency, improves indoor air quality, increases worker productivity, and creates personalized climate-control environments—all based on the premise that one can build a functional prototype of a BAS assembled exclusively from open-source Internet-based elements. Says Project Investigator Dr. Marek Podgorny, “I am very grateful to the Syracuse Center of Excellence for financial and intellectual support for the project. Technically, we wanted to demonstrate that open-source software technologies can be used to implement all elements of a control system, including internal system communications. This approach allowed us to lower costs of the system so that the product becomes affordable to small businesses and suitable for residential buildings. It creates a new market niche that we expect to fill while creating green jobs in Upstate New York, with significant energy savings as an important bonus.”

Findings of the project have been conclusive; the Web-based BAS offers a nontrivial technological advantage over current proprietary industrial solutions and a sustainable foundation for future collaborative development of Smart Building software by academic and industrial consortia and alliances. In addition, the modular design of the system permits replacement of any of its components by a proprietary or simply different implementation. Presently CollabWorx is working on demonstrating the technology at the SyracuseCoE headquarters building, and continuing to make it a commercially viable technology.

Commercializing “Q” Air Terminals: Addressing Challenges of Indoor Air Quality, Energy Costs, and Health Risks

Keeping the air in an office, dormitory, laboratory or school at a comfortable temperature and free of germs and odors requires lots of energy. NuClimate Air Quality Systems has designed equipment to address both indoor air quality and energy concerns. The product, consisting of induction units/ chilled beams, is called the “Q” Air Terminal. “Q” stands for “Quality.

Air terminals are the units that take air in and put it back out into a room. The NuClimate system, located in the ceiling, works by taking a source of primary, or fresh air, and mixing it with the inside air. Fresh air comes through nozzles at a high rate of speed into a mixing chamber. The resulting induced room air flows over a coil that is set to maintain a comfortable temperature by the room thermostat. The heated or cooled air then streams down into the room by a design that uses the coanda effect, the same principle of air fl ow that makes an airplane lift off the ground or a sailboat move forward on the water.

A “Q” Air Terminal moves air at a slower pace than more common forced-air systems, reducing the distribution of dirt and germs. And because the system operates on air fl ow principles, there are no electric motors or fans using energy, making noise, or needing repair and maintenance. NuClimate’s system requires duct work that is one-third the size of traditional air heating and cooling systems. This smaller size also reduces the architectural impact in building construction.

With access to research and lab facilities for testing and development at SyracuseCoE, as well as valuable networking benefi ts for publicity, NuClimate has been able to grow at exponential speeds. They continue to develop spin-offs of their original invention into different models, which possess the same induction technology.

John DiMillo, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at NuClimate, credits much of the product’s success to SyracuseCoE. “The Syracuse Center of Excellence kind of took us under its wing,” DiMillo says. “They’ve done tons of work for us. In 2010, SyracuseCoE successfully assisted NuClimate in its pursuit of the New York City School renovations, which begin in 2011.”

Recently, NuClimate developed a more advanced model for individual residences, cementing a relationship with Titus Corporation (a $5 billion corporation specializing in HVAC products) and the US Military. By June of 2010, NuClimate had shipped more than 2,500 units. The company is also in the process of developing a unit specifically for the hospital market.

Bridging the Temporal Mismatch between Remotely Sensed Land Use Changes and Field-Based Water Quality/Quantity Observations

As urban development continues to expand outward, cities and suburbs are losing permeable surfaces to sidewalks, roads, and parking lots. By taking natural hydrology out of the equation, we are faced with negative impacts on water quality from storm water runoff.

Runoff moves swiftly over impervious surfaces, picking up dirt and contaminants as it flows to the nearest water body. Runoff also puts pressure on sewer lines, which can breach capacity during storms, releasing a mixture of raw sewage and runoff directly into a nearby waterway before reaching a plant for treatment—known as combined sewer overflows.

Recently, researchers have been incorporating remotely sensed satellite imagery to detect impervious surface cover in a given area. The resulting maps help hydrologists link water quality to trends in development and nonpoint source water pollution (runoff). However, traditional hydrologic modeling methods are limiting because they capture total impervious surface cover but ignore its spatial distribution. Also, hydrologists are not aware of possible limitations in the image analysis algorithms that provide the impervious maps.

With funding support from SyracuseCoE, a team of researchers at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry has developed enhanced image processing technology capable of accurately detecting impervious surfaces, while simultaneously providing an accuracy metric for every detected pixel. The technology is revolutionary, as it bridges a significant scientific gap between image analysts and hydrologic modelers. Dr. Giorgos Mountrakis, an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Resources Engineering Department of SUNY ESF and the Principal Investigator in this grant, notes: “The funding from SyracuseCoE was critical in allowing researchers with diverse backgrounds to come together and tackle the elimination of typical disciplinary barriers through a collaborative and highly integrated approach. It was a group effort, that none of us could have undertaken in isolation, with some impressive results.”

This enhanced processing technology is coupled with an integrated modeling framework that incorporates socioeconomic, land use and environmental monitoring data. These inputs can be plugged into the model and used to project future trends on a more frequent basis.

Moving forward, the model will be translated into software and distributed to communities to help them make smarter land-use decisions in the future.

Life Down Under: The Forgotten Hyporheic Zone in Stream Restoration and Development of a Bioindicator of Subsurface Recovery

Billions of dollars are spent every year on stream restoration projects aimed at restoring the hydraulic and ecological diversity of natural stream systems. Usually restoration goals are focused on bank erosion and improving fish habitat. But, what effects are there on the subsurface environment? Streams are not simply surface flow over a stream bed, but include complex interactions with and within the stream bed. What effects do these man-made rock structures have on biological communities within the bed itself? Do they restore the habitat and biological diversity like we hope they do?

These engineered stream restoration structures may induce hyporheic exchange—the mixing of surface and groundwater flows—within the stream bed. No one has ever studied the effects of these structures on the living world within the stream bed (an entire and complex fauna of invertebrates lives down there). Kathleen McGrath and her team at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry partnered with Laura Lautz at Syracuse University to study Ninemile Creek in Marcellus, NY, an ideal field “laboratory” to examine the effects of restoration structures on subsurface invertebrates.

The team of researchers at Ninemile Creek found that cross vane structures, or carefully placed V-shaped rock structures built across the channel to funnel flow toward the center and away from eroding stream banks, do appear to affect the nature of the environment in a positive way. By mimicking natural riffle pool flow patterns with carefully placed rock structures, flow patterns in and out of the bed, and associated hyporheic habitats do appear to be more diverse. Invertebrate communities may be more diverse and healthy as well.

A better understanding of stream restoration effects on the hyporheic zone allows us to guide future stream restoration efforts to restore not just the surface environment of a healthy stream, but also the subsurface environment as well.

Groundbreaking Held for Near Westside’s Lincoln Supply Building

In September 2009, a ceremony was held to commemorate the start of a $3.2 million renovation project of the Lincoln Building, located on the 300 block of Wyoming Street, Syracuse.

The Lincoln Building, formerly known as the Lincoln Supply Warehouse, is a 100-year-old, four story property that will be renovated to create 30,000 square feet of mixed-use commercial and residential space. The renovation will transform the first two floors into commercial space and the top two floors into live/work artist lofts.

The building is designed to demonstrate innovations in green technologies for energy and environmental systems, with SyracuseCoE funding the design of green systems for the project. The effort is led by SyracuseCoE Gold Partner C&S Companies, with contributions from SyracuseCoE Charter Member Northeast Green Building Consulting, Earth Sensitive Solutions, John Todd Ecological Design, Intelligent Converted Energy, Building Energy Solutions, and Steven Winter Associates.

The project is one of the first in the country that has been designed using a proposed new rating system that is being developed by SyracuseCoE Charter Member the US Green Building Council for mid-rise, multi-family residential buildings. The Lincoln Building is designed to achieve a Gold rating in the new LEED system, one step below the highest rating.

SU, IBM Break Ground on Green Data Center

In May 2009, officials from SyracuseCoE Platinum Partner Syracuse University, IBM, and New York State broke ground on what will be one of the most energy-efficient computer data centers in the world. With the use of green technologies, the new facility is expected to use about half the energy of a typical data center. US data centers consume more than 62 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually at a total cost of about $4.5 billion, an amount equal to what 5.8 million US households use in a typical year.

The project, expected to be completed in late 2009 on SU’s South Campus, will focus on the actual construction of the data center itself, not just the computer hardware and software. A key element of the $12.4 million, 6,000-square-foot facility will be an onsite electrical co-generation system. It will use natural gas-fueled micro-turbine engines to generate all electricity and provide cooling for the computer servers.

The data center also will feature a liquid cooling system will use double-effect absorption chillers to convert exhaust heat from the microturbines into chilled water to cool the data center’s servers, with sufficient excess cooling to handle the needs of an adjacent building.

The facility will contain more than $5 million in IBM-donated equipment, design services, and support, which includes supplying the electrical cogeneration equipment and servers such as IBM BladeCenter, IBM Power 575, and an IBM z10 systems.

Naturally Chilled Water Project Begins Feasibility Study

Introduced in October 2008 by SyracuseCoE Platinum Partner SUNY-ESF, the Central New York Naturally Chilled Water Project (CNYCWP) is in the process of conducting scientific and engineering investigations to determine the feasibility and suitability of bringing naturally chilled water from Lake Ontario to Onondaga and Oswego counties, using existing rights-of-way and new technology to effectively support a large-scale municipal cooling district and other opportunities. The $1.5 million funding for the study was secured through the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The lake water would provide a greenhouse gas-free cooling source that would reduce emissions and cut the amount of fossil fuels used to power mechanical chillers and coolers in regional private and public buildings. After being used, the oxygen-rich water would fl ow back through Onondaga Lake and then return to Lake Ontario, closing the loop on the system.

Not only does the project stand to provide natural cooling to buildings, but the water, when deposited in Onondaga Lake, can aid in the lake cleanup. The water entering Onondaga Lake would be approximately 52 degrees, which is cooler than Onondaga Lake in the summer. This cooler, oxygen-rich water will help reduce mercury and other toxins, add oxygen naturally and enhance aquatic fisheries.

SyracuseCoE Opens One-of-a-Kind BEST Lab

Two of Syracuse’s signature strengths—robust, four-season weather and expertise in green building technologies—have attracted an international team to conduct a project that will help improve energy efficiency in buildings through weatherization technologies.

Project partners include the Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the US Department of Energy (USDOE), the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Syracuse University, and the Syracuse Center of Excellence (SyracuseCoE). The partners have committed more than $2 million to undertake the three-year project.

The project is being conducted at the new Building Envelope Systems Test (BEST) Laboratory—opened in April 2009—a unique SyracuseCoE research and development facility located on SyracuseCoE Platinum Partner Syracuse University’s South Campus. The project focuses on the performance of air barriers—systems that control unintended air movement between outdoors and indoors, which can have major impacts on a building’s energy use and indoor air quality. In heating climates, up to 40% of the energy use in a building can be attributed to air leakage.

The BEST Laboratory resembles a small, two-story house. In place of windows, the laboratory has 34 openings for test panels, each of which is four feet wide and nine feet high. ABAA has installed panels that represent various materials and air barriers, which are then subjected to identical outdoor and indoor conditions. Inside, ORNL will install instruments to measure temperature, moisture and air movement. ORNL will analyze the results.

The location of the BEST Laboratory in Syracuse recognizes the expertise and resources available through SyracuseCoE, such as Jainshun Zhang, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at SU, who is director of the world-renowned Building Energy and Environmental Systems (BEES) Laboratory in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science. Zhang, along with other SU faculty and students, will help manage the BEST Laboratory.

Bringing Historic Lessons Home

SyracuseCoE and the EFC are applying the lessons learned about sustainable disaster recovery and urban redevelopment to Central Upstate New York:

DECONSTRUCTION— With leadership assistance from Northeast Green Building Consulting and Naef Recycling, SyracuseCoE and Home HeadQuarters are working together on the planned deconstruction of a house in Syracuse’s Near West Side Neighborhood, including workforce development, market development, and policy initiatives needed to support the process. The project expects to provide a framework that engages the community in sustainable urban redevelopment.

DISASTER RECOVERY—The EFC is considering creating a framework that can be applied to other communities affected by disasters—in Central Upstate New York, those can include ice storms and floods—that takes the Historic Green recovery as a model of sustainable rebuilding.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT—The Historic Green project is a model of community engagement in planning, development, and even construction. Lessons in how to involve community members are being applied to the Near West Side Initiative.

Taitem Demonstrates Split Desiccant AC

Historically, the only way to condition air was to draw it over a cold surface, around 45 degrees Fahrenheit, but Ithaca-based Taitem Engineering, PC has found a way to do it with much warmer surfaces, around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

In August, a team from Taitem—led by Ian Shapiro—successfully tested the concept of a Split Airstream Desiccant Cooling system at the Building Energy and Environmental Systems (BEES) Laboratory at Syracuse University. The team met its system efficiency goal of a 1.2 coefficient of performance. Syracuse CoE funded the testing with a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The system splits an air stream in two and uses a desiccant wheel to transfer moisture to one stream, increasing relative humidity so that warmer water can condition the air. Thus, it could use cool water from geothermal wells or lakes. It does not use a compressor or refrigerants, uses little electricity, and runs quietly.

It does require heat, but using geothermal wells and solar energy could provide air conditioning virtually for free. Even if the system used gas, the operating cost could be as much as half that of conventional air conditioning. For more information on Taitem, click here.

Maxwell School Students Help Help City of Oswego, US Virgin Islands

The EFC and SyracuseCoE continue their important partnership with the Maxwell School of Syracuse University through the graduate capstone project, a four-week intensive research and development project that caps the one year Masters of Public Administration program.

Supporting SyracuseCoE’s clean and renewable energy focus area, SyracuseCoE and EFC engaged a Maxwell capstone student team that collaborated with the school’s Center of Environmental Policy and Administration to develop a sustainable energy plan for city of Oswego in Central Upstate New York.

A second capstone project looked at the development of wind power on the US Virgin Islands, which is part of the EFC’s US Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 catchment. For this project, students researched and developed wind power policy directives that the US Virgin Islands’ government can use regarding the siting of wind energy facilities.

SyracuseCoE and the EFC continue working on projects in the Virgin Islands, providing opportunities for Partners such as Clarkson University and Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Improving Energy Efficiency in Near West Side Homes

An integrated project to help homeowners in the Skiddy Park area of Syracuse’s Near West Side neighborhood assess and improve energy use and indoor environmental quality began in January with the first of as many as 50 families receiving free home energy assessments. Home HeadQuarters is leading the project, with assistance from SyracuseCoE.

The Home Performance Study energy assessments will evaluate energy use along with health and safety issues in participating homes and will help identify needed improvements to reduce energy use that may result in lower utility bills.

Home HeadQuarters is providing Energy Upgrade Mini-Grants of up to $2,500 to help with home improvements identified through the home energy assessments. The mini-grants, available at Home HeadQuarters through the city of Syracuse, are made possible with Syracuse Neighborhood Initiative funding secured by Rep. James T. Walsh (R-NY).

SyracuseCoE staff is offering advice and guidance to homeowners on recommended energy improvement options. Together, Home HeadQuarters and SyracuseCoE are helping homeowners research and apply for additional funding opportunities. Homeowners may also be eligible to try new energy-saving appliances and/or equipment in their homes, which would be made possible through SyracuseCoE. At the end of 2007, Syracuse University, at the request of SyracuseCoE, solicited bids for home assessments from local Building Performance Institute (BPI) certified firms. Three Syracuse firms—TAG Mechanical, Zero Draft, and Comfort Home Improvements—were hired to conduct the assessments.

Breaking It Down and Building It Up in New Orleans

Members of the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) at Syracuse University learned there’s more than one way to use a hammer when they helped with reconstruction—and deconstruction—of the Holy Cross neighborhood of New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward.

The EFC was invited in March to observe and evaluate the Historic Green project. Specifically, the team analyzed the components—the people, resources, and plans—involved in this unique recovery project in a neighborhood devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The EFC team met with organizers and project stakeholders, interviewed participants, attended community meetings, and toured project sites. The team members also got their hands dirty working side-by-side with community members and volunteers from all over the nation.

Historic Green is a collaboration between Holy Cross community members, local organizations, and non-profit groups, as well as a national network of students and others involved in green building.

Historic Green is innovative because it focuses on what the community wants to do. For instance, Holy Cross residents wish to preserve the historic look and feel of their community, so community members, the Preservation Resource Center, and Emerging Green Builders are working together to deconstruct and reconstruct these historic homes.

The majority of the green building is being done to homes that survived the storm. The reconstructed homes will be more environmentally friendly and will likely save homeowners thousands of dollars in energy costs over the lifetime of the house.

SyracuseCoE Team to Design High-Performance Homes

Thanks to $550,000 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) awarded in February, a collaborative SyracuseCoE team will design and build up to six new energy-efficient “green” homes in Syracuse. CDH Energy leads the Home Performance Improvement Challenge (HomePIC). Additional members include the Building Performance Contractors Association, Camroden Associates, Northeast Green Building Consulting, and Syracuse University.

The HomePIC project team completed a similar NYSERDA sponsored project in 2007. The High Environmental Performance (HEP) house project developed a design for a new energy-efficient home built in Fayetteville, NY. The HomePIC project will extend the skills and experience deployed in the HEP house into the mainstream housing market. The goal of the HomePIC project is to work with builders that construct affordable homes of between 1,500 and 2,500 square feet and that are interested in achieving better energy performance from existing designs.

The NYSERDA grant will pay builders a $10,000 incentive to construct the first demonstration home of each design developed by the HomePIC team. In addition, SyracuseCoE has committed to provide up to $100,000 in incentives to build up to 10 new design homes in the Near West Side neighborhood. Design, construction, and performance data of completed homes will be available to builders and home buyers on the NYSERDA website.

Tower to Survey City’s Air

In February, a 150-foot Air Pollutant Monitoring tower was raised on the site of the Syracuse CoE headquarters. The tower will be used for a long-term, one-of-a-kind study that will assess Syracuse’s urban air quality, air flow, and how outside air affects air quality inside a building.

Eventually, this air quality data could lead to intelligent building management systems that will tell occupants when it is a good time to open a window and when they should close up because of air pollution.

Both the tower installation and the research are collaborative efforts involving scientists from several Members of Syracuse CoE, including Syracuse University, Clarkson University, Cornell University, and SUNY-ESF.

Prof. Myron Mitchell of SUNY-ESF, leads the team that installed the tower and fitted instruments, a project funded with part of a $380,000 New York State Foundation for Science, Technology, and Innovation (NYSTAR) grant administered through Syracuse CoE.

Leading the data monitoring team is Prof. Philip Hopke of Clarkson University. Hopke’s project, funded with a $600,000 Syracuse CoE research grant, is titled, “Characterization of the Ambient Air Quality in Syracuse and Identification of Its Origins.”

Bringing the Sky Down to Earth

Scientific research is dependent on gathering accurate data, but when the research field is the atmosphere, gathering uncontaminated information quickly and efficiently is a challenge.

Weather balloons may be slow and U2 research aircraft too expensive, but aeronautical researchers have another choice. They can put instruments on relatively inexpensive, more easily deployed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). That’s what SyracuseCoE associate and Clarkson University Professor Suresh Dhaniyala plans to do, thanks to a $100,000 CARTI grant to produce a compact, fully instrumented UAV for real-time air quality studies in urban airsheds.

The use of small, unmanned aircraft is crucial to Dhaniyala’s research, which models how submicron aerosol and microscopic particles—abundant in urban airsheds—move in the chaotic conditions of the atmosphere.

To fit out the UAV, Dhaniyala and his team are developing several next-generation instruments for improved real-time study of microscopic air particles. Dhaniyala plans to combine these new instruments with new modeling efforts and the UAV to better understand the effect of microscopic air particles on human health and the global climate.

“The main aircraft—called VectorP—will arrive from the manufacturer in October 2007,” says Dhaniyala. “Until then, we are concentrating research on the development of instruments that will be flown in VectorP, and we have a smaller UAV that we have been outfitting with some of these for test flights.”

Clarkson Researchers to Study Impact of New Ventilator on Asthma Patients

For someone with asthma, airborne irritants can spring up practically anywhere, even inside the home. “One of the biggest culprits is the kitchen,” says Cheryl A. Gressani, Director of Business Development for Air Innovations of North Syracuse, New York.

Cooking releases tiny particles that easily migrate, she explains. Air Innovations is working on a new product to help those with respiratory problems find some relief inside their homes. With help from Clarkson University and a $150,000 grant from the Syracuse CoE Office for Industry Collaboration, the company has embarked on an 18-week study of HEPAiRx, an air heating, cooling, and filtration unit for use in a single room, known as an “integrated energy-recovery ventilator.”

The ventilators are designed to be energy efficient as well. Air Innovations will install the units in the bedrooms of 45 asthma patients during the study and, with help from Clarkson researchers, record information on their health and the effectiveness of the system. In addition to heating, cooling, and filtering indoor air, the product brings in fresh air from outdoors. It also pressurizes the room to stop airborne irritants—such as those created during cooking—from entering.

Near Westside Initiative: Energizing a Neighborhood

On September 21, 2007 Syracuse received a double dose of good news when Syracuse University announced it will invest $13.8 million in the Near Westside neighborhood and WCNY Connected announced it plans to build a new broadcast and education center in the neighborhood.

The Near Westside Initiative (NWSI) is a collaborative effort to restore the Near Westside into a neighborhood of choice for residents of all incomes. Up to 263,000 square feet of commercial structures—including WCNY’s new building— and up to 154,000 square feet of residential space will be developed—and that’s just the beginning!

The SyracuseCoE will lead efforts to incorporate green technologies in the project. As part of this effort, the project will be used to evaluate the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-Neighborhood Development (LEEDND) system proposed by the US Green Building Council, which will bring the initiative national attention.

The initiative plans to enhance housing and economic opportunities for existing and new residents, maintain and restore the neighborhood’s historic architectural charm, and include residents in plans and discussions. Residential development will include an “artists’ quarter,” housing up to 70 artists. The NWSI will market this Arts, Design, and Technology Quarter nationally and internationally to attract prospective artists, entrepreneurs, and designers to the area, using a $485,000 grant from National Grid.

Among other groups involved in the NWSI are the City of Syracuse, Home HeadQuarters, The Gifford Foundation, Green and Seifter, National Grid, NYSERDA, Queri Development Corp., Syracuse Neighborhood Initiative, and Syracuse University.

Chasing Quicksilver Through the Mountains

Professor and SyracuseCoE associate Charles Driscoll and colleagues from the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation (HBRF) and Clarkson University have released the results of two new landmark studies that identify five known and nine suspected biological mercury hotspots in the northeastern US.

The findings suggest that coal-fired power plants in the US are major contributors to mercury pollution. One of the mercury hotspots occurs within New York’s Adirondack Mountains.

The studies are the result of a three-year effort by Driscoll and his collaborators, including Tom Holsen of Clarkson University.

In January 2007, Driscoll and his team briefed Congress, and the studies spurred Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) to announce her intention to introduce legislation creating a nationwide mercury monitoring network. Collins also intends to reintroduce legislation that would require power plants to reduce  mercury emissions by 90%.

The HBRF team of 11 scientists used a database of more than 7,300 samples to quantify mercury levels in fish, loons, and other wildlife at lakes and reservoirs from New York to Nova Scotia. “We were surprised to find that the Adirondacks had some of the highest mercury levels in fish and loons in the Northeast,” says Driscoll, Professor of Environmental Systems Engineering at the LC Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science. “The average mercury levels in yellow perch were more than twice the human health criterion established by the US Environmental Protection Agency.”

Adapted from an article by Kelly Homan Rodoski in Syracuse Engineer, Spring 2007.

Intellectual Collisions Spark Innovation

“CARTI projects represent the best in air quality and water resource management research being conducted in the US,” says Rep. James R. Walsh (R-NY). “I’m proud to have secured funding to support ongoing research and education activities at the SyracuseCoE’s partner institutions.”

Funds from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fuels the SyracuseCoE’s Collaborative Activities for Research and Technology Innovation (CARTI) program.

Begun in 2006, CARTI is a cornerstone of the SyracuseCoE’s “technology transfer” initiative, which encourages open exchange of ideas and “intellectual collisions” between institutions and industry. CARTI research projects link academic researchers with business leaders across New
York.

Along with the SyracuseCoE Office for Industry Collaboration’s Technical Application and Demonstration (TAD) grants, Commercialization Assistance Program (CAP), and Research & Technology Forums, CARTI is vital conduit that ensures start-ups and established firms alike benefit from a well-spring of innovative research conducted at world-class Upstate New York colleges and universities.

“Commercializing technology developed from this research will invigorate economic and job growth in our community,” adds SyracuseCoE Board Chairman R. Leland Davis. “The CARTI program is the spark that unites our distinguished universities with Upstate industries.”

Helping Farmers Help Watersheds

Plants and animals need phosphorus to thrive, but when farming practices cause an increase of this nutrient in streams, rivers, and lakes, aquatic algae and other plants take advantage. Blooms of algae can spoil the natural balance of aquatic ecosystems and interfere with sources of drinking water.

The process whereby increases in nutrients lead to over-abundance of algae and other plants is called “eutrophication.” In 2007, Dr. Christine Shoemaker of Cornell University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, received a $100,000 CARTI grant to improve the ability to understand and manage eutrophication in water bodies in Upstate New York due to excess phosphorus. The project is a collaboration with Cornell’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science.

Shoemaker, a SyracuseCoE associate, is a mathematician, engineer, ecologist, and water management expert, who is studying the impact of farming on phosphorus levels in watersheds that supply New York and other cities with drinking water.

A major issue is how to reduce phosphorus that enters water from cattle feed. Most of this phosphorus enters the ecosystem as cattle manure that is applied to farmland. Farmers often feed their livestock more nutrients than they need for optimal health. Research by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation shows that farm phosphorus runoff can be reduced by 30% through a “whole-farm plan.”

“Earlier work by my colleagues and I indicates that if farming best-management practices are not implemented, phosphorus levels are going to increase, because there is more phosphorus going into the watershed than is leaving it,” explains Shoemaker, who, along with her students, has developed a computer model to track water, sediment, and phosphorus in the 47-square-mile Cannonsville watershed, one of four reservoirs in the Delaware watershed system that supplies New York City.