Students and research leaders prepare to equip a sustainable building industry

June 21, 2021
Rensselaer’s LESA and CASE directors explain EBESS Institute objectives, and students demonstrate how a multi-disciplinary approach has the potential to transform the human experience in the built environment.

At LEDs Magazine, we like to keep a finger on the pulse of academic research with an eye toward commercial solutions. In the past, I have attended such member events at the Lighting Research Center and the Center for Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. This year, LESA held its Industry-Academia Day (IADay) online, incorporating its Student Perfect Pitch event that requires students to summarize current programs in 90 seconds per project. As business development and marketing director Leah Scott explained, “IADay is our version of an annual open house that aims to bridge the gap between academic research, innovation, and market expectations with our industry partners.”

The event also included new details about the recently announced Rensselaer Institute for Energy, the Built Environment, and Smart Systems (EBESS). EBESS co-directors Bob Karlicek and Dennis Sheldon led off the virtual event with insights about the institute’s mission, what led to its founding, and discussing how engineering education and inquiry will have to change in order to address the demands for energy efficiency in new ways.

Related: Research continues to stamp mile markers on the lighting roadmap

Both longtime researchers summarized the transformation of the building and construction industries spurred by emerging technology integration such as recycled/repurposed building materials; materials that maximize energy efficiency; systems incorporating sensors, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI); and design/build optimization on scales from the individual building to the global level.

Related: LESA steepens the learning curve for smart systems

Karlicek and Shelden echoed the need to apply critical thinking to what used to be abstract concepts in design. Starting with data collection and then employing “simulation, analysis, and synthesis” will enable academics, engineers, and design professionals to “evolve [their] response in a more agile and directional way,” observed Shelden.

The interdisciplinary nature of institutions like RPI and engineering resource centers may become even more critical if the education system is to “extend beyond the pedagogy of the school of engineering, and look at the school of architecture and see how we can complement each other,” concluded Karlicek, striking the perfect note to dive into the student pitch presentations.

Sectioned into three groups, each group had a common theme to its individual student presentations.

Group 1: “Advanced Sensing – From Design to Implementation” pitches included:

  • The scalability of integrated photonic components using new optimization algorithms for device design parameters (John Rollinson)
  • Improving autonomous driving lidar techniques with adaptive range and resolution (Xing Tong)
  • Indoor occupancy detection with privacy preservation using time-of-flight sensors instead of cameras (Hao Lu)
  • Efficient health monitoring via a body sensor network with longer-term data collection and analysis (Jason Case)

Group 2: “Autonomous Control – Impacting the Human Experience” pitches included:

  • Multimodal deep learning for video question answering and understanding semantics/behavior (Lingyu Zhang)
  • Human-computer collaboration mediated through light to design dynamic lighting design and intelligent control systems that learn from human interaction (Constantina Varsami)
  • Occupant-behavior-based lighting recommendations with an AI-backed engine that analyzes activity in the space to recommend schedules, circadian settings, and task-specific lighting (Pranav Shrestha)
  • Control of light using backlighting drivers that provide real-time “sculpting” of light across multiple connected luminaires by responsive dimming and scene changes (Diyanko Bhowmik)

Group 3: “The Built Environment – Improvements through Technology Innovation” pitches included:

  • BIOM: Bryoremediation integrated oxygen module enabling a “living desktop air filter” using moss to provide cleaner, highly oxygenated air that provides better indoor air quality to occupants (Will Pepi)
  • Machine learning for passive heating and cooling control, reducing energy consumption while improving ventilation (Bumsoo Park)
  • A mathematical model for energy-efficient indoor climate controls in multi-unit buildings, achieving up to 19% energy savings and reducing onsite resources to manage HVAC systems controls (Syed Ahsan Raza Naqvi)

Winners were Will Pepi for First Prize, Syed Ahsan Raza Naqvi for Second Prize, Bumsoo Park for Third Prize, and John Rollinson voted by attendees for Best in Show presentation.

As you can see by the brief summary here, there is tremendous innovation with regard to the multi-disciplinary approach espoused by the LESA and CASE leadership. I have no doubt that will translate into the transformative engineering and design practice that EBESS is intended to cultivate. Learn more about partnership with the LESA Center and view publications and research summaries. Visit the EBESS website for more on the institute and its affiliated research centers.

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