A research endeavor to create more energy efficient buildings, carried out by a Canadian initiative and directed by Concordia professor Andreas Athienitis, has recently received further funding.
Created in December 2011, the project is being fulfilled through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada’s Smart Net-zero Energy Buildings Strategic Network (SNEBSN).
The network is made up of 29 Canadian researchers from 15 universities, with professor Athienitis from Concordia’s department of building, civil and environmental engineering, acting as scientific director. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and Hydro-Québec are also involved in the effort to ensure buildings become more environmentally friendly.
This past May, the research initiative received $1 million from NRCan. New research funding of $2 million has been provided by NSERC, NRCan, Hydro-Québec and Régulvar, while the network’s five-year budget from 2011-2016 is about $7.5 million.
This research effort is especially relevant in Canada since temperatures often reach extremes, causing buildings to consume high amounts of energy. Athienitis explained the goal is to transform buildings from being energy consumers into becoming producers of energy.
“Substantial savings can be achieved through reduction of energy consumption for heating, cooling and lighting,” said Athienitis.
As he writes on his website, “My long term vision is the realization of solar buildings operating in Canada as integrated advanced technological systems that generate in an average year as much energy as they consume.”
Athienitis is the Concordia University research chair in Integration of Solar Energy Systems into Buildings and was also the founding Director of the NSERC Solar Buildings Research Network from 2005-2010. He served as Associate Editor of the ISES Journal “Solar Energy” and played an important role in the engineering design of several award-winning low energy solar houses and green buildings. In an article published in Actualité in 2009, Athienitis was deemed one the most important innovators of Quebec.
SNEBSN researchers from Concordia include professors from the civil and environmental engineering department Paul Fazio, Theodore Stathopoulos, Sheldon Williamson and Radu Zmeureanu.
“It has been recognized in the last few decades that buildings consume about one third of the country’s energy,” Concordia buildings engineering professor Fazio wrote in his research. Fazio founded the Concordia Centre for Building Studies in 1977.
Fazio’s research currently focuses on the building envelope and its impact on building performance and industrialization. Problems with building envelopes can result in insufficient insulation and the growth of mold, which is a serious problem since it not only damages the building envelope, but also contaminates the environment inside.
SNEBSN’s website outlines that the research project’s vision is for key regions in Canada to have zero-energy buildings – those that don’t consume energy or release carbon emissions – by 2030.
This is hoped to be accomplished by establishing ‘smart’ controls in buildings such as integrated solar systems, windows that control solar gains and different types of energy storage.
“We will be developing novel techniques for predictive control and optimized operation of buildings so as to reduce peak demand for electricity – essentially making buildings “smart” so as to predict continuously their upcoming response to predicted weather,” said Athienitis.
The research is currently aimed towards improving commercial and institutional buildings.
Athienitis and his graduate students will carry out case studies in the EV and JMSB Concordia buildings and other public buildings in Montreal.
“Right now we have five graduate building engineering students and a postdoctoral fellow,” said Athienitis. “And similar numbers are expected to join every year.”.