2018 Innovation Showcase

We celebrated the many activities and accomplishments of student-supported projects at the 2018 SyracuseCoE Innovation Showcase and Summer BBQ! Exhibits and posters were displayed featuring innovative projects, ideas and research, including:

  • Student summer internship projects
  • Student researchers working with SyracuseCoE Faculty Fellows
  • Analysis & Design Center projects
  • Signature research projects led by faculty

Included in the projects was a special presentation from a group of high school seniors. The students described and demonstrated “Carl”, a robotic coyote they designed and built as a project in the ITC Innovation club. The project was done for Sunoco Ethanol to help safely keep geese from their property.

May R&T Forum: Creating Resilient Heating Systems for Extreme Weather Events

Extreme weather events including hurricanes, snow storms and ice storms are a growing challenge as one of the many effects of global climate change. Combating this obstacle through resilient technology is one of the engineering challenges of the 21st Century.
Ryan’s research has investigated innovative ways of combining conventional combustion systems with solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs). The burners act as a hydrocarbon reformer while generating thermal energy for SOFC operation. This presentations examines fundamentals of SOFCs and fuel-rich combustion and extends the preliminary results to bench-scale systems. Applications of this technology include furnaces, hot water heaters and boilers, among others.


Ryan Milcarek, NSF GRFP Graduate Fellow JSPS International Research Fellow, Ph.D. Candidate Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department Combustion and Energy Research (COMER) Laboratory

Industry Partners: SBB Inc.

Partnering for Research and Design

When SBB Inc. was looking to convert a sterilization chamber door from stainless steel to glass, the company turned to the SyracuseCoE Analysis and Design Center. The center is a NYSERDA-funded resource created to help companies in Central New York’s thermal and environmental control cluster with product design challenges. For small firms like SBB, it’s an invaluable tool.

“Research is very expensive. We don’t work on simple things,” says SBB chief engineer and co-founder Vince Bongio. “The Analysis and Design Center supplies engineering and research talent that I couldn’t otherwise access cost-effectively.”

The center, located at SyracuseCoE headquarters, provides companies working in advanced manufacturing in thermal and environmental controls (AM-TEC) with assistance on design problems from graduate students and faculty from Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science. SBB has used the Analysis and Design Center on a range of projects, from analyzing fluid dynamics in a small sterilization chamber system, to adapting the same technology on a room system, to analyzing a structural walking tile used in its clean-room ceiling grid system.

“Students get to do some real-life application work on difficult problems that ties to their education and has tangible outcomes,” says Bongio.
SBB, in East Syracuse, was founded by Bongio and two partners in 2000 and soon partnered with the SyracuseCoE. An AM-TEC Research and Development Award from the SyracuseCoE funded development of high-technology environmental control systems that reduced energy in refrigeration systems.

Through SyracuseCoE, SBB has also participated with SU’s Mechanical Engineering Capstone Project, resulting in the development of a latent phase change heat recovery heat exchanger. In addition to the hands-on research and design assistance, Bongio says networking opportunities through the SyracuseCoE have been extremely beneficial, particularly the annual SyracuseCoE Symposium. “I always learn about new technology I otherwise would be unaware of,” he says.

“Information is power, and the proper use of information is where the real power is,” says Bongio. “You just can’t discover these things without being active with forward-thinking entities like the SyracuseCoE.”

CNY Innovation Resources

The Central New York Advantage

Syracuse and the five counties of Central New York are home to a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem fueled by the proximity of multiple industry clusters and numerous research universities.

New York State offers resources designed to enable new and existing businesses to become more competitive through the use of innovative technologies. Centers and programs that are supported by Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR) emphasize the importance of working with industry as a way to leverage New York State’s technology strengths to produce new products. The state also offers other innovation development support resources, including financial incentives to foster university collaboration, research and innovation.

Central New York’s diverse resources and strategic location make it a fertile environment for business success. Within CNY’s Innovation Crossroads, SyracuseCoE and CNYBAC catalyze collaborations and innovations in environment, health, energy, and biotechnology. Throughout Syracuse and CNY, additional resources include the centers and programs listed below.


The Center for Advanced Systems and Engineering (CASE) is a NYSTAR-designated Center for Advanced Technology (CAT) in complex information systems that provides businesses from a wide range of industry sectors with expertise in all aspects of “big data,” from data mining and analytics, to information fusion, predictive analysis, cybersecurity, autonomy, UAV/drones, and the “internet of things.”



CenterstateCEO is an independent and forward-thinking economic development strategist, business leadership organization and chamber of commerce; dedicated to the success of its members and the prosperity of the region. CenterState CEO actively pursues business attraction leads in order to bring more firms and jobs to the region.


CNY Regional Innovation Hot Spot at The Tech Garden

Headed by Centerstate CEO, The Tech Garden is designated by NYSTAR as a Central New York Innovation Hot Spot. This program delivers innovative physical and virtual incubation and business development programming combining higher education resources with early-stage funding, coaching, and mentorship. Often referred to as a stepping stone to the STARTUP NY program, the Hot Spot program helps NYS incubators deliver programming and tax incentives.



Syracuse University College of Law and the Technology Commercialization Law Center have been designated the New York State Science & Technology Law Center (NYSSLC) by NYSTAR since 2004. NYSSTLC provides legal education, research, information and support services to the more than 30 universities and research centers in NYS supported by NYSTAR as well as NYS entrepreneurs and companies with new technologies.



Train, Develop, Optimize (TDO) is a not-for-profit consulting and training organization helping businesses and organizations grow through harnessing the power of their people. TDO brings new products and innovations to market with programs like TDMI and SBIR support. Training and coaching services in sales skills, marketing and international business development. They are the New York State NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NY MEP) center for Central New York.


Industry Partners: SBB Inc.

Partnering for Research and Design

When SBB Inc. was looking to convert a sterilization chamber door from stainless steel to glass, the company turned to the SyracuseCoE Analysis and Design Center. The center is a NYSERDA-funded resource created to help companies in Central New York’s thermal and environmental control cluster with product design challenges. For small firms like SBB, it’s an invaluable tool.

“Research is very expensive. We don’t work on simple things,” says SBB chief engineer and co-founder Vince Bongio. “The Analysis and Design Center supplies engineering and research talent that I couldn’t otherwise access cost-effectively.”

The center, located at SyracuseCoE headquarters, provides companies working in advanced manufacturing in thermal and environmental controls (AM-TEC) with assistance on design problems from graduate students and faculty from Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science. SBB has used the Analysis and Design Center on a range of projects, from analyzing fluid dynamics in a small sterilization chamber system, to adapting the same technology on a room system, to analyzing a structural walking tile used in its clean-room ceiling grid system.

“Students get to do some real-life application work on difficult problems that ties to their education and has tangible outcomes,” says Bongio.
SBB, in East Syracuse, was founded by Bongio and two partners in 2000 and soon partnered with the SyracuseCoE. An AM-TEC Research and Development Award from the SyracuseCoE funded development of high-technology environmental control systems that reduced energy in refrigeration systems.

Through SyracuseCoE, SBB has also participated with SU’s Mechanical Engineering Capstone Project, resulting in the development of a latent phase change heat recovery heat exchanger. In addition to the hands-on research and design assistance, Bongio says networking opportunities through the SyracuseCoE have been extremely beneficial, particularly the annual SyracuseCoE Symposium. “I always learn about new technology I otherwise would be unaware of,” he says.

“Information is power, and the proper use of information is where the real power is,” says Bongio. “You just can’t discover these things without being active with forward-thinking entities like the SyracuseCoE.”

Industry Partners: NuClimate

Cool Savings For High-Rise Hotels

In the early 2000s, NuClimate Air Quality Systems worked with SyracuseCoE to develop an innovative chilled-beam technology for providing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for commercial buildings such as schools and hospitals. A $50,000 award from SyracuseCoE’s Commercialization Assistance Program (CAP) enabled the company to achieve its first sales in 2005. Subsequently, NuClimate signed an exclusive deal with Carrier to sell its chilled beam worldwide with the Carrier name on it. Now the company has developed a new vertical stack fan coil unit that reduces energy consumption for air circulation to less than 20 watts, substantially lower than anything currently available on the market.

Two years ago, NuClimate was approached by an international hotel chain looking to reduce energy costs by replacing aging HVAC units in each high-rise hotel room. The old units consumed 300 to 350 watts to operate the fan. While current equipment on the market uses an average of 80 to 85 watts to operate the fan, the chain wanted NuClimate to improve that by 20 percent or more. NuClimate focused on the specific need and challenge of providing comfortable climate in individual high-rise hotel rooms, developing an oversized coil and employing a fan not used in fancoil systems today. The result: a unit that consumes an average of 16.6 watts to heat or cool the room that it’s in, performance that was verified by UL testing conducted with funding from a competitive award from SyracuseCoE’s Innovation Fund.

“We customized it specifically for the hotel marketplace and for the desire to save energy,” says John DiMillo, vice president of NuClimate. “The drawback is that the per-unit cost is higher, but the return on investment in energy savings is very desirable.” The system is particularly attractive for use in cities with high per-kilowatt energy costs, such as New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago. A prototype of the new system was installed in one of the hotel chain’s premier New York City locations, where it has been running for the past year. NuClimate plans to sell the product across the entire hotel marketplace.

“We think this is a revolutionary new product,” says DiMillo, who anticipates the company could be building 50,000 to 60,000 units once the product launches. He says SyracuseCoE shares a big part of that success story. “Whether it’s funding, or engineering assistance, or networking, they continue to be an unbelievable asset,” DiMillo says. “Any time we call, they come through for us.”

Industry Partners: Cortland Research

Automating for Efficiency

More than 76 percent of electricity used in the United States is consumed in residential and commercial buildings. Central New York-based Cortland Research has developed a novel energy conservation solution for buildings with POUNCE, an inexpensive system of electrical sensors and controls that reduces energy consumption while maintaining comfort based on occupancy of a space.

“Temperature and occupancy are big factors in trying to improve building efficiency based on use,” says Steve McMahon, who founded the company along with his son, John. “Our system allows providers of environmental systems to make them more dynamic and realize savings based on the information POUNCE can provide to them.”

POUNCE is an affordable energy monitoring system that easily integrates into existing wiring via electrical outlets and switches. The web-based system allows users to view and control their system remotely, adjusting thermostats, turning lighting and appliances on or off, and
managing power flow to outlets.

McMahon started Cortland Research in 2010. “We had a vision that building automation systems would become commonplace and our idea could provide building owners in underserved markets better options for sensing and control, leading to energy efficiency,” he says.

Today, POUNCE systems are used by the New York City Department of Education in city schools, Corning, Onondaga Community College, and SUNY Cortland. McMahon attributes much of the company’s growth to assistance received through partnering with SyracuseCoE.

“SyracuseCoE understands the benefit of POUNCE Systems as a complementary component of air quality and energy conservation, and their endorsement of our products gave us credibility,” says McMahon. SyracuseCoE contacts led to important sales, including a new contact that is helping the firm extend its sales reach nationwide.

Cortland Research has received three competitive awards to date from SyracuseCoE, including two from its Innovation Fund and one associated with a regional initiative to grow Central New York’s industry cluster in Advanced Manufacturing of Thermal and Environmental Controls (AM-TEC). The latest award from the SyracuseCoE Innovation Fund enabled Cortland Research to complete engineering design of a CO2 sensor for the system. Via funding awarded to SyracuseCoE by the U.S. Department of Energy and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to support the AM-TEC initiative, Cortland Research is implementing and studying point-of-use CO2/occupancy/temperature sensing.

Cortland Research installed prototype CO2 sensors into POUNCE switches installed in the Willis H. Carrier TIEQ Laboratory at SyracuseCoE, creating an interface between the POUNCE system and Carrier HVAC systems. The study demonstrated a potential energy reduction of up to 34 percent in office environments. McMahon says the POUNCE platform allows for many additional features.

“SyracuseCoE has been an incredible resource and we would not have come this far without them,” he says.

Industry Partners: Avatar Sustainable Technologies

Processing Biochemicals from Paper Waste

As readership of paper publications has declined, paper production has shifted to serve the growing market in online sales and associated shipping.

“Packaging paper production in the U.S. has been growing at more than double the rate of the rest of the economy,” says Bandaru
Ramarao, professor of paper and bioprocess engineering at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) and director of the Empire State Paper Institute.

Ramarao and his business partner, Bhavin Bhayani, are developing technologies to use waste produced during the processing of paper for shipping cartons to create biofuels. Together, they established a startup venture, Avatar Sustainable Technologies.

Most packaging is made from recycled paper. Recycling involves chopping up used paper, mixing it with water and chemicals, then heating it, which breaks it down into strands of cellulose, a type of organic plant material. The process also produces undesirable gritty fiber waste fragments. The fragments slow down paper machines and reduce production.

“The problem,” says Ramarao, “is that they are solid waste and you have to pay to landfill them.” Avatar has developed a process using enzymes to convert these waste fragments into useful byproducts that can be used to make biochemicals, including biofuels and bioplastics, essentially replacing fossil carbon with natural carbon in their processing. A project with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) could advance the technology further. NREL has engineered a new, more reactive enzyme that could speed the process at lower cost.

Avatar won a Small Business Vouchers Pilot award from the U.S. Department of Energy to work with NREL to conduct studies using this new enzyme. The investigation is also supported by a competitive award from the SyracuseCoE Innovation Fund. “This could lead to a better and shorter process, saving money and energy,” says Bhayani. Not to mention the boost the company receives collaborating with NREL. “We get exposure at a whole new level within the industry,” he says.

Avatar got its start in 2013 when Bhayani was a doctoral student at SUNY ESF and won $10,000 from SyracuseCoE in an award made through the Raymond von Dran IDEA student competition. The company is located in the SyracuseCoE headquarters building
and uses space within SUNY ESF’s Biofuels Pilot plant. Bhayani says it would be challenging for Avatar to continue without support from SyracuseCoE.

“This is a difficult time because funding in this area has dried up due to changing priorities of the current administration,” he says. “The SyracuseCoE Innovation Fund has helped fill the gap and keeps us moving forward.”

Faculty Fellows: Visualizing Stream Temperatures from Storm Runoff

Christa Kelleher, assistant professor, Department of Earth Sciences and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Syracuse University

Project: Monitoring longitudinal patterns of stream temperature and levels of storm flow along Onondaga Creek.

The Basics: Numerous culverts along Onondaga Creek funnel storm water into the creek, which flows into Onondaga Lake. Storm water is warm and typically raises the temperature of the water it flows into, potentially making an ecological impact on the biology of the body of water.

Nuts and Bolts: Kelleher is building visual temperature models with data she’s collecting through use of a thermal camera mounted on an unmanned aerial vehicle. “Conventionally, if you wanted to measure temperature, you’d install sensors at various points along the stream,” says Kelleher. “The camera on the drone allows me to look at patterns and differences across the stream.”

What She Knows: Some of the water inputs are colder than expected. “There’s a natural spring coming in near the top of the study reach, which as expected, is coming in very cold. But there are culvert inputs along the way, some of which are warm and some are colder than
anticipated,” she says. “These things just light up like a Christmas tree on the imagery. It’s great.”

Lessons to Learn: Other research of this type has been conducted in warmer climates, so Kelleher says it’s possible that thermal pollution may not be as big an issue in Syracuse. “We also haven’t done a test in the heat of the summer yet, so we’ll see how different things look then.”

SyracuseCoE Impact: A $10,000 competitive award from the SyracuseCoE Faculty Fellow program allowed Kelleher to purchase the thermal camera, pay for a pilot to fly the drone, and support Syracuse University Earth sciences graduate student Sam Caldwell to assist on the project. “As a new faculty member in a variable funding environment, it’s been great to get support for a local project, both to help me learn the area and to connect with other researchers on campus,” says Kelleher, who is organizing a session on Water in Urban Environments at the 2017 SyracuseCoE Symposium.

Bottom Line: In the Eastern United States, storm water is a big concern that will increase with climate change and urbanization of the landscape. “The more that we can understand how storm flow changes water quantity and water quality, the better we can design structures or rehabilitate existing infrastructure to help things downstream,” Kelleher says.

Faculty Fellows: Simulating Building Energy Use

Bess Krietemeyer (principal investigator), assistant professor, School of Architecture, Syracuse University

Tarek Rakha, assistant professor, School of Architecture, Syracuse University

Jason Dedrick, professor, School of Information Studies, Syracuse University

Project: Developing an urban energy model to simulate, test, and visualize energy usage and future scenarios and strategies. “Imagine that you have a neighborhood and are able to visualize existing energy measurements. And then, let’s simulate putting advanced technologies in all of those buildings and see the impact,” says Rakha.

Nuts and Bolts: Working with the Pecan Street Institute, an energy research organization, the team is using data on household energy use from a neighborhood in Austin, Texas, to develop a visual simulation of energy use, as well as how those energy flows might differ, using different building materials or building technologies.

Intellectual Collision: Krietemeyer and Rakha are colleagues in the School of Architecture, where Krietemeyer focuses on visualization of energy use at the urban scale and Rakha on building energy models. After hearing Krietemeyer present her work at the annual SyracuseCoE Symposium in 2016, Dedrick, who has conducted research on smart grid technologies, approached her to collaborate, using large data sets he had available on energy use in Austin.

Practical Application: The data is not particularly meaningful in its existing state in Excel spreadsheets. “We’re creating a tool that visually illustrates energy use that can be used by a variety of stakeholders,” says Krietemeyer. “Maps will show how the community uses energy but also how a single household uses energy over the course of a day, a month, or a year.”

And Another Thing: The tool, which they call VIS-SIM, can also demonstrate “what if” scenarios important for designers and architects. How will energy be saved if we change the color of the roof or change the type of glass in the windows? What if we change the orientation of the building?

SyracuseCoE Impact: A $25,000 competitive award in 2016–17 funded the improvement of an existing building energy model, making it more precise and calibrating it to actual energy use data. A second award of $15,000 in 2017–18 is funding creation of a dashboard, a functioning online visual platform where multiple stakeholders can use the data and provide feedback. Both Krietemeyer and Rakha have labs in the SyracuseCoE headquarters, where much of their individual work on the project occurs.

Expert Opinion: Ultimately, the tool could be used in other geographic areas and climates to make smarter decisions about energy use or building for energy efficiency. “Austin was our initial testbed because the data was available,” says Krietemeyer, “but we hope to test this in multiple regions and multiple climate types.”

Faculty Fellows: Protecting New York’s Groundwater

Laura Lautz (principal investigator), Jessie Page Heroy Professor and chair, Department of Earth Sciences, Syracuse University

Greg Hoke, associate professor and associate chair, Department of Earth Sciences, Syracuse University

Zunli Lu, associate professor and director of graduate studies, Department of Earth Sciences, Syracuse University

Project: The team sampled well water in five counties in New York’s Southern Tier to compare water methane levels against those in Pennsylvania, where there is hydrofracking of the Marcellus Shale, in an attempt to gauge the environmental impact of hydrofracking in a more accurate way. “The two areas are very similar,” says Lautz. “The geology is the same, the climate is the same. The only major difference is the presence of hydrofracking.”

Nuts and Bolts: Working with 10 homeowners across the region, the team tested the methane level of their well water once a month for a year. “Every month we provided a report to homeowners informing them what we found in their well,” says Lautz.

Why This Matters: One of the biggest concerns people have with hydrofracking is that natural gas will get into shallow ground water and contaminate people’s wells. Natural gas—composed of methane—also occurs spontaneously. “We are trying to understand why people have methane in their wells naturally so that we might be able to differentiate what’s natural from what’s unnatural,” Lautz says.

What They Know: Some homeowners have negligible amounts of methane in their water, while others “could probably light their tap on fire,” Lautz says. That range is normal. “What we’ve found is that the wells with high methane have been consistently high all year around. It
looks like if someone has a methane problem and it’s natural, it’s consistent and stays that way.”

SyracuseCoE Impact: A $25,000 competitive award from SyracuseCoE funded a full year of water sampling and analysis, as well as a stipend for Syracuse University Earth sciences doctoral student Amanda Schultz, who has coordinated sample collection with the homeowners. “We absolutely would not have had the financial resources to collect the water samples and do the laboratory analysis without SyracuseCoE funding,” Lautz says.

And Another Thing: This project is a component of the ongoing Project SWIFT (ShaleWater Interaction in Forensic Tools), a large-scale water quality program in the Marcellus Shale region. “We have been to more than 200 homes in southern New York to collect baseline data,” says Lautz. “It’s super important. If they ever do hydrofrack in New York, we have a lot of information on what things were like beforehand.”

Faculty Fellows: Engineered by Design

Daekwon Park, assistant professor, School of Architecture, Syracuse University

Backstory: Park’s research focuses on designing innovations in the geometry and configuration of building materials at multiple scale levels—cellular materials, functionally graded materials, and adaptive materials—to improve the thermal or structural performance of building components or systems.

Projects: He is conducting early-stage research on three projects:

  • Adaptive thermal skin research developing dynamic building skins that can alternate between a thermal insulator and heat exchanger, based on thermal environment
  • Topo-joint research, integrating 3D-printed, nonconventional building materials for creating highly customized joints and connections for building applications
  • Architectured soil, exploring the design of 3D-structured soil-based materials for structural, hygrothermal, and acoustical performance of masonry blocks.

Nuts and Bolts: All three projects implement novel geometric strategies to existing building materials and components—plastic, brick, concrete, membrane, etc.—for augmenting targeted functions. For instance, the Adaptive Thermal Skin research aims to create a dynamic insulation using thin and lightweight membranes that change insulation values based on seasonal temperature differences and building orientation. This could dramatically reduce the heating or cooling load in buildings during transitional periods in spring and fall, when there are large temperature differences outdoors between daytime and night.

Why It Matters: Compared to the materials used in high-tech products or upmarket goods, building materials need to satisfy challenging economic and performance requirements that constrain the type of material or technology that can be used. “One promising approach for the field of architecture is to augment the performance of affordable and durable common building materials, such as concrete, brick, and wood, through geometric configuration—much like how spiders produce a variety of webs with different properties via geometric/compositional variations of the same web material— rather than investing in the costly development of new and unfamiliar materials,” says Park.

Expert Opinion: Park has extensive experience with large-scale sports and entertainment facility design around the world, including the United States, Australia, China, and South Korea, where he managed projects including the Ansan Baseball Dome, Gimpo Sports Town Master Plan, and the 2014 Incheon Asian Games Main Stadium. He is a co-founder of the multidisciplinary design practice SISO (Systematic Input Soft Output), based in Syracuse, Minneapolis, and Seoul, and is director of the Material Archi-Tectonic Research (MATR) Lab at SyracuseCoE.

How SyracuseCoE Helped: SyracuseCoE provided support for fabrication equipment in the MATR Lab as well as funding for research interns, materials, and publication costs. “The support from SyracuseCoE has been critical for advancing my career as a young researcher,” says Park. “That assistance includes supporting and guiding funding proposals, inviting and introducing me to events and people, and providing the space and resources to set up my lab.”

Daylighting for Cognition

In 2017, SyracuseCoE catalyzed a new study on the effect of daylighting on cognitive performance in the workplace. The study compares two different window technologies: conventional roller window shades and electrochromic glazing that changes tint in response to sensors or occupant control.

“We are trying to find out if there is a correlation between an office environment that has better lighting conditions and exposure, and its effect on certain cognitive function,” says Tarek Rakha, assistant professor at Syracuse University’s School of Architecture and an expert in daylighting in built environments.

Too much glare or brightness through a window causes thermal discomfort and visual disturbances that can make occupants uncomfortable. This is especially true in high-performance buildings, which are designed to optimize the capture of daylighting.

Rakha conceived the Daylighting for Cognition study to take advantage of a new installation of SageGlass, an electrochromic “smart” glass on the SyracuseCoE’s third floor. He engaged collaborators from Syracuse University’s Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to gauge its impact.

SageGlass, produced by SAGE Electrochromics, Inc., is an electronically tintable, energy-efficient glazing solution for windows, skylights, and curtain walls that actively manages solar heat and glare without blocking the view to the outdoors.

Rakha was inspired by a previous project that studied the impact of indoor air quality on cognitive function, conducted by researchers at Harvard University, Upstate Medical University, and Syracuse University in SyracuseCoE’s Total Indoor Environmental Quality Lab in 2014.
Thinking about current interest in environmental factors and human wellbeing, Rakha wondered if the technology used on building window envelopes—and the resulting interior daylight—can impact the cognitive performance of workers compared to traditional envelopes. Sage was excited about the notion of looking beyond building performance, occupant visual or thermal comfort, and further into the impact on occupant well-being, a new frontier in the research of sustainability.

To create the study, Rakha brought together an interdisciplinary team, including Michael Kalish, Syracuse University professor of psychology; Mariana Figueiro, director of the Lighting Research Center; and Chetna Chianese, associate director of research at SyracuseCoE.
Syracuse University architecture undergraduate student Emily Greer served as research assistant for the project. Figueiro, a leader in lighting research, was recruited to assist with experimental design and data analysis, providing shortterm performance tests used successfully in
the past and a sensor to measure circadian effective light.

“The idea is to be able to measure how much circadian light people are being exposed to,” Figueiro says. “The hypothesis is that if you’re exposed to a greater amount of circadian light during the daytime, that you’re going to be more alert. And if you’re more alert, you will perform better on these performance tests and perhaps on cognition.”

But that’s a big if. “We’re exploring the question objectively,” says Rakha. “We cannot say for sure that they’re going to be more productive.”

To that end, he recruited Kalish, who has conducted theoretical research on the mechanisms responsible for cognitive function. The psychologist provided a tool to measure cognitive function precise enough to vary with changes in mood or wakefulness that the study aims to cause, and he is analyzing data collected along with his graduate student, Osung Seo.

To test their hypothesis, 60 participants were recruited to come to SyracuseCoE headquarters and work in office space during five sunny days in June and July 2017, when the sun was at its highest angle. Participants worked in an office environment with regular window roller shades, as well as a duplicate environment with SageGlass electrochromic glazing. During the course of their workday, participants took part in various performance and cognitive function tests. This process will be repeated in September and October, when the sun is at a lower angle.

“We wanted people to come in and do their normal tasks to see how they reacted to the various daylighting and assess how that affects them,” says Greer, a research assistant at SyracuseCoE’s Performative Praxis Lab, who managed the process to secure approval of the research protocol by Syracuse University’s Institutional Review Board, led recruitment of study participants, and oversaw technology used
for the project.

Documenting a connection would be an important finding, says Figueiro. “There are so many things in the built environment
that may affect cognition, it’s hard to tease out the effect. If the study can make that link, it would definitely be novel.”

Regardless of the results, Rakha says the study illustrates the importance of the SyracuseCoE in catalyzing research and innovation in sustainable technologies.

“We could not do this project without SyracuseCoE facilities or the leadership SyracuseCoE provides for faculty and researchers in the area,” he says, pointing to the SageGlass installation, SyracuseCoE’s existing relationship with SAGE and RPI’s Lighting Research Center, and the research support provided. “The SyracuseCoE building is fantastic for testing the technological frontiers of the building itself, but it’s the people that provide the conduit and network to make it happen.”

COGfx Update

The researchers who conducted the groundbreaking COGfx Study returned to SyracuseCoE headquarters in February 2017 to report results from their second study, which examined impacts of indoor environmental quality on cognitive function of workers in office buildings across the country.

The initial study, conducted in 2014 at the Total Indoor Environmental Quality (TIEQ) Lab at SyracuseCoE, quantified the benefits of improved indoor air quality—including lower levels of carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds—on cognitive function of office workers. The second study evaluated indoor environmental quality (IEQ) in 12 office buildings across the United States, including seven buildings that had earned certification in the LEED green-building rating system and five high-performing buildings that were not LEEDcertified. The study evaluated cognitive function of workers in each building by the same methods used in the TIEQ Lab study. Results found that green-certified buildings improve cognitive function in general by 26 percent and that people’s overall health improved by 30 percent, highlighting the health benefits of better indoor environments.

“Over the years, green buildings have grown in popularity, and now this study has proven the positive physical and mental impacts green buildings can have on tenants, creating an even greater benefit for investing in green certification,” says John Mandyck, chief sustainability officer for United Technologies Corporation.

Study principals participating in the forum included Joseph G. Allen, assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Piers MacNaughton, research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; and Usha Satish, professor of psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University.

Industry Partners: Standard Hydrogen

Hydrogen Infrastructure

California is leading the way in zero-emission vehicle transportation, with more than 2,000 automobiles on the road powered by hydrogen fuel cells, which have a range of 300 to 400 miles and can refuel in three to five minutes. While at least three automakers—Toyota, Kia, and Honda— manufacture hydrogen fuel cell models, the lack of infrastructure to refuel these vehicles prohibits their wide-scale adoption. It’s a problem Paul Mutolo is tackling in New York State.

Along with two business partners, Mutolo founded Standard Hydrogen Corporation in 2012. Initially, the company won a $3 million federal award to bring a fuel cell bus to Ithaca, which would have been the first deployment of a fuel cell bus in the state. But the grant only paid for the bus itself. When the team failed to raise funds for a hydrogen fueling station—due to perceived lack of demand—they had to give the bus back, forcing the company to rethink its business model.

“We realized that we needed to diversify and make sure there was something else we could do with the infrastructure besides serve vehicles,” says Mutolo. That was an unintended blessing. In California, hydrogen stations provide fuel from storage tanks, similar to conventional gas stations. Standard Hydrogen developed a new system to produce hydrogen on site. The goal is to develop a sustainable hydrogen infrastructure to fuel vehicles and to use that infrastructure to help support the power grid across the state.

“After Hurricane Sandy, a lot of cellphone towers were the only things that remained up and running around the New York City area, and that was because they were backed up by fuel cell power units,” explains Mutolo. “That’s exactly what we’re doing, just on a larger scale.”
Standard Hydrogen has a proprietary design for the technology and is looking to build a demonstration station in New York State.

“SyracuseCoE has helped us validate our idea for functionality on the grid and for being able to generate revenues from the grid. With their support, we advanced critical conversations with Con Edison and National Grid,” he says.

An award from SyracuseCoE’s Innovation Fund helped the team develop a print and digital media campaign to educate stakeholders
about hydrogen fuel cell technology and the advantages of this dual-use, multi-revenue station.

Says Mutolo, “New York has goals to replace several million conventional vehicles with zero-emission vehicles over the next several years and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are part of that solution. Standard Hydrogen is helping New York achieve this essential goal.”

Better Boiling for Faster Heat

Expertise: Energy conversion and heat transfer; Maroo heads Syracuse University’s Multiscale Research and Engineering Lab.
Research Problem: Reducing energy consumption and improving per formance of manufactured goods through development of nanomaterials that lead to faster heat transfer.
Backstory: Maroo’s research hinges on fundamentally changing the boiling process. Experimenting with different nano/micro patterns on silicon and silicon-dioxide surfaces, Maroo and his team found they could increase the bubbles forming on the sur face of boiling water, increasing heat transfer compared to smooth heating sur faces. With funding from SyracuseCoE’s AM-TEC initiative, the team was able to define the critical height of the surface pattern to optimize heat transfer, increasing heat transfer by 120 percent.
SyracuseCoE Connection: Maroo received $100,000 from SyracuseCoE in 2013 under an award from the U.S. Department of Energy in support of a regional initiative to strengthen Central New York’s cluster of Advanced Manufacturers for Thermal and Environmental Controls (AM-TEC). “That funding allowed us to demonstrate our experimental capabilities, leading to additional support for new research,” says Maroo.
Lab Report: Maroo is studying how the sur face pattern developed under the AM-TEC award can be used within boiler systems to improve heating and save energy costs. Another area of research focuses on cooling of electronics. Maroo received an NSF CAREER Award in 2015 to investigate the fundamental physics associated with nanoscale meniscus evaporation and passive liquid flow to remove large amounts of heat from surfaces in very short amounts of time. Eventually, this knowledge could be applied to achieve next-generation heat exchangers for thermal management of electronics and renewable energy technologies such as concentrated solar photovoltaic cells.
Aha Moment: Studying the boiling process, Maroo’s research group has created a single vapor bubble in a pool of liquid that can remain stable on a sur face for hours, instead of milliseconds. “This will help us understand and predict the boiling process further so we can design structures and sur faces accordingly,” he says.

Operating off the Grid

Research Problem: Develop alternative energy technologies that improve current thermal systems while reducing harmful emissions by furthering the understanding and application of fuel cells in the energy field.
Lab t0 Market: Ahn and his research group are experimenting with flame-assisted fuel cells to convert chemical reaction with heat directly to electricity. The idea is to modify existing home furnace/boiler systems with flame-assisted fuel cells that could generate electricity while generating heat, allowing it to run off grid. “If you lose power, your furnace/boiler could still be operated to supply heat and hot water and also generate enough electricity to run your lights and your refrigerator,” Ahn says. When the power is on, the flame-assisted fuel cell technology can offset residential electrical loads up to 20 percent during peak hours of operation, reducing demand on the grid and the electric bill. “Flame-assisted fuel cell technology has the potential to provide a resilient and efficient solution for residents during power interruptions,” says Ahn, who has received interest from potential commercial partners. He has six patents issued or pending related to fuel-cell technology.
SyracuseCoE Connection: Ahn runs Syracuse University’s Combustion and Energy Research (COMER) Lab, which is located at SyracuseCoE. The new 1,500-square-foot lab was designed by Ahn and is equipped with state-of the-art instrumentation specifically to fabricate fuel cells, batteries, and other electrochemical devices and to characterize and test them with thermo chemical systems. In 2013, Ahn received funding from SyracuseCoE’s AM-TEC initiative, allowing him to demonstrate proof-of concept of the flame-assisted fuel cell and to publish several papers. Subsequently, he has received SyracuseCoE assistance with additional funding proposals; most recently, he won a competitive award from NYSERDA to advance the project.
Extra Credit: Ahn teaches a Syracuse University course on Fuel Cell Science and Technology for both undergraduate and graduate engineering students, one of the few of its kind in the country. The class is held at SyracuseCoE, including time spent in classroom space and in his lab. “Students go to my lab and actually fabricate and test their own fuel cells,” he explains. “It gives them hands-on learning experience working on real-world problems.”

Enabling New Combustion System Development

Expertise: Aerodynamics and propulsion, energy conversion and heat transfer, and fluid mechanics.

Research Problem: Enabling the design of advanced combustion systems through models of renewable and clean fuels to contribute to a more sustainable energy economy. Akih-Kumgeh uses experiments and computations to study the physical and chemical processes that occur during energy conversion with a special focus on the combustion behavior of alternative fuels.
SyracuseCoE Connection: Akih-Kumgeh directs Syracuse University’s Thermodynamics and Combustion Lab, located in the lab wing at SyracuseCoE. He designed the lab, which has been operational since December 2014, specifically to accommodate the 10-meter shock tube used in combustion experiments, as well as equipment to investigate flame propagation. SyracuseCoE provided funding that enabled him to purchase a laser used to quantify pollutant formation during combustion events. “Combustion research is not only concerned with engines but also with its effects on the environment. Our location at SyracuseCoE is of great benefit to my students; they can put their research in the broader context of energy and environmental systems,” Akih-Kumgeh says.
Research Method:
The shock tube allows Akih-Kumgeh and his students to create very clean conditions of high temperature and pressure to characterize the ignition behavior of promising fuels. Engines operate at various conditions and the research focuses on how these conditions affect ignition. Physical experiments are used to test and improve mathematical models that can predict ignition behavior under a wide number of conditions, eliminating the need to build expensive experiments to test ever y condition. “Computational analysis of complex processes like combustion allows you to reduce the amount of time needed to develop or modify a cleaner and more efficient engine,” Akih-Kumgeh says. Akih-Kumgeh’s team is also studying the chemical compounds formed during the combustion process—such as carbon monoxide—including how much remains once the combustion process has finished. “We can quantify and compare the emissions of different fuels with the idea of reducing the emission of carbon monoxide into the environment,” he says.
Lab to Market:
Akih-Kumgeh says the same combustion principles that apply to automobiles, jet engines, and rockets can be applied to boilers and residential furnaces that use natural gas. “If you want to increase the use of biofuels inside these systems, then you need to know how the combustion behavior would change and make sure the emissions from that particular modification are within the required limits,” he says.

Interacting with the Built Environment

Expertise: Emerging material technologies, human interaction, and computational simulations influencing the design of sustainable built environments.
Backstory: As a doctoral student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Krietemeyer was part of a team that developed an innovative facade system installed at the SyracuseCoE headquarters as a demonstration project. After she joined the faculty of the Syracuse University School of Architecture, she turned to SyracuseCoE as a natural partner for assistance with developing her own research projects.
SyracuseCoE Connection: Krietemeyer leads the Interactive Design and Visualization Lab at SyracuseCoE, where she conducts interdisciplinary research on advanced building technologies and human interaction using immersive simulation techniques. “The lab is intended to support different systems being tested in the building,” she says. “A lot of the work I do explores reactive facade systems that respond to weather conditions and people’s movements within a space. These products are often too expensive to prototype at a large scale, but we absolutely need to know what they’re going to look like and how they behave with building inhabitants. By using simulation in the lab, we can explore a range of design, engineering, and human factors issues and make modifications early on.”
Lab Report: With funding provided by SyracuseCoE, Krietemeyer is developing a computational tool that combines traditional energy analysis with virtual reality tools. The project includes collaboration with fellow Syracuse University School of Architecture Professor Amber Bartosh, Syracuse University College of Engineering and Computer Science Professor Jianshun Zhang, and visual artist Lorne Covington. “We’re conducting energy analysis and translating that information into dynamic, spatial, 3-D visualizations so we can virtually experience energy flows within a building in an interactive way,” Krietemeyer says.
Extra Credit: Another aspect of the project examines energy flows at the urban scale. Krietemeyer has created what she calls a “Projective Urban Design Laborator y” using a scale model of the City of Syracuse that she uses to project dynamic energy information onto—data ranging from light pollution to solar radiation—to better visualize ambient energy flows in the city that are typically invisible. The interactive display has been installed at the Museum of Science and Technology (MOST) in Syracuse. “We want to extend this research outside of the lab so we can engage a much wider audience,” Krietemeyer says. “We’re hoping end users and stakeholders will make use of it for potential design decisions for the city.”

Designing Cities for Comfort

Expertise:Modeling urban energy flows and human-powered mobility; daylighting and energy in building technology applications; the use of unmanned drones for building performance inspections.
Research Problem: Designing cities for pedestrian comfort. Rakha’s work on sustainable urban mobility looks at how weather conditions and the built environment influence walking and biking in urban communities. “It’s about planning for thermal and visual comfort under predictable conditions, such as cold winters and hot summers,” says Rakha.
Backstory: Rakha’s doctoral dissertation from MIT focused on comfortable and walkable cities. He was also part of a research team that developed a citywide building energy model for Boston, which estimated the gas and electricity demand of every building in Boston.
SyracuseCoE Connection: Rakha was attracted to Syracuse University, in part, because of the resources available through SyracuseCoE. “I was excited about the kind of support I could get here that I couldn’t get anywhere else,” says Rakha. That includes networking, access to industr y partners, lab space to develop research activities, and assistance with grant proposals. Prior to the official start of his faculty position, SyracuseCoE helped Rakha submit a proposal in response to a solicitation from NYSERDA. The proposal was funded, supporting a study of sustainable transportation alternatives in Syracuse. Subsequently, SyracuseCoE assisted Rakha develop a proposal to SageGlass for a study of daylighting and energy in buildings; he also is using space in the SyracuseCoE lab wing to test his drone with various sensors.
Lab to Market: Rakha’s NYSERDA-funded study examines the walkability and bikeability of downtown Syracuse, including outdoor thermal comfort, as well as sharing economy technologies in the City of Syracuse (e.g., bike and car sharing), and public transit and regional relationships between Syracuse and Central New York. “SyracuseCoE has relationships with all the relevant stakeholders so whatever outcomes we present from our feasibility study will directly link to each of them,” says Rakha.

ARPA-E: Saving Energy Through Precision Comfort

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems for buildings have traditionally been “one-size-fits-all”—a single thermostat controlling the temperature in an office or classroom. But occupants aren’t
“one-size-fits-all” in terms of comfort—with this approach, at least 20 percent of occupants are typically dissatisfied with the temperature they experience.
With support from SyracuseCoE, faculty and students at Syracuse University and their collaborators have been working for years to transform HVAC systems through the development of personalized environmental control systems (PECS), that would allow individual occupants to adjust heat and cooling to their own level of comfort. The PECS vision took a big leap for ward with the award of a $3.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), and companion awards of $319,000 from NYSTAR, and $400,000 from NYSERDA.
The new project responds to an ARPA-E vision for saving energy nationally by localizing thermal management on an individual level while changing the set points for thermostats for large spaces to 66 degrees in winter and 79 degrees in summer (from 70 degrees and 75 degrees respectively). The approach promises to save more than 15 percent of energy
used for HVAC nationally, while simultaneously improving occupant comfort and indoor air quality.
NYSTAR Distinguished Professor H. Ezzat Khalifa leads the Syracuse University team that is developing a near-range micro-environmental control system. The system will provide local cooling and heating via a box about the size of medium-tower computer that will fit under an individual’s desk. The unit has a high-efficiency micro-vapor compression system with a tiny scroll compressor and an evaporator embedded in a phase-change material. This material will store the cooling or heating produced by the micro-vapor compression system at night, releasing during the day to make occupants more comfortable.
“Buildings consume nearly 40 percent of the energy used in the United States and other industrialized countries,” says Khalifa. “Ultimately this transformative technology will create a much more affordable and energy-efficient way to ensure individual occupant comfort.”
In addition to researchers at Syracuse University and SyracuseCoE, the three-year project includes partners United Technologies Research Center, Air Innovations, Bush Technical LLC, and Cornell University. The SU team was one of 11 funded nationally. This is the first ARPA-E grant awarded to Syracuse University. SyracuseCoE aided the project team in the development of the proposal and is a key player in the execution of the research, including bringing the technology to market.
“We see a great future for personal environmental control. By reducing the control point to each user, we only condition areas that need conditioning, and to the specific needs of that individual,” says Michael Wetzel, president and CEO of Air Innovations. “Not only will this program reduce future energy costs, but it allows individual choice of comfort settings.”

Healthway: Exporting Clean Air to Asia

China’s rapid industrialization has come at a cost: The country is afflicted with some of the worst air pollution in the world.
But one Central New York company is improving air qualityin China—and throughout Asia—one building at a time.
HealthWay Products manufactures air cleaning and filtration products for homes, businesses, and medical environments.
The Pulaski-based company originally developed air cleaners to remove smoke from bars. When legislation banned smoking indoors, the company changed focus, developing proprietary technology to clean air from entire buildings,
capturing 99.99 percent of air contaminants.
“The World Health Organization has ranked indoor air quality as a top health concern facing humans,” says HealthWay President Vinny Lobdell. “It’s beyond smoke and allergens, but ultrafine particles that can cause cardiovascular disease,
stroke, and cancer.”
HealthWay develops products that clean air at point of use by filtering contaminants generated within a space and at point of entry by cleaning air filtered into a building as part of its HVAC system. Customers include the Cleveland Clinic, Hyatt Hotels, Marriott, Harvard University, Starwood Hotels, Texas Instruments, BMW, Volkswagen, and Crystal Cruises. The company, named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing privately held companies in North America, sells its products in 30 countries.
Asia is the biggest growth market and SyracuseCoE has been an important partner in HealthWay’s expansion efforts. In 2013, HealthWay received a $50,000 Commercialization Assistance Program grant from SyracuseCoE to help commercialize and test a disinfecting filtration system specifically for the Asian market. The grant supported the assistance of Syracuse University Professor Jianshun Zhang, who conducted testing of the product. 
At the Building Energy and Environmental Systems (BEES) Laboratory in the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Syracuse University, Zhang simulated air pollution to evaluate the filter’s per formance in cleaning air “breathed in” by building HVAC systems in China.
“That grant was very important in helping us get that product to market,” says Lobdell. Installations include BMW
corporate headquarters in China, the Saudi Ministry of Health, and hotels throughout Asia.
Lobdell says that product—the 2000 SC—is now the cornerstone of the company’s commercial line. In 2015, HealthWay purchased an additional facility in Pulaski to accommodate its manufacture, as well as to bring back other products the company was manufacturing in China, adding approximately 20 jobs to the Central New York region.
“We’re really grateful to have an organization like the SyracuseCoE locally,” says Lobdell. “Syracuse has become a hub for innovation in indoor air quality because of their efforts, and they continue to help us grow.”

Measured Performance

Expertise: Measuring the impact of environmental conditions on cognitive function.
Backstory: Satish has broad experience using the research tool Strategic Management Simulation (SMS) to study how wide-ranging variables impact cognitive function and real-world productivity, from drugs and alcohol to sleep deprivation to head injuries. In 2006, after completing a study on how various medications for seasonal allergies and rhinitis affect cognitive function, she was sought out by SyracuseCoE to see if her methods might be effective for a forthcoming study on the impact of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in paint on indoor environments. Satish collaborated on the project, using SMS to evaluate the impact of VOCs on productivity and decision-making and expanded her area of research interest in the process.
Sound Bite: “Studying the impact of indoor air quality wasn’t originally on my radar, but it wasn’t out of the realm of imagination either,” says Satish. “Whether I’m looking at different levels of alcohol, antihistamines that cause drowsiness, or VOCs—they all have the potential to impact thinking capacity.”
SyracuseCoE Connection: In 2007, SyracuseCoE awarded nearly $300,000 for a two-year project led by Satish in collaboration with researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories to study the implications of low levels of carbon dioxide on people’s decision making and perceptions of indoor air quality. In 2009, SyracuseCoE awarded nearly $300,000 for a two-year project led by Satish in collaboration with the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to study the impacts of daylighting on human decision making and productivity. Satish was a co-investigator of the 2014 COGfx study, leading the cognitive testing and analysis component. “The SyracuseCoE is a wonderful organization for showcasing the research treasures we have in Upstate New York,” she says.
Current Project: Satish is collaborating with Syracuse University engineering professor Jianshun Zhang and King + King Architects to evaluate whether building renovations at Pine Grove Middle School in East Syracuse, New York, impact student learning. Data from SMS taken before and after the renovation under controlled conditions will be used to assess the impact of the built environment on student performance.

TIEQ Lab: Building Productivity

SyracuseCoE is home to the Willis H. Carrier Total Indoor Environmental Quality (TIEQ) Lab, a one-of-its-kind facility that enabled what climate expert Joe Romm calls “the seminal green building study of our time.” The recent groundbreaking study on “The Impact of Green Buildings on Cognitive Function” (COGfx) found participants’ cognitive function not only changed in response to the quality of their indoor environment, but also doubled in environments with enhanced green building ventilation.

The COGfx study “explains the great mystery of why better ventilation increases productivity,” says Romm, who heralded the findings at the 2015 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo for providing hard data that demonstrates the health and productivity benefits of green buildings.

Findings from the COGfx study showed that cognitive performance doubled in conditions that replicated green buildings with enhanced ventilation and in some functional areas—including strategy and information usage—nearly tripled. Just as important, quantitative analysis of that increased productivity found that air quality and cost are no longer a trade-off. According to the study, doubling the ventilation rate in typical office buildings can be reached at an estimated annual energy cost of between $14 and $40 per person, depending on location; this investment can result in improved productivity valued at, on average, $6,500 per person per year.

The COGfx study was led by researchers from the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Har vard University, in collaboration with faculty members from Upstate Medical University and Syracuse University, and was supported by funding from United Technologies Corporation. Experiments were conducted at the TIEQ Lab in the fall of 2014 and results were published in a series of peer-reviewed papers beginning in fall 2015.

The COGfx study has important implications for the design and operation of environmental systems for office environments. “We spend 90 percent of our time indoors. It’s logical that this has an outsized impact on our overall health and well-being, as well as productivity,” says Joseph Allen, assistant professor and director of the Healthy Buildings Program at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard Chan School.

The COGfx study was specifically designed to take advantage of the capabilities of the TIEQ Lab. “This study is exactly the kind of pioneering research that we envisioned right from the start,” says Ed Bogucz, SyracuseCoE executive director. “As with many other projects that have been conducted in the TIEQ Lab, the unique capabilities of the facility and the expertise of local researchers familiar with using it attracted collaborators to Central New York.”
The TIEQ Lab consists of two rooms resembling a typical office environment; however, from the floor below, environmental conditions—such as ventilation rate, temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide concentration— can be controlled with a high degree of precision. “This allowed us to make changes to the indoor environmental quality in the TIEQ Lab while keeping the participants blinded to test conditions,” says Allen.
The COGfx study enlisted 24 professionals from Central New York firms and institutions to relocate to the TIEQ Lab for six days to per form their regular work. Near the end of each workday, they were given a cognitive assessment that evaluated real-world decision-making. Over the course of those six days, the indoor environment was modified to reflect conventional buildings, green buildings, and green buildings with enhanced ventilation.
Not only were participants unaware of changes in environmental conditions, but researchers involved in the cognitive testing were also “blind” to changing conditions as well.
“The double-blind nature of the study strengthens the integrity of our results,” says co-investigator Suresh Santanam, a Syracuse University Professor of engineering and computer science who is an expert in indoor air quality and air pollution control, and director of SU’s Industrial Assessment Center.
Usha Satish, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Upstate Medical University, led the testing using the Strategic Management Simulation, a highly reliable cognitive testing tool. The computer-based test posed diverse situations based on real-world challenges, allowing users to respond and strategize in their own cognitive style.
“The simulation scenarios have been validated to replicate people’s daily decision-making,” says Satish.
This study—and the impact its results are expected to bring— is precisely what was anticipated when the lab was conceived.
“Research is a long and costly process,” says Santanam. “It would not have been unusual if it took a decade for published research to have come out of the TIEQ Lab.
The impact the lab has made in our knowledge base in a relatively short time is really quite remarkable.”

Commercializing Renewable Energy

For 30 years, researchers at SyracuseCoE academic Partner SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) have studied new forms of renewable energy. In the Department of Paper and Bioprocess Engineering, researchers use sugars derived from willow biomass to create biofuels with very low greenhouse gas emissions that will replace their fossil fuel counterparts.
That research moved from the lab bench to production scale with the opening of the SUNY-ESF Biofuels Pilot Plant at SyracuseCoE in 2015. “We want to make the same portfolio of products you can make from fossil fuels,” says Art Stipanovic, ESF professor of chemistr y and director of the Pilot Plant.
The new facility is a small-scale, commercial grade pilot plant that allows researchers to scale up the size of their production significantly, so that they can develop and demonstrate processes that will evolve into full-scale commercial production.
“Equipment like this is hard to find,” adds Thomas Amidon, professor and chair of paper and bioprocess engineering at ESF. “It’s too small for most manufacturers but too big for almost anywhere else. You’d rarely find this on a college campus.”
The Pilot Plant includes a 1000-Liter fermenter that creates an optimal environment for microorganisms to convert wood-based sugars to fuels such as ethanol and butanol, and a 30-gallon-per-hour distillation column to distill the biofuels produced in the fermenter to high purity fuels suitable for testing in engines.
The facility provides a more robust learning and research environment in a real-world setting. “The goal is to move science into a technology and then into a commercial business,” says Amidon.
That’s already happening.
New companies that have originated from ESF’s research include Avatar Sustainable Technologies, founded by Bhavin
Bhayani, Ph.D., and Bandaru V. Ramarao, professor of paper and bioprocess engineering at ESF and director of the Empire
State Paper Research Insitute.
It was during an internship at a paper mill while an ESF doctoral student that Bhayani had his aha moment. “There was a tremendous amount of paper waste that was already beaten and pulped,” he says.
Bhayani saw this cellulosic waste as a readymade option for producing the sugars needed for fermentation to biofuels.
He and Ramarao, his doctoral advisor, received NYSERDA funding to develop and demonstrate the concept on a lab scale. Bhayani also won $10,000 from SyracuseCoE in Syracuse University’s RvD IDEA student competition in 2013;the award served as a catalyst to start Avatar Sustainable Technologies to commercialize its proprietary technology for producing fermentable sugars for bioproducts industries.
“Different biofuels and bio-plastics require different qualities of sugar. We’re working with people in academia, at the paper mills, and biofuels companies to make sure our processes are in alignment with their requirements,” he says.
In addition to continued use of the ESF Pilot Plant, SyracuseCoE provides the firm with office space, funding through a $25,000 Innovation Fund award, and guidance in commercialization.
“It would be very difficult to do this without the support of SyracuseCoE,” Bhayani says.

AM-TEC Analysis and Design Center: Virtual Production

In a lab on the third floor at SyracuseCoE headquarters, a group of Syracuse University graduate students works on a prototype for a heat exchanger that transfers heat with a low-pressure draw. Later that afternoon, another team will work on a structural analysis of a low-vibration cryo frigeration system in an attempt to
find ways to reduce the vibration level even further.
They’re working in the Analysis and Design Center, a NYSERDA funded resource created to assist firms in Central New York’s thermal and environmental control cluster accelerate development of innovative products. Under the super vision of faculty members from Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, these students are
helping solve real-world problems for AM-TEC companies such as Cryomech, a world leader in cryorefrigeration and helium recovery systems.
“As a small company, we have limited manpower,” says Chao Wang, Ph.D., director of research and development
at Cryomech. “Collaborating with the resources at Syracuse University and SyracuseCoE gives us research and development capabilities we just don’t have on our own.”
That’s where the Analysis and Design Center comes in. The center provides AM-TEC companies with assistance
from a team of specially trained students from Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, who work under the super vision of faculty members. The students per form analysis and design using software for computational fluid dynamics or finite-element analysis.
In addition to helping AM-TEC manufacturers develop new products, the Analysis and Design Center also benefits
the students who are engaged. “By getting to work on problems not ‘well-posed’ in classroom homework or an exam, students have to make their own assumptions to solve the problem,” says Thong Dang, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Syracuse University.
One of those students is Pratik Manandhar, a master’s student in mechanical and aerospace engineering at Syracuse University,
who has worked on projects for Ekostinger and Kohilo Wind. “Working in the Analysis and Design Center has provided me with an excellent opportunity to work hands-on in a professional environment and gain practical experience in implementing classroom knowledge to solve real-life problems,” he says. “In addition, attending meetings and interacting with company professionals has also helped me learn how to communicate effectively and will help me make a smooth transition from academia to industry.”

Lighting a Bright Future

A shift to LED lighting is saving sports teams millions of dollars and improving fan experiences, in large part using products developed and manufactured by Central New York’s Ephesus Lighting. Since 2013, Ephesus lighting has been installed at more than 100 sports venues across the United States and Canada, saving an estimated 45-million kilowatts of energy and eliminating 34,000 tons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere.
Ephesus developed an ultra-high per formance LED technology with a patented lens design that is 75 percent more energy-efficient than the metal halide lights traditionally used at stadiums, providing fuller illumination and casting fewer shadows. And at much less cost—the average arena installation reduces energy costs by up to 85 percent, bringing a return on investment in less than five years.
Since entering the sports LED market, Ephesus’ revenue has grown an average of more than 300 percent in each of the last three years. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without SyracuseCoE,” says Joe Casper, who founded the company in 2010 with his wife, Amy.
The Caspers had worked for advanced technology companies across the United States, including Lockheed Martin in Syracuse and Motorola. They returned to Central New York with a vision to translate their combined expertise in semiconductor design and production to develop new energy-efficient technologies in LED lighting. Casper sought out Ed Bogucz at SyracuseCoE, who in turn connected the Caspers to a broad array of resources, including business incubation, potential research and development collaborators, and other services to develop, test, and commercialize their innovative, energy-efficient lighting products.
In 2012, Ephesus won a Commercialization Assistance Program award from SyracuseCoE that enabled the company to develop its own patented LED chip using gallium nitride on diamond. Subsequently, Ephesus developed an LED light for sports arenas that was installed at the historic War Memorial Arena at The Oncenter, home of the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League.
In 2014, Ephesus developed a next-generation light suitable for large stadiums; the performance of the first prototype was tested successfully at SyracuseCoE headquarters in May. The first installation of the new light was the University of Phoenix Stadium, which hosted the Super Bowl in February 2015. That exposure led to a jump in sales. “Ever y new venue will be built with LED,” says Casper, adding that stadium and arena lighting is just one aspect of business. Ephesus has also developed lighting for industrial and commercial use and for broadcasting. And that’s just the beginning.
“The intellectual collisions that happen at SyracuseCoE spawn a lot of new ideas,” says Casper.
In October 2015, Ephesus Lighting was purchased by Eaton Corporation, a global technology leader in power management solutions.

NYSTAR Distinguished Professor H. Ezzat Khalifa Leads Collaboration To Engage Occupants To ‘Have It Their Way’

Although indoor environmental quality experts have found ways to vastly improve the quality of individual closed office spaces, balancing indoor environmental interactions in open office space or semi-open cubicles remains an engineering challenge.
“It’s very easy to provide individualized environmental control when everyone is in a private office. It’s a big, huge engineering challenge to try to do the same thing when you’ve got a number of open work stations in the same room,” says H. Ezzat Khalifa, founding director of the multi-institutional STAR Center for Environmental Quality Systems led by Syracuse University, where he is also the NYSTAR Distinguished Professor of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering.
Finding solutions to this challenge was the impetus behind the STAR Center’s funding and support of the Willis H. Carrier Total Indoor Environmental Control (TIEQ) Lab at SyracuseCoE headquarters. The Carrier TIEQ Lab consists of two identical office spaces, each outfitted with 12 open cubicle-style workstations. In one room, there are Personalized Environmental Control Systems (PECS) in each cubicle that allow occupants to control the conditions in their own cubicle—including temperature, percentage of fresh air circulated, humidity and lighting. In the other room those factors are regulated by a central control.
“Research demonstrates that when people have the ability to control their own environment, they’re more comfortable and thus, more productive,” says Khalifa. Most of those studies, however, examine only one factor at a time, such as temperature, ventilation, or lighting. The Carrier TIEQ Lab is a one-of-a-kind research facility that allows Khalifa and other researchers to study numerous indoor environmental control parameters—and their interactions—at once.
Most office buildings are controlled in a one-size-fits-all-fashion from a central control, Khalifa explains. However, individuals have varying sensitivities to temperature. Allowing individuals to control the temperature of their own environment may provide them with greater comfort, but typically results in higher energy costs, particularly when spaces with different environmental demands are adjacent.
Khalifa, along with Alan Hedge, professor of design and environmental analysis at Cornell University, is studying how to provide individual environmental control to improve worker productivity without increasing energy consumption, and preferably, while decreasing it. “We are looking to see if people change their selections if they know the cost associated with the adjustments they make,” he says.
While the Carrier TIEQ Lab provides a wonderful controlled environment for scientific research, Khalifa is also studying how PECS stimulate productivity in a real office environment, using King + King Architects in Syracuse as a “living lab.”
“Their employees work in a large, open space, so it is a perfect environment to study to understand energy consumption and individual comfort in a real-world setting,” Khalifa says.
The firm’s renovated offices transformed a 100-year-old industrial building into an energy-efficient workspace, earning a LEED® Platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.
With funding from SyracuseCoE, Khalifa and visiting professor Arsen Melikov, a leading researcher from the International Centre for Indoor Environment and Energy in Denmark, installed PECS identical to those in the Carrier TIEQ Lab at 38 workstations at King + King and are monitoring worker satisfaction over an extended period of time.

The Renovated Lincoln Supply Building Is a Model For Green Energy And Environmental Systems

Cities looking to renovate and sustainably adapt existing buildings for mixed use face unique construction challenges, says Josh Stack, a partner in Northeast Green Building Consulting. But sometimes a little challenge can lead to brilliant outcomes.
The sustainable renovation of a vacant, 100-year-old industrial building in downtown Syracuse’s Near Westside earned a Platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® program, one of the first in the country to earn the top rating in the mid-rise, multi-use category, and the very first in New York to earn the designation outside of metropolitan New York City. The project was conducted in partnership with the Near Westside Initiative and Syracuse University’s School of Architecture.
“The project married the vision of the Near Westside Initiative with SyracuseCoE’s leadership in sustainable design and construction,” says Stack, whose firm consulted on the infrastructure, systems, and materials used on the project as well as provided LEED® for Home rater services.
Two of the major players on the project have a long history with SyracuseCoE. C&S Companies, the project engineers, is a SyracuseCoE charter member and Northeast Green Building Consulting is a frequent SyracuseCoE collaborator. “It’s a vision that couldn’t have become reality without SyracuseCoE. They make the key connections,” Stack says.
The renovation, completed during 2009 and 2010, was designed to demonstrate innovations in green technologies for energy and environmental systems, with SyracuseCoE funding the design of the green systems for the project. The 30,000 square feet of mixed-use commercial and residential spaces boasts green building technologies that include energy-efficient geothermal heating and cooling, high-performance windows and insulation systems, heat recovery ventilators for residential spaces, solar panels, and stormwater retention strategies such as a green roof and permeable pavement. The first and second floors contain office space and are currently home to the La Casita Cultural Center and Say Yes to Education. The third and fourth floors feature 10 live-work artist lofts.
“The home and office are completely different and somewhat foreign environments from each other in terms of ventilation, air sealing, and energy efficiency,” Stack says.
Accordingly, he says the LEED® mid-rise rating system is designed to allow multi-family and mixed-use buildings a way to earn LEED® certification more affordably than by pursuing the commercially focused LEED® for New Construction rating system. “The mid-rise rating system takes into account the difference between new commercial construction versus home construction,” he says. “The finished project exemplifies ideal environments for living and working in a mixed-use space,” he says.
Stack says the project’s platinum rating reflects the creative and innovative uses of the most advanced sustainable building practices today.

Environmental Systems Engineering Expert Charles Driscoll Is Optimistic About Progress Toward Restoration Of Onondaga Lake

Collaboration to find innovative sustainable solutions is a hallmark of SyracuseCoE, perhaps best
exemplified by the academic-industry cooperation to clean up Onondaga Lake. The lake that surrounds
the northern part of Syracuse was long known as one of the most polluted inland lakes in America,
contaminated both by industry and household pollutants coming from a regional wastewater treatment facility.
In 2004, the Onondaga County Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment plant (Metro) began advanced
treatment of wastewater to address some of the negative effects caused by high nutrient inputs. The water
quality improved. But Syracuse University Professor Charles Driscoll, who has studied the water quality
of Onondaga Lake for more than 25 years, noticed something else: the mercury levels in the lake’s fish
were dropping too.
“It was an Aha! moment,” says Driscoll, a Syracuse University faculty member with an international
reputation for his work on water quality issues.
Inorganic mercury in sediments can be converted to methylmercury, which can bioaccumulate in high
concentrations in organisms, specifically the fish that populate the lake. “That’s why even low concentrations of
mercury in water can result in very high concentrations of mercury in fish,” explains Driscoll. “The discharges
of nitrate from Metro limited methylmercury production, but didn’t completely shut down the process.”
A SyracuseCoE collaborative study between Syracuse University and the Upstate Freshwater Institute (UFI)
was undertaken to address the seasonal and year-to-year variability in mercury in the lake resulting from the
water quality improvements.
As a result, Driscoll, a UFI boardmember, began working with UFI, Honeywell and local engineering firms
to devise a means to treat the lake’s mercury contamination by adding additional nitrate. “We’ve gone from
theory, to getting information on how to implement this, to building devices, to installing them and applying
the technology, which has never been tried elsewhere in the world,” says Driscoll.
Honeywell International is well underway in a $451 million cleanup project to remove waste and chemical
contamination from the lake. The cleanup includes dredging that will continue through at least 2016. Also
in a three-year pilot test, Honeywell engineers are adding calcium nitrate to the water right above the
sediment/water interface. “It settles to the deepest part of the lake and essentially shuts off the production of methylmercury,” says Driscoll, who is monitoring the results with fellow researchers.
Driscoll’s research on mercury pollution was previously supported by SyracuseCoE, with a $100,000 grant
in 2008 to analyze mercury pollution in Lake Ontario and surrounding watersheds. In addition, SyracuseCoE
cosponsors annual scientific forums on Onondaga Lake with Syracuse University, SUNY-ESF, and the UFI.
At the end of the three-year study, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the
Environmental Protection Agency will examine the data and determine whether the operation should
continue. “So far, it’s been an unbelievable success,” says Driscoll.
“It’s been a team effort, really a model for the kind of collaboration SyracuseCoE promotes.”

E2e Material Work Station Was Named a ‘Best New Product’ at NeoCon 2012

E2e Materials is working to provide a new environmentally sustainable model for manufacturing and
boost the Upstate New York agricultural economy in the process. The company uses an exclusive
technology that converts agricultural waste and byproducts into a completely bio-based composite that
can be used to manufacture products from skateboard decks and automobile trunk liners to kitchen cabinetry
and office furniture. This innovative biocomposite is a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to wood,
petroleum-based plastics, and composites such as mdf and particleboard. Unique engineering capabilities
allow the material to be processed into complex shapes, with a higher strength-to-weight ratio approaching
mid-weight steel. In addition, the material is 100 percent formaldehyde-free, biodegradable, and naturally
fire resistant.
The company’s proprietary biocomposites are made from soy flour and natural grass fibers such as jute
and flax—crops grown everywhere in America—and require much less energy to manufacture than wood
composites. The company is working with the USDA to source the grass fiber used in the biomass material
regionally in Upstate New York. By using a “Regionally Integrated Manufacturing ” model designed to create
economic impact within a 500-mile radius, each new manufacturing job should result in five new agricultural
jobs in the region. A new manufacturing facility in Geneva, New York, is expected to employ 200 workers over
the next five years.
e2e Materials began its relationship with SyracuseCoE by conducting necessary third-party testing to prove
performance of the material in various applications and confirm there was no toxic off-gassing. SyracuseCoE
strengthened its partnership with e2e by using its innovative material in its LEED®-Platinum headquarters
building, including cabinetry for three kitchens, benches that line the hallways, and the security guard desk in
the first-floor atrium.
“They saw the potential for our technology to contribute to a healthy and innovative built environment
and gave us our first major purchase order,” says Clayton Poppe, vice president of engineering at e2e. “This
milestone propelled us forward and has become a meaningful part of our history.”
The company won a competitively awarded SyracuseCoE Commercialization Assistance Program (CAP)
award in 2010 to support its purchase of unique manufacturing equipment. SyracuseCoE gave additional
support by co-exhibiting at several Greenbuild tradeshows, providing the fledgling company with exposure
to potential customers.
In 2012, e2e Materials won four prestigious awards: a 2012 Best of NeoCon Gold Award, a Best of NeoCon
2012 Product Innovation Award, a 2012 ACE Award for Composites Sustainability, and a 2012 Buildings
Magazine Award for Product Innovation. The company also achieved Biopreferred® status, becoming certified
by the USDA as a 98-percent bio-based product. The USDA certifies and awards labels to qualifying products to
increase consumer recognition of bio-based products and designates categories of bio-based products that are
afforded preference by federal agencies when making purchasing decisions.
The fast-growing Ithaca-based company was launched in 2007, a spin off from technology developed during
15 years in a research lab at Cornell University. The ongoing relationship with SyracuseCoE continues to be
productive and successful by helping e2e Materials develop and market its innovative building material.

Flow Visualization In Melissa Green’s Lab Explores Bio-Inspired Propulsion

Melissa Green runs the Flow Visualization Laboratory at SyracuseCoE, where her research focuses on vortex dynamics and bio-inspired propulsion. The lab itself—a water tunnel that allows researchers to visualize the complex dynamics of fluid flows by using sheets of laser light to illuminate dyes injected in a water tunnel—is located in the lab wing at SyracuseCoE headquarters.
It’s a natural fit, says Green, an SU assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, who anticipates collaborations with researchers from local industry and within Syracuse University. Currently, Green is using the lab to investigate the ways fish and aquatic mammals manage their locomotion to be extremely efficient. “The goal is to determine whether there are any simple physics that we can exploit for man-made applications,” she says.
It’s known as energy harvesting. Similar to a windmill that takes the kinetic energy of the wind already blowing and transforms it to work or store, fish swimming upstream will often “rest’’ behind pilings in a river, slaloming in its wake, says Green. “In this scenario, the fish is using the energy imparted to the wake by the shedding of vortices to minimize the energy it has to input,” she explains. Underwater vehicles might take advantage of the same types of opportunities to be more efficient.
Finding and exploiting sources of energy that occur more naturally has obvious connections to the mission of SyracuseCoE, but Green finds additional benefits in her lab location. “By locating the water channel facility in a LEED® Platinum building like SyracuseCoE headquarters, we can learn something about how to do even fundamental fluid dynamics research in a more sustainable way—by possibly sourcing the working fluid from rainwater and by reusing the water in the building after experiments,” she says. “That isn’t always a consideration in laboratories at other universities.”
Although SyracuseCoE headquarters is itself a “living lab,” with test facilities located throughout, the building ’s lab wing is outfitted with state-of-the-art laboratories and testbeds that focus on combustion and thermal power systems, biofuel production, flow visualization, photovaltaic power, window power, and smart building technologies.
The facilities were outfitted through a $3-million grant from New York State, awarded as part of a Regional Economic Development Council competition. University researchers and industry partners use these world-class facilities as a platform to discover and test the next generation of energy-efficient innovations for buildings and the environment.
Although each have specific focus areas, the juxtaposition of these labs and their researchers may spark new inquiry, or at least new ways of looking at old problems. “Interacting on a more regular basis with local industry and faculty from different labs at SyracuseCoE lets me see natural overlaps with the research being done in civil and environmental engineering, biomedical and chemical engineering, and by other faculty in mechanical and aerospace engineering,” says Green. “The proximity to the other research groups and interactions with local industry will be an invaluable source of inspiration and collaboration.”

At Greenbuild 2012 in San Francisco, John DiMillo Demonstrates the Energy Efficiency of Nuclimates’s Chilled Beam System

When a group of former Carrier executives was looking for help with the cost of independent testing to get a newly patented, energy-efficient commercial heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system to market, it turned to the SyracuseCoE for help.
“We were just a few guys with big ideas about how this invention could change the industry,” recalls John A. DiMillo, vice president of NuClimate. “But we were promoting a very energy-efficient product and SyracuseCoE believed in us.”
NuClimate was awarded a $50,000 grant through the SyracuseCoE’s Commerialization Assistance Program, and in 2003, the small company manufactured 40 of its chilled beam units. By 2012, production was up to 10,000 annually, with sales in seven states. That number could soon expand dramatically.
NuClimate recently signed an exclusive agreement with Carrier Corp., which will now sell the NuClimate chilled beam through its worldwide distribution channels with the Carrier name on it.
According to DiMillo, SyracuseCoE has been an essential partner in that achievement. “When we were looking to vertically integrate our manufacturing, they put us in touch with the expertise that could help us do that. When we were looking for investment dollars, they brought us equity investors. Every time we ask for assistance, they deliver,” he says.
From the start, SyracuseCoE provided the support that allowed NuClimate to be viewed as an advantageous HVAC technology by engineers, architects, and contractors throughout New York State. Perhaps the most valuable connection was made when SyracuseCoE brought NuClimate to a NYE-RIC Bridges to Markets meeting, which resulted in an order from the New York City Schools for several thousand units over a five-year period for a series of major public school renovations.
NuClimate has also outfitted 55 school buildings in greater Boston, and will be supplying systems for renovated public school buildings in Syracuse, which began with the Fowler High School renovation. The NuClimate chilled beam provides an alternative to a standard fan coil or variable air volume (VAV) system, which is found in about 80 percent of commercial buildings in the United States. A conventional system mixes fresh outside air with re-circulated building air, which then is heated or cooled and blown through air ducts into a building’s rooms.
The chilled beam works on the theory of energy induction and is incorporated with a building ’s water system. The unit takes outside air, sends it through a series of nozzles that increases its velocity, and blows that air on one side of a coil hooked to the water system. Water temperature determines heating or cooling. The unit requires no electrical power, no compressor, and no fan motor, resulting in energy savings of up to 25 percent, better air quality, quieter operation, and lower maintenance costs.
“This is the right time for our product,” says DiMillo. “When we started, nobody was evaluating systems on payback. Today, return on investment is everything. Every building in America is analyzed for energy consumption 20 years in the future. It was not easy early on, but SyracuseCoE stuck with us.”

Cliff Davidson Engages Students and the Public in Innovative Research on Stormwater Management

When SyracuseCoE Executive Director Ed Bogucz was trying to recruit Cliff Davidson from Carnegie Mellon University, he told the environmental transport expert it was the perfect time to come to Syracuse because of Onondaga County’s commitment to sustainability.
Today, Davidson is the Thomas and Colleen Wilmot Chair in Engineering at Syracuse University’s L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science. He conducts innovative research in stormwater management using green infrastructure in a public-private partnership with local government and SyracuseCoE.
Davidson and his research team—graduate and undergraduate SU engineering students—have installed equipment to monitor stormwater capture on the 60,000-square-foot green roof on Syracuse’s Oncenter, one of the largest green roofs in the Northeast and one of more than 100 green infrastructure projects that comprise Onondaga County’s nationally recognized “Save the Rain” program. The comprehensive stormwater management plan utilizes sustainable initiatives to decrease stormwater runoff from the county sewage system. While green roofs are increasingly popular, little research has been completed to understand their efficacy.
Davidson and his team have installed monitoring equipment on the convention center roof to measure how much rain is collected, how much water is stored at any given time, and how much evapotranspirates through the plants and soil. “There are other research projects that have looked at pieces of this problem, but this is one of the few times there’s been an attempt to look at the complete mass balance of water on a roof,” he says.
The research intends to improve understanding of how green roofs retain precipitation and reduce stormwater runoff, as well as evaluate equipment used for monitoring green roof performance.
Davidson credits SyracuseCoE with forging the partnerships that make his research possible, research that could have significant commercial applications in the near future. “There are more than 700 cities in the United States that have problems with combined sewer overflow during storm events,” says Davidson, who is also studying stormwater runoff over and through permeable pavements that have been installed throughout Syracuse.
“When it rains, stormwater goes into the sewer, mixes with the sewage, and greatly increases the volume of flow. During heavy rain, the water treatment system can’t handle the capacity, ultimately overflowing untreated into Onondaga Lake,” he explains.
Davidson says he was attracted to Syracuse because of Onondaga County’s use of green infrastructure. “The county has made a big investment in environmental sustainability,” he says, efforts resulting in Syracuse and Onondaga County being named one U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 10 green infrastructure partners.
“We need locations like Onondaga County and Syracuse whose leaders are willing to be progressive and try new concepts,” says Davidson. “If we continue on the current trajectory, I expect this area will be a leader in the country on stormwater management, and SyracuseCoE is a conduit for making that happen.”

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.”