Partnerships for Sustainable Energy R&D, Commercialization, and Adoption: Fraunhofer CSE’s “Living Laboratory”

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This week marks an important milestone in the development of Fraunhofer CSE’s future “living laboratory” and headquarters in Boston’s Innovation District.

As the Boston Globe reported, we have announced the names of nearly 40 regional, national, and global industry partners who have committed to incorporating their innovative technologies into the facility—for research, development, and demonstration.

By year’s end, Fraunhofer will transform the building into a laboratory of the world’s newest clean-energy technologies. The windows will double as solar panels; walls will absorb and release heat. The lighting systems will adjust themselves based on the amount of available sunlight, and special flooring will help control the interior temperature. Inside, a public exhibit will explain how the technologies function, and how much energy is being saved.” – Boston Globe“A working model of efficiency” by Casey Ross

For those who aren’t yet familiar with the project, I wanted to share a few thoughts on why we see the Building Technology Showcase at 5 Channel Center playing an important role in accelerating the adoption and acceptance of cutting-edge building energy technologies in Massachusetts and the United States.

The building presents a huge opportunity on a variety of levels: as a historic former leather merchant’s warehouse, it is highly representative of many of the older buildings in Boston and throughout the US: an interesting structure, built in an era before energy efficiency had taken on significance. Historic buildings are challenging to renovate in a way that is both energy efficient and historically sensitive—upgrading while preserving historic charm. For this project, we are proud to work with the National Park Service, the Massachusetts State Historic Preservation Office, and Boston Landmarks Commission, among others, to ensure that our deep energy retrofit meets their guidelines, and to help make the project more replicable for other historic facilities in need of energy updates.

Perhaps most importantly, this building project furthers our mission at Fraunhofer CSE to accelerate the adoption and acceptance of cutting-edge solar and building energy technologies in Massachusetts and the United States. Technologies in the new facility will range from building-integrated solar photovoltaics to radiant heating and cooling, evaporative cooling, phase-change materials, high-efficiency roof membrane, vacuum insulation panels, advanced LED lighting, and many others. With this project, we have the opportunity to perform research for our industry and government clients to get real-world data on their systems’ effectiveness—generating results that they can use in product development and to increase market penetration.

Our TechBridge group will continue to help early-stage companies from our new facility: Bytelight, a Massachusetts company contributing its intelligent light communications devices for the building, has received support through our US Department of Energy-funded U-Launch initiative. We’re always looking for new entrepreneurs and companies to partner with—providing R&D support, connections with the clean energy community, and other resources.

When the Center’s new facility opens, it will also be a major resource for the thousands of businesses in the construction, development, architecture, clean energy, and related sectors. Fraunhofer CSE will bring groups of industry professionals, students, government officials, and others to the building to learn first-hand about advanced building energy technologies and their importance in the built environment.

Already, we’ve been pleased to host meetings organized by the City of Boston, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and German Consulate to share our vision for the facility with national and international industry and government officials and to learn about their innovative sustainable technologies and development projects. In fact, three of the companies that are contributing technologies to the building—Pythagoras SolarOree, and TIGI—connected with us through these meetings.

A major draw of the facility will be its highly interactive first floor “showcase,” in which users will use state-of-the-art technology to visualize and learn about the systems in the building. As Mass High Tech reports:

The goal is to present the technologies in innovative ways that engage visitors and create demand for energy-saving systems […] One of those ways, according to Fraunhofer, is to use augmented reality to enable mobile device and tablet users to view a superimposed, realistic graphic of a system by pointing the device at a marker.” – Mass High Tech,“Fraunhofer teams with businesses to build tech showcase”by Patricia Resende

We are still currently accepting partners, and I encourage businesses with innovative, sustainable building technologies and systems to learn more about this project and how your company can become involved. Full details are on our website, including our complete list of partners.

About author
I was the Managing Director of Fraunhofer CSE, and co-founded the Center in 2008 with the goal of establishing a world-class research organization for cutting-edge clean energy technologies.
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