SyracuseCoE Opens One-of-a-Kind BEST Lab

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

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

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

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

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