Penn takes leadership role in extreme energy makeover

Jordan Reese

The University of Pennsylvania has been awarded over $12.5 million to join a national research effort to make commercial buildings more energy efficient.
The Department of Energy Energy-Efficient Building Systems Design Hub is a $159 million, five-year federal and state-funded effort to develop building-integrated photovoltaic systems, advanced indoor air quality management and sensor networks that will optimize energy use inside buildings. Buildings account for nearly 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption and carbon emissions.
The energy hub, located at the Philadelphia Navy Yard Clean Energy campus in South Philadelphia, will bring together researchers from government and academic institutions including Penn State University, Carnegie Mellon University, Princeton University, Rutgers University and Virginia Tech.

Penn will have a leadership role in the new innovation hub. Faculty from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Design’s T.C. Chan Center and Penn Institute for Urban Research, as well as the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership at the Wharton School and the Wharton Small Business Development Center will conduct research both on the Penn campus and at the hub.

The area, comprised of over 200 buildings, operates on an independent electric micro-grid as a "virtual municipality," making it a perfect laboratory to test and validate the technologies developed by the program.
Researchers from across the Penn campus will collaborate on such advances as building glass that admits different amounts of light depending on the time of day and wall materials that absorb heat and humidity to lower cooling costs. Researchers also will help to develop the policies and incentives to encourage building occupants adopt these new tools. An interactive website will allow the public, and specifically building engineers, to follow the team’s progress.

Originally published on September 7, 2010