For those of you who know Syracuse, it's the new building at the intersection of the I-81 and I-690 flyovers, which has been variously described as the spaceship from Battlestar Galactica, a boat (possibly one that is sailing down an imaginary Erie Canal), and a parking lot (especially before the façade went on).
What will take place there? Well, its function as the new offices for the Syracuse Center of Excellence and our friends at the Environmental Finance Center is only a small part of future activities. Mostly the building will function as a "living laboratory" so that scientists and technologists can do research and testing into products that will make built environments (that is, houses, offices, schools, even whole neighborhoods and cities) more energy-efficient and healthier.
Buildings must become more energy-efficient. Older buildings consume vast amounts of energy, even if folks are good about turning off CFL bulbs and computers--heat escapes because of poor insulation, poor windows, and so forth. Inefficient heating and a/c compounds the problem. Researchers and technologists at the SyracuseCoE HQ are investigating many ways to solve these problems, with the goal of making buildings consume a lot less energy (and use alternative energy, such as geothermal) or even give back to the grid if they can generate energy with solar panels, small wind turbines, etc.
Buildings must become healthier, especially schools. There is a clear link established by researchers between productivity (in schools, read test scores) and the quality of indoor environments. Temperature, humidity, chemicals in furniture and carpets, and dust can all affect our health. In extreme cases--such as with black mold or formaldehyde--poor indoor air quality can makes us very sick. Researchers and technologists at the SyracuseCoE HQ will investigate indoor air quality, its relationship to productivity and health, and they will test devices that will make buildings healthier. Some of these devices will be tested on real human subjects at the HQ, even the staff of SyracuseCoE!
There so much more going on at the HQ--more than I can write about here. I encourage you to come to our Community Open House on March 6, 2010 to learn all about the building and what will take place there. For more information, visit http://syracusecoe.org/hqbldg/dedication.aspx.
--Martin Walls, Syracuse Center of Excellence