Two iSchool faculty members, Dr. Jason Dedrick and Dr. Jeff Hemsley are co-PIs on a new research project undertaking a $1.59 million retrofit demonstration project for ongoing research using a South Campus dormitory at Winding Ridge. 

The project aims to achieve net-zero energy, a goal in line with New York State decarbonization policy goals. To do this, the team, led by Nina Sharifi, assistant professor of architectural technology in the School of Architecture, will aim to reduce emissions through building electrification and utilizing materials not derived from fossil fuels. Shariff says in a press release that the data collected from this project will ideally serve as a proof of concept to inform organizations and communities on reducing energy use through sustainable design, construction, and technology integration.

The building is equipped with sensors to monitor energy use. Dr. Dedrick and Dr. Hemsley’s part of the project will focus on collecting and analyzing that data, then developing ways to display it in real-time. The data visualizations will show the community information such as how students use electricity, how the temperature in the room changes over time, and the overall air quality. Dr. Hemsley and Dr. Dedrick are still conceptualizing the data visualization but are leaning toward a mobile app and website so people can conveniently view the project’s progress. 

Dr. Dedrick comes to this project after years of research on smart grids as Director of the Smart Grid Research Center. A previous project involved using one-minute data from communities around the county on energy use and solar generation. When this retrofit demonstration project came along, the similarities to his previous work made Dr. Dedrick feel like it was a perfect fit.

“They’re doing the same thing on this dorm on south campus that we had been doing,” says Dr. Dedrick. “We interviewed people to see what their thinking is and how willing they are to adjust their energy use and their lifestyle to be more sustainable. This dorm is very similar as it’s collecting data on energy use, and we’ll be able to see how the students live in these units. They’re also monitoring things like air quality. So what’s the indoor air quality? Is there good ventilation? So it’s a cool project in that sense.”

As the Director of the Center for Computational and Data Science (CCDS), Dr. Hemsely plays a key role in using computational approaches to advance practical research in the social sciences. This project fits in line with CCDS’s work and his interest in learning by analyzing large data sets. 

“Every time you work with a new data set, you learn new things. It’s one of the best things about being an academic. I trained in a certain set of skills to do a certain set of things, but there are so many opportunities to learn other things,” says Dr. Hemsley. “This research is different than the kinds of research I typically do. I get to learn about all sorts of green energy concepts. I get to see what kinds of data they get. I get to see how they think about data. In this project, we’re working with architects and engineers, so we get to look at blueprints and how they’re actually doing the work on the building.”

The project is supported by a $1.39 million grant administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) REV Campus Communities Energy to Lead program and $200,000 from the Syracuse University Climate Action Plan.