California State University, Long Beach
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Engineering Building To Get “Smart”

Published: June 5, 2017

Masoud Nazari (l) and Paul Wingco

The Engineering and Computer Sciences (ECS) building at CSULB has a smart future thanks to a $2.5 million grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC) running through 2020.

Electrical Engineering’s Masoud Nazari and University Energy Manager Paul Wingco serve as the project’s primary and co-primary investigators. Hamed Mohsenian-Rad, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at UC Riverside and his team, along with two leading industry incorporations, are project partners.

“This is more than a standard research grant that involves analysis, simulation and publishing papers,” said Nazari, a member of the university since 2015. “The goal for this grant is to change the ECS building into a smart building.”

The building will become a highly efficient structure able to respond to energy demand, Nazari predicted, able to incorporate ‘demand response’ when the demand side can help the generation side by voluntarily reducing its load when there is a shortage of generation. The goal is to turn the ECS building into one of the contributors to the larger grid.

“There could be more than 20 percent annual energy savings which can reduce energy costs up to $1.6 million in this building alone over the estimated economic life of the proposed energy management system,” said Nazari.

Wingco believes one reason for the CEC’s recognition of their grant proposal is its level of possibility.

“I think CEC recognized that the project we are proposing has great potential for energy savings and I believe they recognized our past experience and support for these type of innovative energy projects,” said Wingco, whose team will manage the actual construction work. “The biggest challenge may be accessing the physical space during construction and getting occupants to become comfortable with the new technology.”

Nazari points to the grant’s innovation, noting that there has been no prior demonstration project that combines the state-of-the-art technologies on an entire academic building with more than 100,000 square feet of space.

“The technologies in this demonstration project each has been proven in independent, small scale, stand-alone demonstrations but have not been combined and demonstrated in a large-scale building,” he said.

To Nazari, CSULB resembles a small city in the way it uses energy with the goal of this project to scale that city-size down to the building level.

“Our ultimate goal is to extend what is being done in the ECS to the rest of the campus and this broader vision is not limited to CSULB,” he said. “This could be a role model for the entire CSU. Eventually this will mean significant energy savings for the state of California.”

The grant comes as part of the CEC’s effort to fund the demonstration and deployment of innovative energy efficiency technologies in existing buildings. This particular project has four main tasks.

“The first is the general administration of the grant,” explained Nazari. “The second is developing a comprehensive, customized and cost-effective energy management plan for the ECS building based upon the Internet of Thing (IoT) infrastructure, the third will be to install and test the IoT network of sensors and actuators and demonstrate the energy management system for the ECS building, and the fourth is conducting an extensive performance evaluation in terms of energy efficiency and demand response, building operation analysis, and overall costs and benefits assessment.”

In task three, smart sensors will be implemented on each floor of the ECS building to measure energy use allowing for a comparison between the current energy use with the use after installing the IoT-based energy management system.

“How much energy is saved?” asked Nazari. “We also want to show its integration with the larger grid. We want to show how this particular building is contributing.”

Planning is fundamental. There will be such things as smart lighting, smart energy loads and air conditioning.

“In what rooms will smart technologies need to be implemented?” he asked. “Each source of lighting will have its own sensor that detects human movement. The new sensors and actuators could control lighting, plug-loads and the HVAC system. That represents significant savings.”

In addition, there will be active roles for students in the project who will help with data collection, analysis and evaluation.

The CEC’s $2.5 million grant has more on its mind than just the ECS building, Nazari believes.

“It doesn’t make sense for the CEC to spend this kind of money on just one building. They want a role model,” he said. “Forty percent of the energy used in the U.S. right now comes from buildings. If it were possible to reduce that by 20 percent in one building then extend that saving to all buildings, imagine how much could be saved.”

Ultimately, the project will be a matter of meters. There will be a hot/cold-water meter in the building and electrical meters on every floor to measure how much energy the building is consuming minute by minute.

“This building (ECS), right now, is consuming two percent of all the energy on campus,” said Nazari. “If it can be shown energy consumption in the ECS building can be reduced by 20 percent, and that reduction could be passed on to other buildings on campus, what kind of savings will you have?”

What Nazari and Wingco discover by making the ECS building energy smart can be applied to tomorrow’s energy-smart homes.

“The fundamentals of energy use are the same,” said Nazari. “The advantage of this energy management system is its adaptability. The algorithms we use with the ECS building can be modified for commercial or residential buildings. The hardware is the same. You only need to change the logic.”