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Bud Ris delivers Climate Week lecture: “Climate Ready Boston: Planning for Challenges Ahead”

On Monday, April 24, 2017, the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities (CGBC) welcomed Bud Ris — Co-Chair, Climate Preparedness Working Group, Boston Green Ribbon Commission, and Senior Climate Advisor, Barr Foundation– to present a lecture entitled “Climate Ready Boston: Planning for the Challenges Ahead.”

“Boston was once the dirtiest harbor in the country; now it is the cleanest urban harbor in the United States,” Ris said, beginning his talk by referencing a past sustainability success that can serve as a model and inspiration for future challenges. For combating climate change “there are two big tracks: the mitigation side, cutting greenhouse gasses to reduce the problem, and now there is adaptation or the climate-preparedness/resilience side,” he continued, laying out the essential steps in making the city climate ready: climate consensus, vulnerability assessments, and resilience initiatives.

Ris emphasized his focus on the research and analysis which he sees as essential to the city’s preparation for future effects of climate change. Though noting that current projections of sea level rises and potential flooding in the future could compromise up to $85 billion of Boston’s land and built environment, he acknowledged the importance of remaining optimistic. “Stop depressing people,” Ris said of those trying to communicate the future effects of climate change. He noted that Boston has “sprang into high gear” when it comes to climate preparedness and that solutions can be found and implemented. To do this, Ris said that “Boston should coordinate public investment to adapt infrastructure to future climate conditions.” Throughout his lecture, Ris discussed several studies, projections, and possible solutions, many coordinated and completed by the City of Boston and surrounding universities. Beyond what the city already has planned and committed to, Ris sees an additional role for building owners and renters in adapting to the climate. “We have to create value around building resilience,” Ris said, “Green buildings are already commanding higher interest and rents, and resilience should also be re-assessed.”

Ris’ lecture was presented as a part of a week of climate change-related events called “Climate Week,” organized by the Harvard University Center for the Environment in cooperation with a wide variety of partner institutions across the Harvard campus. This week-long program gives the Harvard community, as well as the interested public, exposure to some of the best scholarship and thinking related to climate change at the university.


CGBC’s Ali Malkawi to Present at “Building Tomorrow”: Harvard Arab World Weekend

On Saturday, March 11, the Harvard Arab Alumni Association will host the Harvard Arab World Weekend 2017 Conference in Jordan to highlight the theme of “Building Tomorrow,” which will explore initiatives across the region that are currently (re)shaping the face of the Arab world. The HAWC proposes several panels that bring together multi-disciplinary leaders to discuss the region’s tomorrow for future generations in healthcare, education, entrepreneurship, policy, and law. CGBC Founding Director Ali Malkawi will speak as apart of the “Entrepreneurship Panel & Startup Pitch” panel. His presentation is entitled “The Future of Buildings: the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities”.

Read more here.

CGBC Files New Patent on Fault Detection Platform and Smart Building Applications

The Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities Research Team has filed a patent application for the following work: An Open Platform for Automated HVAC Fault Detection and Smart Building Applications. This research and application provides an automated fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) solution that transforms energy-efficient building operational data into actionable information by detecting and tracking energy inefficiencies and system faults. It gives valuable insights on building performance in real time so that facilities can identify, prioritize, and fix faults quickly to avoid costs.

According to the Department of Energy, more than $10 billion US dollars can be saved through FDD and energy information systems for commercial HVAC systems every year. In China, it is estimated that there are more than 30% energy savings potential out of total energy consumption in large-scale commercial buildings, according to Tsinghua University. CGBC’s new research aims to improve FDD by using a robust data-driven algorithm for FDD that takes uncertainties in operations into account. It can detect abnormalities in whole building energy consumption; detect faults on the component-level of HVAC and other mechanical system operations; and estimate energy savings potential of what-if scenarios in building commissioning and retrofitting projects.

CGBC’s web-based forecasting application was developed from this research to allow users without coding background to build Gaussian Process (GP) models to make predictions and evaluate the impact of certain variables. It also has a decentralized architecture that is salable and extensible to easily incorporate new data sources, enhancing user experience by optimizing the design specifically for FDD. The tool’s forecast gives an estimate of how significant the impact of the investigated parameter is on total energy consumption. This rapid estimate could be useful in early decision-making in building commissioning/retrofitting projects.  Engineers can now use this information to select control variables that have large impact to optimize. The proposed GP modeling process is a direct and rapid modeling method based on actual data, and it avoids input configuration and calibration.

HUCE Launches “Harvard Speaks On Climate Change”

Late last year, the Harvard University Center for the Environment (HUCE) launched a new online video initiative, Harvard Speaks on Climate Change, to share expertise of Harvard faculty across many disciplines who contribute to solutions through teaching, research, and leadership. In the videos, faculty from across our campus discuss the many dimensions of the climate challenge: from law, business, and public policy, to public health, design, the sciences and engineering, and the humanities. Each video leads to an individual faculty page with more resources for those who want to dig deeper. CGBC Founding Director Ali Malkawi participated in the initiative and his video segment discusses computational design decision support as it relates to the energy efficiency of buildings. Learn more and watch the video here.

Princess Sumaya bint Hassan of Jordan visits the CGBC

On Wednesday, February 17, Her Royal Highness Princess Sumaya bint Hassan of Jordan was welcomed by CGBC Founding Director Ali Malkawi at the Marshal’s Office during her visit to the Center for Green Buildings and Cities at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Professor Ali Malkawi accompanied her, along with three aides during her trip. Her visit also included stops at Widener Library and the Harvard Art Museums. See more here.

Harvard CGBC receives Microsoft Azure Research Award

On Monday, January 23rd, 2017, Microsoft announced that it awarded Harvard CGBC an Azure Research Award, which gives the center sponsored access to Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing platform and infrastructure. It is used to build, deploy and manage applications and services through a global network of Microsoft-managed data centers, and the award offers free access to cloud computing resources for projects across the world. CGBC researchers will use the award to support a computational research and development agenda.  Specifically, the center will employ the platform for a range of the following research projects: using sensors, machine learning algorithms and prototypes to assess energy optimization of buildings; investigating intuitive and efficient smart building data visualization, monitoring and analyzing interior air quality; monitoring and analyzing building surfaces; documenting and annotating periodic building performance and personal status; and, assessing virtual environments and interfaces.

Microsoft started the Azure4Research program in 2013. It offers cloud computing resource grants to researchers and scientists who continue to explore emerging challenges, basic research, and new applications related to the ubiquitous devices and networking that comprise the Internet of Things (IoT). Other awardees include innovative leaders in areas such as climate research, industrial automation, electrical engineering, and green building technologies.

Find out more about the award here.

Salmaan Craig to discuss thermoregulation of buildings at Le Lab ArtScience Talks

On Wednesday, January 11, Le Laboratoire Cambridge will host CGBC Research Associate Salmaan Craig, lecturer in materials science and energy at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, who will lead a talk on entitled “The Thermal Resonance of Massive Buildings.” Craig, a designer who specializes in materials design and building physics, conducts research on new types of ‘architecture-d materials’ for the thermoregulation of future buildings. This lecture is part of  the ArtsScience series, where architects, biologists, engineers, musicians and others talk about “creativity and culture at the edges of art, science and design.”

Read more here.

CGBC launches online forecasting tool to analyze building energy consumption

CGBC researchers have launched a new web app that uses statistical modeling and historical data to help predict building energy consumption. The Gaussian Processes Forecasting Tool allows users to upload data, configure features, train/validate a model and make predictions. For a deeper analysis, the app helps more advanced users to explore the impact of certain inputs on output.

Intended to help designers and planners forecast energy consumption of buildings, the app can use inputted data to produce a simulated total energy graph regression throughout the year to see which features have the highest impact. The data can also be configured for different metrics and accuracy, allowing users to explore patterns of energy consumption.

Building energy simulations often have to deal with uncertainty from input parameters, such as the number of occupants, schedule of occupants and occupant habits, as well as simplifications in modeling, whether physics-based or data-driven. Creating more accurate models can be difficult because no single tool can simulate the whole process and it might require more parameters and hence have more parametric uncertainty. With their new app, CGBC researchers have created a more accurate system by analyzing historical data to create a baseline to predict uncertainty in modeling of building data.

Existing tools normalize energy consumption by weather using simple regression methods, while the center utilizes machine learning with the Gaussian process which requires fewer training data points and higher prediction accuracy compared to other machine learning techniques. Additionally, it can evaluate the impact of system control parameters on energy consumption for potential optimization. While it was designed for use with a time-series plot, the app is flexible and can be used to analyze a range of data, such as stock market analysis, power generation and even health changes.

Try out the tool here.

CGBC researchers publish article on natural ventilation design simulations, influence region

CGBC researchers’ recent article about the Influence Region in simulations for natural ventilation design was accepted and published in a new edition of Applied Energy, a journal that offers “information on innovation, research, development and demonstration in the areas of energy conversion and conservation, the optimal use of energy resources, analysis and optimization of energy processes, mitigation of environmental pollutants, and sustainable energy systems.” Zheming Tong, Yujiao Chen and Ali Malkawi investigated the accuracy of natural ventilation analyses relying on how the CFD domain and Influence Region is chosen. This study demonstrates the importance of assessing the sensitivity of the selected Influence Region in CFD simulations to reduce unintended modeling errors and computing expense.

Read the article here.

CGBC researchers publish article about natural ventilation potential, air pollution

CGBC researchers’ recent article entitled Energy saving potential of natural ventilation in China: The impact of ambient air pollution was accepted and will be published in a new edition of Applied Energy, a journal that “provides a forum for information on innovation, research, development and demonstration in the areas of energy conversion and conservation, the optimal use of energy resources, analysis and optimization of energy processes, mitigation of environmental pollutants, and sustainable energy systems.” Zheming Tong, Yujiao Chen, Ali Malkawi and Richard B. Freeman, along with co-author Zhu Liu investigated the impact of air pollution on the indoor air quality of a naturally ventilated building in a quantifiable manner.

Read the article here. Infographic with data available here.