by Michael Fancher
Successful deployment of Zero Energy Buildings (ZEBs) will not only require innovation in the design process, but also the deployment of process-grade facility monitoring and control systems (FMCS) capable of tracking in real time the performance and energy use of highly integrated systems. With recent advances in energy modeling, data analysis, and continuous commissioning data platforms, minimizing climate impacts from the built environment can be realized if academia can leverage ZEBs for technology innovation through demonstration, and for workforce education through experiential learning, that are both necessary for market adoption.
Located on the Albany Nanotech campus is the largest net-zero energy capable, mixed-use facility at construction completion in the United States that was conceived, designed, and built as a partnership between SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) and EYP/Page as a “living laboratory” for mission critical facilities. The goal for the Zero Energy Nano (ZEN) facility was to demonstrate that an integrated design process – leveraging powerful design tools and affordable technologies – can lead to net-zero capable energy performance, providing a test-bed in technology innovation and workforce development for data analysis, clean energy technologies, and mission critical facility operations.
With the Albany Nanotech complex hosting industry-compliant semiconductor process cleanrooms used by industry and academia to develop next generation computer chips, the selection of a process-grade FMCS was a natural choice given that a 30,000 sf2 Tier-3 4 megawatt demand load data center was located on the first floor of the ZEN facility. Real time data from over 8,000 sensor “tags” associated with the many components and systems used to operate the ZEN facility are displayed using graphical user interfaces. Each system is displayed as a “flow diagram” providing important operational context for potential upstream and downstream impacts when fault alarms are activated. However, due to the concern that any outside access to the FMCS might jeopardize the mission critical operation of the facility, the ZEN “Living Laboratory” could not be realized.
Completed in 2021 with the installation of dedicated computing infrastructure to establish a ZEN “Data Warehouse” by CNSE to serve as a digital sandbox, and the completion of the “As Built” energy model using open source software by EYP/Page to serve as the foundation for a “digital twin,” CNSE is developing next generation workforce training curriculum incorporating hands-on learning simulators that utilize real world use-case fault scenarios for applied learning opportunities. Public private partnerships with leading data science and facility controls companies (SeeQ Corp, FacilityConnex, GE, among others) have played an important role in positioning CNSE to drive innovation, collaboration, and education while supporting sustainable operations through a shared vision in our collective challenges and individual opportunities to contribute to the solution.
With the recent enactment of the CHIPS for America Act catalyzing semiconductor research and manufacturing within our country, the potential for co-investment in the ZEN digital sandbox by the semiconductor industry for technology and education initiatives that will harness facility data for advanced manufacturing and a sustainable environment could not be more promising.
Michael Fancher is the director of the New York State Center for Advanced Technology in Nanoelectronics and Nanomaterials (CATN2) at SUNY Polytechnic Institute.