SinBerBEST: Singapore–Berkeley Building Efficiency and Sustainability in the Tropics

The CREATE tower [Source: http://utown.nus.edu.sg/about-university-town/create-2/]
The CREATE tower [Source: http://utown.nus.edu.sg/about-university-town/create-2/]

Khalid Mosalam

The University of California, Berkeley (UCB) established and is operating the Berkeley Education Alliance for Research in Singapore, BEARS, a center for research, graduate education, and innovation aiming at achieving international reputation. BEARS is a non-profit entity incorporated in Singapore which is managed by the Berkeley team with funding from the Singapore National Research Foundation (NRF).

The first core research program within BEARS is Singapore-Berkeley Building Efficiency and Sustainability in the Tropics, SinBerBEST, representing a significant opportunity for economic development. The SinBerBEST program is one of the most important strategic directions for UCB where it brings to the BEARS alliance a tremendous amount of leverage in terms of engagement with ongoing major projects at Berkeley.

The involved faculty members from UCB are engaged in transformative research collaboration with faculty from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the National University of Singapore (NUS). The theme of SinBerBEST is use-inspired basic research for novel demand-side energy and carbon footprint reduction in buildings. This research area addresses demand-side solutions for the world’s growing energy needs to reduce the per capita carbon footprint of consumers.

It was determined that this research area is the most promising as an Interdisciplinary Research Program (IRP) within BEARS due to the shared expertise between UCB and Singapore (represented by NTU and NUS), that could initiate revolutionary potential, leverage of ongoing and new research support, and, most of all, impact in the form of creating new industry sectors in Singapore and California.

On the demand-side, buildings[1] in the US consumed about 40% of the electrical energy in 2011 (and worldwide) while buildings in Singapore[2] consumed around 50% of total available electricity in 2005. Transportation1 on the other hand consumes only 25% of the total energy in the US annually (even lower in Singapore2). Thus, it is not surprising that energy efficiency in buildings is an important target for a low carbon footprint and high efficiency future.

While there is a great deal of regulatory activities in California, the USA, the EU, and Singapore on low energy retrofits and zero-energy new buildings, it is our conviction that the bulk of current research is piecemeal and not well-integrated. Further, we believe that information and communication technologies, including smart wireless networks, hold the promise of detailed monitoring and subsequent control of electricity, heating, ventilation and air conditioning loads in the built environment. The adopted M3 (Measuring, Modeling and Mitigation) approach reflects an embedded systems view of building operating systems.

Important overarching goals of SinBerBEST include reduction in energy consumption and carbon footprint of buildings and developing a shared-use cyber-physical testbed in Singapore that focuses on buildings in tropical climates. The testbed is a centerpiece of the SinBerBEST laboratory and office space located on level 11 of the Campus for Research Excellence And Technological Enterprise (CREATE) tower, Figures 1 and 2.

 

 

Schematic showing major components of the cyber-physical testbed of SinBerBEST

 

From a strategic standpoint, addressing building efficiency is very urgent for Singapore’s energy sufficiency. Innovating technologies for addressing these regulatory regimes in a manner that is not punitive to enterprises and home consumers is critical.

Further, we expect the creation of a new round of companies to market the developed solutions ranging from novel designs and fabrication of materials to large scale building envelope sub-systems, software, sensor networks, and embedded systems.

Economically, we expect the impact of SinBerBEST to promote creation of new industry sectors in information technology, energy technologies, building materials and construction techniques and related areas.

SinBerBEST consists of 6 integrated thrusts, Figure 3, executed under the leadership of the lead Principal Investigator (PI) and BEARS Director Prof. Costas Spanos.

 

Integration between the research thrusts of the SinBerBEST IRP

 

The SinBerBEST IRP was inaugurated on November, 19, 2012 and the participating research team during this inauguration event is shown in the photograph of Figure 4.

 

BEARS/SinBerBEST laboratory & workspace inauguration [CREATE Tower, Nov. 19, 2012]

 

The co-PI’s from UCB include CEE professors Paulo Monteiro, Khalid Mosalam, William Nazaroff, Claudia Ostertag, CEE/EECS professor Alexander Bayen and EECS professors Kameshwar Poolla, Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, and Claire Tomlin.

The wide dissemination of our research findings is an important goal of our program. An annual event is organized in Singapore during the month of January where researchers from SinBerBEST and other similar programs in Singapore or worldwide, with common interests in building efficiency and sustainability, meet and share research results and findings.

 

by Khalid M. Mosalam
Professor
CEE Structural Engineering, Mechanics & Materials
PI in-residence, Singapore
(8/1/12 to 7/31/13)
Leader of Thrusts 5 & 6

 

[1] US Energy Information Administration, How much energy is used in buildings in the United States?, Available at http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=86&t=1, Accessed on March, 20, 2014.

[2] From Chart 5.1 for Energy Consumption by Sectors in 2005, National Energy Policy Report – Energy for Growth, Nov. 2007, Available at http://www.mti.gov.sg/ResearchRoom/Documents/app.mti.gov.sg/data/pages/885/doc/NEPR%202007.pdf, Accessed on March, 20, 2014.

Published 05/09/2014