$2 million investment for cleaner, greener structures
From office towers to shopping malls, educational institutions to the homes we live in, buildings account for roughly half of all electricity consumed in Canada. Thanks to new research funding for Concordia University, buildings may soon become less of a power drain and source of pollution.
More than $2 million in funding -- made possible by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Hydro-Québec, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and Régulvar -- will create the new Senior NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Optimized Operation and Energy Efficiency: toward High Performance Buildings at Concordia. The goal of this new research endeavour is simple: make buildings cleaner, greener and smarter.
"This support is visionary because it aims to transform the built environment for generations to come," says Concordia President Alan Shepard. "The research program will test the latest technologies and teach graduates how to apply sustainable practices in buildings across Canada and around the world."
The funding for this research chair will go toward a research and training program focused primarily on commercial and institutional buildings. One of the key areas of study will be the development of new techniques to reduce buildings' electricity consumption during peak demand periods, like over the dinner hour, throughout extremely cold days in winter and during heat waves.
"We're going to be working on developing and testing 'smart' features, such as computerized technology that can predict energy demand, integrated systems like solar panels, and heat-storage technologies," says Andreas Athienitis, the inaugural chairholder.
Athienitis and his graduate students will carry out case studies on existing buildings in which, through retrofits, they will attempt to prove the validity of techniques they have developed through their research.
Athienitis, a professor in the Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering, is the Concordia University Research Chair in Integration of Solar Energy Systems into Buildings, as well as scientific director of the Smart Net-zero Energy Buildings Strategic Network (SNEBRN), a nationwide university initiative headquartered at Concordia.
SNEBRN's goal is to invent and implement technologies that make it possible for buildings to generate as much energy as they consume (net-zero), or even to produce more energy than they consume. Athienitis is also director of Concordia's Centre for Zero Energy Building Studies, a key group that will collaborate with the chair.