Dynamic Sustainability: Implications of the Net-Zero Carbon Transition

The world is rapidly transitioning to a net-zero carbon economy. What are the risks and unintended consequences of these technology and policy transitions?

This forum explored the work of Dr. Jay Golden and The Dynamic Sustainability Lab at Syracuse University.

Launched during the fall of 2021, The Dynamic Sustainability Lab (DSL) examines supply chain, economic, trade and national security implications resulting from technological, biological and institutional efforts for a net-zero carbon economy.

DSL is a non-partisan partner to industry, government and NGOs, taking an interdisciplinary, scientific approach to support organizations as they realize their sustainability transition. Students and faculty work together through a dual qualitative and quantitative approach that integrates various scientific disciplines to provide decision makers in the public and private sectors a holistic understanding of the near-term and longer-term implications.

The vision for the lab is to become an internationally recognized resource for bridging the unique roles of industry and government to maximize the opportunities and minimize the challenges resulting from global sustainability transitions, and prepare the next generation of sustainability professionals.


Jay Golden, Ph.D., Pontarelli Professor of Environmental Sustainability and Finance, Director of the Dynamic Sustainability Lab

Dr. Golden is an internationally recognized researcher and academic regarding the dynamics of the global sustainability transition.   Golden uses big data, modeling and analytics to analyze the risks, unintended consequences and opportunities of government policies and corporate actions to meet sustainability challenges.

Golden is the recipient of the Faculty Pioneer Award from the Center for Business Education at the Aspen Institute. The Aspen Institute’s Faculty Pioneer Award is the “Oscars of the business school world” according to The Financial Times. Golden was also named one of the 100 most influential people in business ethics by the Ethisphere Institute.  In 2017, Golden was appointed to the Board of Scientific Counselors for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency where he now still serves on the Executive Committee.

Golden consults for governments and corporations around the world and is the author of the forthcoming book, Dynamic Sustainability to be released in 2023 by Cambridge University Press.

Golden received his Ph.D. in engineering from the University of Cambridge and his master’s degree in Environmental Engineering and Sustainable Development from a joint program of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Cambridge. He also holds a Professional Mastery of Project Management Certificate from Stanford University, an MLE in Higher Education from Harvard, and has a B.A. degree in Management. He can be reached at


Neil Webb, MBA, Director of Growth & Markets, Ramboll

Neil Webb serves as chair of the SyracuseCoE Industry Partners Council since March 2017. Mr. Webb has been working within the energy industry for over 26 years. His experience spans the evolution of energy markets from the vertically integrated holding companies of the early 1990s to today’s deregulated marketplace. During this transformation, Mr. Webb has been engaged by utilities, independent system operators and energy supply companies to assist in strategic and operational functions of both the wholesale and retail energy markets. Recently, Mr. Webb’s work has been focused at the retail level assisting entities with critical decisions involving energy products from the procurement of electricity, natural gas, and oil to the planning and management of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), and Green House Gas (GHG) products. Mr. Webb has a Bachelor’s in Industrial Engineering from Clarkson University and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Rochester’s Simon School.

The Electric Revolution: Energy Storage is King

The US Lithium-ion battery market is expected to reach $90B by 2025 and is expected to grow more than any other sector of the battery market. However, lithium-ion batteries have inherent safety risks and innovation is needed. Battery developers and auto manufacturers are building the road map to grow and introduce fast charging battery technologies.

Syracuse University’s NSF Industry-University Collaborative Research Center (IUCRC) for Solid-State Electric Power Storage (CEPS) is working to develop eco-friendly, safe and economically feasible solid-state energy storage technology for portable, medical, automotive, electric grid, military and energy security applications.

CEPS is working with intellectual property company, C4V, based in Binghamton, NY, to create next-generation storage materials that can be integrated into current manufacturing processes.

This R&T forum was moderated by Quinn Qiao.


Quinn Qiao, Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Syracuse University, Director, IUCRC CEPS

Quinn Qiao’s research focuses on photovoltaics, lithium metal/ion batteries, sensors, micro/nano manufacturing/fabrication, Food-Energy-Water (FEW) sustainability and precision agriculture technologies. He has published more than 200 peer reviewed papers in leading journals including Science, Nature Communications, Energy and Environmental Science, Journal of theAmerican Chemical Society, Advanced Materials, Advanced Energy Materials, Advanced Functional Materials, Nanoscale, Joule, ACS Energy Letters, Nano Energy, etc. He has received more than $11M on research grants as PI or Co-PI from NSF, NASA, USAID, EDA, 3M, Agilent, Raven Industries, etc. Read Quinn Qiao’s full bio here.

Natalya Chernova, Technology Commercialization Manager, C4V

Natasha A. Chernova received her BS (1996) and MS (1998) in Materials Science, and her PhD (2001) in Physics from M. V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia. She received a one-year fellowship from Corning Inc. in 2001 to work with Professor Eric Cotts at Binghamton University on microcalorimetry and thermodynamics of metals and alloys. She joined Professor M. Stanley Whittingham’s group in 2002 where she studies transition metal oxides and phosphates as electrode materials for lithium ion batteries. Dr. Chernova led NECCES EFRC Thrust on multielectron cathode materials in 2014 – 2020. In 2021 she joined Charge CCCV LLC (C4V) as Technology Commercialization Manager to lead development and qualification of Li-ion cell technologies to be deployed to C4V’s gigafactories around the world.

Niloofar Karami, Battery Engineer, C4V

Niloofar Karami received her BS (2009) in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Dr. Shariaty University, Tehran, Iran, and MS (2019) in Industrial Engineering from Binghamton University(SUNY). She had 5 years of industrial experience before joining C4V. In February 2020, she joined Charge CCCV LLC (C4V) as Technical Project Manager to support C4V team coordinate upstream and downstream activities for product development and technology partnership activities. Since August 2021, she is working as Li-ion Battery Engineer to qualify materials, design and build prototypes, and develop and perform electrochemical testing.

SyracuseCoE Innovation Fund Awards $40,000 to CNY Companies

Four New York State companies have been chosen to receive SyracuseCoE Innovation Fund awards to help commercialize their innovative products and services. 

Companies that  are members of the SyracuseCoE Partner program were invited to submit proposals that help bridge the gap to commercialization for products that address a challenge within SyracuseCoE’s core focus areas, including indoor environmental quality, clean and renewable energy and water resources. Collaborations with researchers from academic Partner institutions were encouraged. 

Awards for this program are funded by member companies of the SyracuseCoE Partner Program with the purpose of helping companies advance product development and technological innovation.

The winning projects include:

  • Ducted Wind Turbine, Potsdam, NY: $10,000 to develop a new blade and hub design for its  3.5 kW wind turbine, offering improved power production, increased part reliability, reduced cost and higher safety margins;
  • Hearth Labs, New York City: $9,988 to support a pilot deployment of Hearth Labs’ Q Sense, a thermal-LiDAR sensor and software platform used to generate thermal digital twins of buildings, reduce energy consumption and improve occupant comfort; 
  • Hydronic Shell Technologies, New York City: $10,000 to advance the development of the HydroBox, a key component of the Hydronic Shell deep energy retrofit system that is integrated into a façade, allowing for complete conditioning of a dwelling unit from the exterior wall; 
  • uvcPhyzx, Dundee, NY: $10,000 to optimize the system design parameters of the patented uvcPhyzx device for integration with controlled environment agricultural (CEA) HVAC systems. 

“SyracuseCoE’s Innovation Fund Awards continue to serve as an effective way to help companies achieve commercialization of their technologies,” says Jianshun “Jensen” Zhang, SyracuseCoE Executive Director. “Ultimately, these awards strengthen both the company and Central New York’s position as a leader in technology innovations that address energy and environmental challenges.”

Each applicant pitches a proposal to a panel of reviewers who judge the proposal based on technical merit and sound principles. These awards would not have been possible without the generous participation and time of our panel, including Michael Birnkrant, Carrier; Brian Carter, SyracuseCoE; Jeffrey Fuchsberg,  Syracuse University’s CASE Center; Jamie Newtown, Ramboll; Nathan Prior,  CenTrio Energy; Marcus Webb, Columbia Technology Ventures; and Mike Wetzel,  Air Innovations

With these awards, SyracuseCoE has supported  60 Innovation Fund projects  with awards totaling over $635,000.

To learn more about the SyracuseCoE Innovation Fund or the Partner Program, visit the webpage or contact Tammy Rosanio at

Healthy Buildings for People: Multi-scaled Approach for Improving Indoor Air Quality

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 620 million people and taken over 6 million lives globally. The most common way COVID-19 is transmitted is from one person to another through small airborne particles. Indoor air quality research is paramount to moving forward and keeping people safe and businesses open. Syracuse University has been collaborating with Carrier Corporation to develop indoor air quality (IAQ) strategies that help to meet the current challenges of living, working and traveling in indoor spaces during a pandemic and better prepare for possible future epidemics and pandemics.

This R&T forum introduced Carrier’s Healthy Building Program, and the important collaborative research with Syracuse University that will contribute to the design of risk mitigation and IAQ strategies – while considering effectiveness, cost and scale. These findings contribute to standards, guidelines and best practices needed to develop effective and sustainable strategies. These include multi-scale IAQ control strategies at building, room, personal and breathing-zone levels and consider outdoor ventilation, filtration systems, air distribution and cleaning methods, personal ventilation and masks.


Michael Birnkrant, Healthy Buildings and Homes Engineering Lead, Carrier Corporation

Carrier’s Healthy Building Program: Challenges and opportunities When Focusing on People

Dr. Birnkrant leads Carrier’s Indoor Air Quality group, pioneering new HVAC solutions to improve human health in buildings, recently delivering a layered strategy for pandemic resilience in buildings. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and doctorate degree from Drexel University.

Jianshun “Jensen” Zhang, Executive Director, SyracuseCoE, Professor and Director, Building Energy and Environmental Systems Laboratory, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Syracuse University

Multiscale Strategies for Improving IAQ and Reducing the Risk of Infectious Disease Transmission

Dr. Zhang has more than 30 years of research experience in built environmental systems  (BES) and is a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering & Computer Science at Syracuse University. He is one of three co-leaders of the University’s Energy and Environment research cluster and leads the Heathy and Intelligent Built Environments subcluster. Zhang also serves as the director of the Building Energy and Environmental Systems Laboratory at Syracuse University. Read Dr. Zhang’s full bio here.

SyracuseCoE Hosts DOE’s EnergyTech University Prize Again: Students Encouraged to Submit

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Technology Transitions recently launched the second round of the American-Made EnergyTech University Prize (EnergyTech UP). EnergyTech UP is a collegiate competition challenging multidisciplinary student teams to develop and present a business plan that leverages high-potential energy technologies, including those developed at national laboratories and universities. This innovative prize asks student teams to identify an energy technology, assess its market potential, and develop a strategy for commercialization.  

Student teams will have the opportunity to compete for a total of $370,000 in cash prizes as they present their plans to a panel of industry judges.

Teams will first compete at the regional level, and the top teams will move on to compete with other regional winners from across the nation. Technology Bonus Prizes are also offered by eight DOE technology offices for the best proposals in their respective fields. In addition to the cash prizes, teams invited to the regional events will receive free access to the Office of Technology Transition’s Energy I-Corps curriculum, and regional winners will be provided with exclusive mentorship before competing in the final round of the competition at the Zpryme Energy Thought Summit.   

SyracuseCoE was selected as one of 15 EnergyTech UP Regional Convening Partners, hosting the Regional Explore Event in collaboration with NYSERDA and CenterState CEO’s Clean Tech Center after a successful virtual event last year. In 2022, the regional winning team from the University of Connecticut went on to compete in the final phase of the competition with their “Smart i-Floor” proposal, which consisted of integrated, durable floor tiles with the ability to sense information and harvest energy from footsteps. Additionally, a student team from SUNY Binghamton was awarded the Technology Bonus Prize from the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management for their carbon negative cement replacement, Pantheon. This team has since seen great success in commercializing their technology as Klaw Industries. Klaw Industries has recently joined SyracuseCoE’s Partner Program and continues to develop sustainable materials solutions for the concrete and recycling industries.   

The EnergyTech UP competition offers students the opportunity to build their leadership and entrepreneurial skills, while providing exposure to all of the innovative energy technologies waiting to be commercialized. Prize administrators held an informational webinar on October 26 to share details about the $370,000 available to students, inspire ideas around energy technologies, and answer questions from potential participants.

Any interested students or faculty are encouraged to start following EnergyTech UP to stay up to date on submission deadlines, requirements, prize rules, and more.

Eric A. Schiff Steps Down After Leading SyracuseCoE through Unprecedented Times

Following more than two years of excellent service, Eric Schiff has stepped down from his role as interim executive director of SyracuseCoE, with the appointment of Jianshun “Jensen” Zhang as executive director. Schiff took on the half-time position May 1 of 2020 and led the Center through the public health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. He provided careful thought leadership and captured opportunities to bolster critical research communications through webinars, research briefs and via local and national media, as scientists recognized that COVID-19 spreads indoors and swift indoor air quality innovation was needed.

Prior to his position at SyracuseCoE, he was the chair of the Department of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences and has been a professor of physics at Syracuse University since 1981. The Center benefited from Schiff’s long history leading complex, multidisciplinary projects that require industry and academic collaboration to innovate energy-related problems through research, development and demonstrations. He has been a principal investigator for externally funded research projects from government agencies (Department of Energy, National Science Foundation and the Empire State Development Corp.) and corporations (United Solar Ovonic LLC, Boeing Inc., First Solar Inc. and SRC Inc.). From 2014-17, he was granted leave to serve as a program director at ARPA-E, an agency of the Department of Energy.

“There have been challenges, but also unprecedented opportunities to address the public health crisis through innovation, particularly in the indoor air quality and environmental systems arenas. Eric was instrumental in supporting SyracuseCoE researchers and companies to develop impactful solutions through technology and research innovations.” says Bing Dong, SyracuseCoE associate director. “It has been a privilege working with him and we thank him for his dedication, mentorship and leadership.”

As he returns to his full-time position in the physics department, Schiff will continue serving as principal investigator on SyracuseCoE’s EPIC Buildings Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Innovation through Law: Importance of Early Stage Research

Learn more about the importance of early-stage research in the development of intellectual property and new technologies, as well as the IP, markets and regulatory assistance available from the Innovation Law Center to support companies in the EPIC Buildings regional cluster.

Opportunities in Decarbonizing Buildings through Controls and Electrification

Dr. Karma Sawyer, Director of the Electricity Infrastructure & Buildings Division at PNNL, discussed innovative approaches to controlling and optimizing smart, electric devices in buildings in coordination with the grid and distributed energy resources. These will facilitate the decarbonization of the power grid while ensuring resilience and reliability.

Winners Selected for the New York Tri-State Region EnergyTech University Prize Competition

15 student teams from the New York / Tri-State region competed in the Regional EnergyTech University Prize business plan competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Technology Transitions (OTT). The competition was hosted by SyracuseCoE, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and CenterState CEO’s CleanTech Center on February 18th.

Funding Opportunity Announcement – 2022 Faculty Fellows

Proposals are invited from faculty researchers for innovative research and development efforts in SyracuseCoE’s focus areas: clean and renewable energy, energy-efficiency and healthy buildings and water resources. Up to $25,000 is available. Faculty from academic partner institutions are encouraged to apply.

GEB 101: Concepts, Applications and Challenges

This presentation gives the basics of a Grid-Interactive Efficient Building (GEB) strategy, created by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), aiming to optimize across distributed energy resources (DERs) to advance the role buildings can play in energy system operations and planning.

Podcast: EPIC Buildings – Project Kickoff Webinar

SyracuseCoE held a kickoff webinar showcasing the new EPIC Buildings program based on a $750,000 award from the U.S. Department of Energy to accelerate development and commercialization of innovations for energy hardware innovations, in NYS.

Podcast: COVID Safety in Schools: A New Variant for a New Year



Widespread school closings, like we’ve seen through the COVID-19 pandemic, create long-term individual and societal costs. It is in the best interest of children and families for schools to remain open. To do that, every effort must be made to keep children healthy.

In the last year, we have learned a great deal about preventing COVID-19 transmission with in-person instruction. The delta variant now challenges us to make use of every layer of prevention. The good news is that children are at a lower risk than adults and there is a new body of evidence that shows that kids can be kept safe at school with a holistic, multi-layered plan to reduce exposure, limit transmission and respond to outbreaks.

This fall, how can schools prioritize risk reduction measures for COVID-19?

We spoke with Harvard researcher and exposure science expert Joseph Allen and East Syracuse Minoa School Superintendent Donna DeSiato to describe the most valuable strategies and how they can be effectively implemented in schools, even with limited budgets and staff.

Read Dr. Allen’s guest essay in the New York Times, The Hard Covid-19 Questions We’re Not Asking.

Dr. Joseph G. Allen, Associate Professor of Exposure Assessment Science, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and co-author of Healthy Buildings
Dr. Allen is an associate professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and co-author of Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity, with John Macomber at Harvard Business School. He began his career conducting forensic health investigations of sick buildings in several hundred buildings across a diverse range of industries, including healthcare, biotechnology, education, commercial office real estate and manufacturing. At Harvard, Dr. Allen directs the Healthy Buildings Program where he led the creation of ‘The 9 Foundations of a Healthy Building’. To drive research into practice, he works with Fortune 100 companies on implementing Healthy Building strategies in their global portfolios. He earned his Doctor of Science (DSc) and Master of Public Health (MPH) degrees from the Boston University School of Public Health, and a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Biology from Boston College.

Dr. Donna J. DeSiato, Superintendent, East Syracuse Minoa Central School District
Dr. Donna DeSiato, a respected leader in the field of public education, proudly serves as superintendent of the East Syracuse Minoa Central School District since 2005. She has previously served as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instructional Services, Director of Elementary Education, principal, vice principal, instructional specialist and teacher in the Syracuse City School District. Dr. DeSiato’s professional experiences include building, district and state level leadership in building collaborative partnerships, strategic planning and leading systemic transformation in learning. ESM is recognized for developing a broad array of career pathways including innovative STEM learning models in partnership with business and higher education with Siemens, King & King Architects, SUNY ESF, LeMoyne College, Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College, along with the study of the development of pharmaceutical drugs through RχeSearch: An Educational Journey supported by Bristol Myers Squibb. Most recently in 2018-19, ESM launched the first Aviation Career Pathway High School Courses in New York State and the ESM Spartan Academy as one of 19 Early College High Schools in New York State. In 2013 the District was awarded the “Be the Change for Kids Innovation Award” by the Nanoscale College of Science and Engineering and New York State School Board Association and in 2015 ESM was recognized nationally at the White House as one of the first STEM Learning Ecosystems. Dr. DeSiato is a Trustee at Onondaga Community College, President of the Syracuse University Study Council and serves on the Executive Committee of the New York State Council of School Superintendents and the Syracuse Regional Airport Authority. Dr. DeSiato was awarded the 2015 Margaret Ashida STEM Leadership Award by the New York State STEM Education Collaborative, the STEM Woman of the Year Award by the CNY STEM Hub in 2016 and the STEM Outreach Individual of the Year 2020 Award by TACNY. She is highly regarded in education and in the business community for her leadership in innovative learning models and preparing graduates for our global society.
Dr. Eric A. Schiff, Interim Executive Director, SyracuseCoE and Professor of Physics, Syracuse University
As SyracuseCoE director for the last year, Eric Schiff has been working on ways to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in the community. He has many years of experience as a physics professor, a semiconductor and solar cell researcher, a university and government administrator, and an industry consultant. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

2021 Innovation Showcase & BBQ

SyracuseCoE warmly welcomed back friends and collaborators as we celebrated the many accomplishments of student-supported projects at the 2021 SyracuseCoE Innovation Showcase and Summer BBQ. Exhibits and posters were displayed featuring innovative projects, ideas and research, including:

  • Student summer internship projects
  • Student researchers working with SyracuseCoE Faculty Fellows and in SyracuseCoE Labs
  • Syracuse University Industrial Assessment Center Projects
  • Signature research projects led by faculty

2021 Innovation Showcase Posters

SyracuseCoE – Density Collaboration Leads to Green Spaces, Big Returns

Together, SyracuseCoE researchers and SyracuseCoE Partner Density have developed a novel occupant-centric building management system using specialized sensor technologies, leading to reduced energy use and refined performance.

Click here to read the full story in The Central New York Business Journal.

Density designs and manufactures technology that measures how people use space in order to make better use of the space we have.

How Should We Set Pandemic Capacity Limits for Restaurants & Bars?

Author Eric A. Schiff


View SyracuseCoE’s other research briefs


Restaurants and bars are places where airborne diseases like COVID-19 are easily transmitted from one patron to another. Data show that restaurants and bars add significantly to new infections in a community. When a community’s rate of new infections rises too high, health authorities around the country are reducing the capacity limits of bars and restaurants. However, the connection between the capacity limits and the community infection rate has not been quantified and can appear arbitrary. 

In recent research, we proposed capacity limits based on calculations using the community’s rate of new infections. We use the county risk categories developed by a collaboration with The New York Times, the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Health, and Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies. The principle is that COVID-19 infections from restaurants and bars should be kept to the rate when the risk category is relatively low. As shown in the graphic below, in one scenario officials would act when the county moves from the medium to the high-risk category. A 50% capacity limit will then keep the infection rate down to the numbers when the risk level was medium. If the very-high-risk category is reached, restaurants would be limited to 25% capacity. The number of new infections is then again reduced to the rate at the medium risk level. To learn more about other scenarios that health officials could use, including the consideration of indoor ventilation systems, the calculations used in these determinations, and further recommendations, read the full article here.

About the Author

Eric A. Schiff, Ph.D., is interim director of SyracuseCoE (Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems) and Professor in the Department of Physics at Syracuse University. email: .

Eric Schiff Speaks with Paste Magazine on Indoor Transmission and Mask Wearing

As vaccinations rates rise across the U.S. and restrictions begin to be eased, you may be considering going out to your favorite bar or club. But as the pandemic continues, just how relaxed can we be? Interim Director Eric Schiff spoke with Paste Magazine to discuss the reopening of venues and indoor transmission of COVID-19.

“To wear a mask just for, let’s say, 10 minutes on the hour at the most, when you go to the bar or the bathroom, leaving 50 minutes of unmasked breathing—that would be almost no protection,” Schiff said.

Read the full article here.

Podcast: Reopening Restaurants: How safe is it to dine-in again?

A SyracuseCoE expert panel discussion on reopening restaurants: How safe is it to dine-in again? What should restaurant-goers take into consideration before reserving that table? What can restaurateurs do to make indoor dining safer? Podcast available.

Toward Resilience: Helping Companies and Faculty Develop Innovations Targeting COVID-19 and Healthy Environments

2020 was a challenging year. The world has faced unprecedented challenges, requiring governments, communities, businesses, schools, and families to quickly re-think their approach to health and safety in the built environment. There has never been a more crucial time for research and entrepreneurship to promote healthy buildings and urban environments – a key focus of SyracuseCoE’s historic mission. From the beginning of the pandemic, it was clear that the Center had an opportunity to play a vital role in developing COVID-19 resilience in the built environment.

Critical Communications

As our partners and faculty pivoted in response to the pandemic, so did SyracuseCoE. Leadership and staff looked for ways to bolster COVID-related research and commercialization activities by stakeholders. When the pandemic first began to unfold, SyracuseCoE assumed responsibility for wide dissemination of important resources and research-based information from its global community of stakeholders to the wider public. Early on, the Center shared funding opportunities and the latest guidance to help businesses navigate a safe re-opening process. As it became clear that indoor air quality and aerosol spread was critical to the transmission of the virus, SyracuseCoE used its voice to promote essential and informed discourse designed to advance a more COVID-resilient built environment. Further, we frequently broadcast the most up-to-date findings while also highlighting key leadership events with “trusted experts” from a community of world-class researchers specializing in topics related to indoor environmental quality.

SyracuseCoE continues to work closely with industry partners to support their efforts to develop technologies that target COVID-19, leveraging expertise from Syracuse University researchers and other faculty, generating new applications for existing products and transforming manufacturing operations to produce much needed supplies for frontline workers. For the Fall 2020 round of the SyracuseCoE Innovation Fund, an award by and for SyracuseCoE Partners, all proposals were required to address pandemic-related issues. In October, SyracuseCoE awarded four Partner companies $10,000 each for their COVID-related projects: Acumen Detection, Air Innovations, Elizion Tech, and M3 Innovations. Acumen will be working with SyracuseCoE researchers to develop a device to test for COVID-19 in the air. This could allow schools, offices, and other gathering places to detect if someone spreading COVID-19 has infected a room. Further, Acumen has also contributed to the Syracuse University wastewater testing project and has been manufacturing COVID-19 diagnostic tests since March. Air Innovations is enhancing their HEPAirX ventilating air purifier and HVAC unit to reduce disease transmission through UV-C light. It will also have the ability to turn any enclosed space into a negative pressure room. Elizion Tech will produce medical grade bio-based thermoplastics to be used in manufacturing sustainable, biodegradable, and recyclable filtration materials for personal protective equipment. M3 Innovations is developing ultraviolet options for lighting for sport venues that will combine high quality illumination and disinfect them when unoccupied.

Research for Resiliency

In an effort to make key findings from the Center’s researchers more accessible to a broader audience, we launched the SyracuseCoE Research Brief Series. The series started in an effort to quickly disseminate pertinent research that can inform reopening plans for schools and businesses. The first research brief from SyracuseCoE interim executive director Eric A. Schiff shows the efficacy of mask-wearing and ventilation in reducing the risk of transmission in classrooms. The second brief gives an overview of how displacement ventilation and semi-open partitions can be used as a defense strategy against airborne diseases. Since these briefs have been available, they have been viewed thousands of times and there has been a 29% increase in new visitors to the website. This brief series allows SyracuseCoE to highlight the work of our researchers, spark discourse with other top scientists, and advance scholarship and expertise in these critical areas of study.

One such SyracuseCoE researcher is Syracuse University Engineering professor and indoor air quality expert Jianshun “Jensen” Zhang. Zhang was among the 239 global scientists who signed an open letter urging the World Health Organization to formally acknowledge that the virus can be spread through aerosol droplets. While contributing to both SyracuseCoE forums and research briefs, Zhang has also been promoting the importance of ventilation in controlling virus spread indoors. In an editorial for the journal “Science and Technology and Built Environment,” Zhang outlined a three-step plan for reducing the risk of infection indoors. He has also contributed to The Wall Street Journal, Architectural Digest and other media outlets.

Zhang isn’t the only SyracuseCoE researcher trying to understand COVID-19 in the built environment. The most recent research brief explores SyracuseCoE Faculty Fellow Teng Zeng’s study on wastewater testing for COVID-19 and pharmaceutical drugs. Zeng received funding from the 2020 SyracuseCoE Faculty Fellows Program to research the relationship between pharmaceuticals found in Central New York sewer sheds and increased rates of COVID-19. Joining Syracuse University’s David Larsen’s team of researchers conducting wastewater sampling on campus, Zeng wanted to see if there was a connection between drug use and COVID-19 prevalence. After 4 months of sampling, Zeng found that sewer systems with a higher detection for pharmaceuticals also have a higher detection rate for the RNA associated with SARS-CoV-2. The association means substance detection in wastewater systems may be a tool for predicting COVID-19 hotspots and could help inform local or regional COVID-19 prevention plans.

Thought Leadership Events

The coronavirus halted in-person events in 2020, so the SyracuseCoE Research & Technology Forums made a digital debut in a new, all-virtual format. These forums bring partners and faculty together to present research and exchange dialogue on innovative products and technologies. So far, two forums have been focused on helping students and teachers return safely to classrooms by sharing the latest COVID-19 risk-reduction tactics, such as increased ventilation, air purifiers, and masking. Looking forward, SyracuseCoE plans to offer additional digital round tables, given the increased accessibility and attendance of the online format. Recordings of forums have also been made available through a new SyracuseCoE podcast.

SyracuseCoE’s mission is to develop innovations in environmental and energy technologies that promote sustainable well-being in built and urban environments. Syracuse University and the Central New York Region has established strengths and expertise in critical COVID-related topics such as indoor air quality and wastewater resources. Looking ahead into a post-pandemic world, SyracuseCoE will continue to be a hub for researchers and companies to drive innovation and create a more resilient built environment.

SyracuseCoE Accepting Applications for 2021 Innovation Fund, Deadline March 11th

Proposals for up to $10,000 are invited from current SyracuseCoE Partner companies for the first round of the 2021 Innovation Fund. The Innovation Fund is funded by member companies of the SyracuseCoE Partner Program to help Partners overcome barriers in the process of commercializing potentially transformative innovations. Apply here

Companies at all Partner levels — Industry, Affiliate and Start-Up — are invited to apply. Projects must incorporate a SyracuseCoE core focus area, and preference may be available for projects that address the ongoing pandemic, as well as post-pandemic challenges. We welcome research engagements with faculty and students, support for product development and testing, market analysis, proposal match requirement, and more. Innovation Fund proposals must be submitted and led by Partner Program members, but may include collaborations with academic partners or with firms outside of the Partner Program.

To date, SyracuseCoE has helped finance more than 49 projects by 30 companies, totaling over $527,000. While the 2020 proposals were required to address the COVID-19 pandemic, current applications do not have to meet this qualification.

Previous companies who were Innovation Fund winners include:

Visit the Innovation Fund Projects page to see how other Partners have used these funds.

“The Innovation Fund Awards are a great example of how members of the SyracuseCoE Partner Program can use their membership resources to take advantage of meaningful opportunities and overcome potential barriers to commercialization,” said SyracuseCoE interim executive director Eric Schiff. “The awards, based on technical merit and sound principles, have tremendous potential to strengthen each company through the success of their projects.”

Applications, due by Thursday, March 11th, 2021 at 5:00p ET, will be invited to give a brief pitch, via Zoom, with a panel of reviewers. Visit the SyracuseCoE Innovation Fund webpage to learn more, or, if interested in joining the Partner Program, contact Tamara Rosanio at

Up to $3,000 Available for SyracuseCoE Partners to Hire Summer Intern

Through the program, SyracuseCoE helps provide experiential learning opportunities for students and exposes Partners to new talent

SyracuseCoE is now accepting applications from its Partners for up to $3,000 to fund a summer intern through the 2021 Summer Industry Collaboration Internship Program.  The program supports paid internship opportunities for SyracuseCoE Partner Program companies to host a student pursuing a degree in science, engineering, or architecture. This opportunity allows the student to gain crucial knowledge, develop valuable industry relationships, and refine their technical skills by engaging in hands-on work at SyracuseCoE Partner firms related to SyracuseCoE focus areas: indoor environmental quality (IEQ), high performance/green building, clean and renewable energy, and water resources.

The deadline for companies to apply to the 2021 SyracuseCoE Summer Internship Program is Friday, February 19, 2021.

SyracuseCoE intends to fund 6 students, with up to $3,000 per company. To qualify, firms must be members of the 2021 SyracuseCoE Partner Program. To date, 42 companies and 121 students have participated in this program, which is supported by annual fees paid by SyracuseCoE Partners. For full details, click here.

Trends from Wastewater Testing: Pharmaceutical and Illicit Drug Use are Higher in Places where COVID-19 is More Prevalent

Reported by Kerrie Marshall, Arik Palileo, Eric A. Schiff, and Teng Zeng


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Wastewater testing is increasingly used worldwide to monitor trends in pharmaceutical and illicit drug use. Between April and July of 2020, wastewater samples from six sewer systems in Onondaga County, NY were tested to assess pharmaceutical and illicit drug use patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study found that samples from sewersheds showing greater pharmaceutical and illicit drug use also contained more SARS-CoV-2 RNA – the genetic material found in the coronavirus. Testing identified higher levels of 26 pharmaceuticals, including medications for depression, epilepsy, allergies, and high blood pressure, as well as illicit drugs like opioids, cocaine, and amphetamines. For example, Figure 1 illustrates greater blood pressure medication consumption (left panel) and greater opioid consumption (right panel) in locations with wastewater samples containing coronavirus RNA. For all six substance groups (antidepressants, antiepileptics, antihistamines, antihypertensives, synthetic opioids, and central nervous system stimulants), the sewersheds with the lowest consumption rates had an average COVID-19 positivity rate of 1.5% – 2.5%, while the sewershed with highest consumption rates had a COVID-19 positively rate of 4%. This study demonstrates the need to establish regional and national wastewater testing initiatives to monitor COVID-19 spread and its implications for prescription and illicit drug use.


High-throughput wastewater analysis for substance use assessment in central New York during the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020.

About the Authors

Kerrie Marshall ( is the Assistant Director of Communications at SyracuseCoE, the SU Center of Excellence in Environmental & Energy Systems. Arik Palileo ( is a SyracuseCoE Communications Intern. Eric Schiff ( is the Interim Executive Director of SyracuseCoE. Teng Zeng ( is Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at SU, a SyracuseCoE Faculty Fellow and the lead author on this study.

Faculty Fellow Bing Dong to Chair Seminar at the 2021 ASHRAE Virtual Winter Conference

SyracuseCoE researcher Bing Dong will be chairing a seminar called “The Impact of COVID-19 on Building Energy Consumption, IAQ and Occupant Behavior” at the 2021 ASHRAE Virtual Winter Conference, taking place February 9th – 11th. Bing Dong is a Faculty Fellow researching smart building controls in the Total Indoor Environmental Quality (TIEQ) Lab and is also an Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Syracuse University.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed occupant schedules and behavior, impacts building energy consumption and indoor air quality. Understanding such effects is crucial for ensuring building performance and operations while also providing healthy and productive living and working environments. This seminar will provide an overview of such impacts from the following perspectives: (1) Social-psychological factors with the analysis of energy and indoor air quality in residential buildings, (2) how shelter-in-place orders affect energy use of office buildings, (3) indoor air quality at home, and (4) well-being at home.

Click here for more information or to register for the conference.

Podcast: Unexpected New Directions for the Future of Green Building


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Ian Shapiro, co-author of the newly released Green Building Illustrated, 2nd Edition, joins Dr. Nina Sharifi, an Assistant Professor of Architectural Technology at Syracuse University’s School of Architecture, to talk about updates to the new edition of the book, including: 

  • Will central heating systems be replaced by installing heat pumps in every room?
  • Shape efficiency helps reduce energy and construction costs. How can we maximize this new metric and retain the character of external features?
  • Lighting gains by LEDs and the thermal loss of excessive glazing may sunset a favorite green building strategy. Are the days of daylighting over?

This is Shapiro’s second collaboration with Francis D.K. Ching, the illustrator and co-author of both editions of Green Building Illustrated. Ching is a well-known architecture and design graphics writer. Adobe Originals typeface, Tekton, was modeled after his hand-lettering style and is the font used throughout the book. Both editions present a fully illustrated guide to the theory and practice of sustainable design. The new edition continues to create a typology through strategy, theory and standards, while building the visual lexicon for sustainable design and construction. Students, faculty, practitioners and green building advocates – tune in to join the conversation about new directions in green building! Learn more and purchase your copy at or


Ian Shapiro, PE, LEED AP, Founder and Senior Engineer, Taitem Engineering – Shapiro founded Taitem in 1989. He is the co-author of the books Green Building Illustrated, 2nd Edition (2020), Green Building Illustrated (2014) and Energy Audits and Improvements for Commercial Buildings (2016), all published by Wiley. He has been a visiting lecturer at Cornell University, Tompkins Cortland Community College, and Syracuse University. He holds an undergraduate degree from McGill University, and an M.S. from Columbia University, both in mechanical engineering. He is a licensed engineer in the states of New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania. In his spare time, Shapiro enjoys to spend time with family and friends, write poetry, and play soccer and basketball. Taitem Engineering is a long-time member of the SyracuseCoE Partner Program. 

Nina Sharifi, Assistant Professor of Architectural Technology, School of Architecture, Syracuse University – Dr. Sharifi’s research interests include the development of net-zero retrofit approaches for buildings in cold-weather climates, microgrid and energy sharing technologies, and low-carbon active enclosure systems. With a background in sustainable architecture and technology development, Sharifi now maintains interdisciplinary research and design collaborations across architecture, engineering, biotech, and materials science. Sharifi is a Faculty Research Fellow at SyracuseCoE.

Good Life CNY is Bringing Job Seekers to CNY Companies Looking for Talent

Young people are looking to make a good life in smaller, more tight-knit communities like Syracuse, NY – mid-sized cities that are less crowded, with lower costs of living and shorter commutes. With support from SyracuseCoE and others, a CenterState CEO project, Good Life CNY, aims to highlight Central New York as a region of growing opportunity for those looking to relocate. Visitors to the site, launched almost one year ago, can find information on the housing market, local schools, and job opportunities. The site also highlights various CNY hotspots, including restaurants, breweries, parks, and much more.

“The Good Life CNY initiative was built to promote the many job opportunities and high quality of life in the Central New York region,” said CenterState CEO Chief of Staff Benjamin Sio. “Companies are coming together through this initiative, to offer a collective message that they are looking for talent and CNY is a great place to live and work. We can see that it is working because people are visiting the site and many job seekers have found employment through the job board.”

Good Life CNY has amassed over 100,000 page visitors since early this year, surpassing their original goal by 600% percent. Almost 6,000 job seekers have used the site to learn more about companies and job opportunities in Central New York and have clicked to view open jobs over 10,000 times, again outnumbering early expectations.

The top geographic areas of visitors to the website, including New York City, Boston, Baltimore and Detroit, reflect areas with higher numbers of people interested in considering relocation to CNY. The age range of visitors was mostly in mid-to-late 20s to around 44 years old. Topics of greatest interest to those considering re-locating were food & dining, lifestyle, pets, news & politics, employment, sports & fitness and outdoor activities.

Any individuals looking to relocate to the area or companies in the CNY region looking for skilled employees can learn more at

Four Startups Join SyracuseCoE Partner Program

SyracuseCoE is welcoming four startups to the Partner Program:

Elizion Tech – Elizion Tech is a groundbreaking company leading the way in cutting-edge materials and product development to address 21st-century challenges. They leverage research-driven technology to make the world a better place — if it isn’t innovative, scalable, scientifically-validated, and green, it isn’t an Elizion product. Made of dedicated engineers and scientists, their team is committed to improving quality of life around the world by applying accessible, innovative technological solutions. Learn more about Elizion Tech.

IoT Right – Built from the ground up with the ability to interface with any sensor, network, or cloud – IoT Right provides the business intelligence their clients need to maximize their impact. They offer open, secure and easy to use end-to-end IoT solutions to fit any IoT vertical market.  IoT Right’s one platform can integrate any system; crossing the cloud, operating at the edge, and putting full control at your fingertips. Learn more about IoT Right.

Urbata Inc. – Urbata is a building-data utility that streamlines the seven essentials of architecture: use, spaces, systems/fixtures, energy, transit, site and history. With both public and private partners, Urbata is designing architecture principles into urban tech, anchoring the innovations of the future and illuminating buildings that need attention and retrofitting. By creating a building-centric utility, Urbata can illuminate the myriad issues that others have missed or ignored in our most valuable resources. Learn more about Urbata Inc.

Well Building Controls – description forthcoming

The SyracuseCoE Partner Program engages collaborating firms and institutions to address global challenges in clean energy, healthy buildings, and water resources. Members conduct targeted research, demonstrate new technologies, commercialize innovations, and educate the workforce. Visit the webpage or contact Tammy Rosanio at for more information.

SyracuseCoE Innovation Fund Awards $40,000 to Companies for COVID Related Commercialization

SyracuseCoE has awarded $40,000 to four partner companies through the second round of the 2020 Innovation Fund. For this round, partners were invited to submit proposals in SyracuseCoE core focus areas that directly address the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal is to leverage the region’s great capabilities in indoor air quality to reduce disease transmission in the built environment. The Innovation Fund is funded by member companies of the SyracuseCoE Partner Program and aims to help companies advance product development and technological innovation.

See previously awarded Innovation Fund projects.

The winning projects are:

  • Acumen Detection Inc., to provide an rt-PCR machine, positive controls and other reagents, and advice, guidance and support to SyracuseCoE researchers developing a test for COVID-19 in room air. This will allow schools, offices and other gathering places to detect if someone with COVID-19 has entered the space. Acumen Detection is a startup partner, co-located at the SyracuseCoE research facility, that is transforming the way dairy producers across the globe monitor the environment and health of their herds by providing pathogen detection at the point of need–on the farm. Acumen Detection joined the SyracuseCoE Partner Program in 2019 soon after its spin-off from SRC Inc.
  • Air Innovations Inc., is enhancing their HEPAirX ventilating air purifier and HVAC unit to reduce disease transmission with negative pressure settings and UV-C light. After conducting the redesign, marketing materials will be created to address the needs of the dental market. Air Innovations is an affiliate partner that designs, tests and manufactures environmental control systems for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), custom HVAC projects and unique environments. They specialize in achieving consistent results in temperature control (low temperature and precision temp control), humidity control (desiccant to near saturation) and air filtration (HEPA to molecular).
  • Elizion Tech will develop medical grade, bio-based thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) for the manufacture of sustainable, biodegradable and recyclable filtration materials. Several sources will be assessed for their feasibility of processing into a source component for subsequent manufacturing of the antipathogenic filtration technology. Such materials can be useful in the production of personal protective equipment (PPE). Elizion Tech, based in Ontario, Canada, is developing an antipathogenic nanocoating, PPE, air filtration systems, high-contact surfaces and other applications.
  • M3 Innovation, LLC, co-located at the SyracuseCoE research facility, is developing a revolutionary platform for sports venues that will both provide efficient high quality lighting and also use ultraviolet lighting to sterilize the facilities from bacteria and viruses (specifically COVID-19). M3 Innovation is a startup partner comprised of founders and former engineers from Ephesus Lighting Inc., focused on developing lighting technology for the LED sports lighting market.

“There is an established history of innovative research and commercialization in environmental and energy systems in the Central New York region,” says Eric Schiff, interim executive director of SyracuseCoE. “Many SyracuseCoE partner companies, like Ephesus Lighting, Air Innovations, NuClimate, SparkCharge and others, have used their Innovation Fund awards on their path to successful commercialization. We hope this award will give companies the potential to play a critical role in helping communities reopen and function safely as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

With these awards, SyracuseCoE has helped finance more than 49 projects by 30 companies, totaling over $527,000.

Proposals for the 2021 round of funding are due Thursday, March 11th. Become a member today! To learn more or apply, visit the webpage or contact Tammy Rosanio at

Semi-Open Partitions: A Defense Strategy for Airborne Disease

Reported by Kerrie Marshall, Arik Palileo and Eric A. Schiff

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This brief was updated on February 19, 2021.

Key Findings

  • Semi-open partitions can reduce airborne disease transmission when combined with a proper ventilation flow pattern in the room.
  • With ordinary “mixing ventilation”, well-designed, semi-open partitioned space can reduce the infection risk by 2 to 3 times.
  • With advanced ”displacement ventilation”, semi-open partitioned space reduce the risk by at least 4 times, and more with optimized designs.

The novel Coronavirus (SARS CoV-2), which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19, is readily transmitted from infected people who have no signs of infection. Airborne virus-containing particles exhaled from individuals speaking, breathing, or coughing are considered a significant source of spread for COVID-19. There are several well-known measures that reduce risk: masks for all individuals, increased ventilation through the central system or windows, and portable air purifiers.

This brief summarizes two more measures that work by modifying how air flows within a room. These have been studied by Meng Kong and Jianshun “Jensen” Zhang, who are Syracuse University faculty affiliated with SyracuseCoE. They distinguish between common “mixing” ventilation systems and less common “displacement” ventilation systems. The latter are superior at reducing transmission of disease from an infected person to other occupants of a room. Semi-open partitions can be installed in existing offices and classrooms that also reduce disease transmission when combined with a proper ventilation flow pattern in the room. An important virtue of the partitions is that they are a passive disease control measure, and don’t increase the operating cost of a building.

Mixing Ventilation

Most indoor spaces are fitted with mixing ventilation. This system uses vents, typically located near ceiling level, to pump clean, conditioned air into the room at high velocity. The clean air mixes with existing air in the room near the ceiling, called the mixing zone, before reaching an individual’s area. The airflow is illustrated in panel (a) of the figure. When an infected person is exhaling virus particles, they are spread fairly uniformly through the room, as illustrated in panel (b).

Partitions can reduce the lateral spread of virus between sections. They can be made inexpensively from clear plastic panels. Virus particles tend to rise until reaching a mixing zone above the partitions, as seen in panel (c). Kong & Zhang calculate that these partitions can reduce the risk of infection by 2 to 3 times below the baseline risk. The precise risk reduction factor depends on the location of the air supply and the exhaust in relation to an individual’s workspace.

Displacement Ventilation

The second, less common ventilation system is displacement ventilation. In displacement ventilation, vents in the floor slowly bring cool, conditioned clean air into the room that blankets the room floor. This is illustrated in panel (d). As the air is heated by a person’s body, it becomes a thermal plume that rises towards the ceiling along with exhaled virus. The effect is illustrated in panel (e). A return vent in the ceiling then removes air from the room before it mixes with air at lower levels.

Displacement ventilation on its own can substantially reduce the spread of exhaled virus in workspaces adjoining that of an infected person, as is illustrated in Panel (e). Describing ongoing research, Jensen Zhang says the reduction may be as large as tenfold for optimized displacement ventilation designs. In conjunction with semi-open partitions, the risk reduction may reach 20  times, as illustrated in panel (f).


Jensen Zhang (2020). “Integrating IAQ control strategies to reduce the risk of asymptomatic SARS CoV-2 infections in classrooms and open-plan offices”, Science and Technology for the Built Environment, 26:8, 1013-1018, DOI: 10.1080/23744731.2020.1794499

Meng Kong (2017). “Semi-Open Space and Micro-Environmental Control for Improving Thermal Comfort, Indoor Air Quality, and Building Energy Efficiency”, Dissertations – ALL. 810.

Call for Abstracts for IBPC 2021

The Technical University of Denmark (DTU) has announced a call for abstracts for IBPC 2021, the 8th International Building Physics Conference. The International Building Physics Conference (IBPC) takes place every 3 years and is the conference of the International Association of Building Physics (IABP). The event will be held on the DTU campus in Copenhagen, Denmark from August 25- 27, 2021. IBPC 2021 is organized by DTU in cooperation with Aalborg University, Aarhus University, University of Southern Denmark and Lund University

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The previous conference, IBPC2018 was held in Syracuse, NY and jointly organized by Syracuse University’s Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems, College of Engineering and Computer Science and School of Architecture.

Researchers within building physics are invited to submit abstracts for IBPC 2021 by November 30, 2020, within the following three thematic groups:

  • Physics – heat, air moisture, light/daylight, building acoustics
  • Objects – materials, building envelope, whole buildings, indoor/outdoor environment
  • Sustainability – energy efficiency, durability, circular construction, climate

To learn more about the conference venue, submissions, registration and organizing committee, visit

Read Building physics today and future challenges: learning from IBPC2018

Channel 9 Visits SyracuseCoE to explore COVID-19 Research

Channel 9 stopped by to see how SyracuseCoE is helping Partner companies create and innovate technologies that address the COVID-19 pandemic. One such partner is Acumen Detection, who has shifted from building technology to test pathogens in cows to creating a molecular assay diagnostic test for real-time PCR for COVID-19.

View the news segment below and access the full Channel 9 news story here.

SyracuseCoE IAQ Expert Featured in the Wall Street Journal

SyracuseCoE Faculty Fellow and air quality expert Jianshun “Jensen” Zhang was invited to discuss ways to improve your home’s air quality for the Wall Street Journal, including air filters, purifiers, fans, and, most importantly, fresh air from outside. In light of COVID-19 and wildfires burning across the west coast, keeping your home well ventilated and air clean is a critical factor in keeping yourself and your family safe.

Professor Zhang was also joined by leading IAQ experts Joseph Allen, Healthy Buildings Program director at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Max Sherman, residential team leader of the Epidemic Task Force at the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, and Jeffrey Siegel, civil engineering professor at the University of Toronto.

Click here to access the Wall Street Journal article.

WAER visits SyracuseCoE to see how air handling systems can help prevent COVID-19 spread.

WAER’s John Smith interviewed SyracuseCoE Faculty Fellow Jianshun “Jensen” Zhang and SyracuseCoE Researcher Meng Kong and took a tour of the TIEQ lab to learn more about how ventilation can affect COVID-19 spread.

“This system we can set-up the conditions so that everyone gets their own filtered, clean air… which can prevent cross-contamination in the case of Coronavirus infection, we can really control that,” Zhang says.

To listen or read the full article, click here.

SyracuseCoE Interim Executive Director featured in article on efficiency of masks and air purifiers

SyracuseCoE Interim Executive Director Eric Schiff was interviewed by the publication for his recent paper on potential transmission rates in the classroom. With poor ventilation and no masks, one super-spreader, someone who is 100% more infectious than a typical carrier, has the potential to transmit COVID-19 to 80% of students in a 20 person classroom. With proper mask wearing and sufficient ventilation, that rate can drop to 5%.

To read the full article, click here. To access Schiff’s paper, click here.

Two Faculty Fellows Appointed to NYS Climate Action Council Advisory Panels

Two SyracuseCoE Faculty Fellows, Robert Malmsheimer and Tristan Brown, have been appointed to New York State Climate Action Council Advisory Panels. The panels are tasked with determining possible emission reductions to help meet statewide emissions limits as well as outlining policy proposals or action plans in order to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Malmsheimer, Professor of Forest Policy and Law at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), will serve on the Agriculture and Forest Advisory Panel. Brown, Associate Professor of Energy Resource Economics as SUNY-ESF, was appointed to the Energy-Intensive and Trade-Exposed Industries Advisory Panel. As Faculty Fellows, Malmsheimer and Brown worked jointly to demonstrate the feasibility of the stacked energy concept of pathway combinations on the same land in southeastern New York and assess the feasibility of three individual and two combined pathways in preparation for integrated economic-environmental assessments to be conducted in the future.

To read the full story, click here. To learn more about the New York State Climate Action Council Advisory Panels, click here.

Podcast: Air Purifiers & Airflows: Minimizing COVID-19 Risk in Classrooms


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How do we minimize COVID-19 infection risk when we return to school?

Students are heading back to classrooms. Undetected, there may be one who’s infected by COVID-19. Beyond masking, what are the options for teachers and administrators to minimize the spread of disease through the air? Join us as we talk with Central New York experts about how air can be replaced or purified to help protect classmates and teachers. When do portable air purifiers make a difference if a superspreader is in the room? How do I choose purifiers that will be effective and economical? Where should I place them? How can I understand how air moves in my room? What are the possibilities for rearranging the flow to minimize the risk of disease transmission?

Read the editorial by Jianshun “Jensen” Zhang, Integrating IAQ control strategies to reduce the risk of asymptomatic SARS CoV-2 infections in classrooms and open plan offices

Read the research brief by Eric A. Schiff, Ventilation & Masks: Reducing Airborne Transmission of COVID-19 in a Classroom


Vinny Lobdell, President, Healthway Family of Brands Vinny Lobdell attended Oswego State for 4 years focusing on Marketing and Economics. Later, he continued on to receive an entrepreneurial masters in partnership with the Entrepreneurs Association at MIT. Lobdell took the leadership role at HealthWay in 2008 and soon thereafter, HealthWay was named to the Inc 500 list of fastest growing companies in America. In 2017, Lobdell co-founded Intellipure, a fast-growing B-to-C brand with a heavy emphasis on creating the best customer experience through handcrafted, individually certified air cleaning systems. Today, HealthWay Family of Brands is recognized as the global leading manufacturer of air cleaning solutions for almost any application.  Over the past 12 years, Lobdell has traveled to 50 countries educating and speaking to industry leaders, governments, and medical professionals on air pollution and the harmful effects that come along with occupying our built environments. In the last 6 months, HealthWay Family of Brands has been called on by NYC Health and Hospital, Atlantic Health Systems, The U.A.E. Ministry of health and hundreds of corporate clients to assist in getting people back to work. Several of these clients represent some of the largest and most sophisticated companies in the world. Healthway remains committed to the Central New York Community and has hired an additional 50 people and added 20,000 square feet of additional manufacturing space in Pulaski NY. 

Photo of Jianshun Zhang

Jianshun “Jensen” Zhang, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Syracuse University and Visiting Professor, School of Architecture and Urban Planning at Nanjing University, China, SyracuseCoE Faculty Fellow Jensen Zhang is Professor and Director of Building Energy and Environmental Systems Laboratory, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Syracuse University (SU), New York, USA, and a Visiting Professor and Chief Researcher of the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at Nanjing University, China. He received his Ph.D. from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and worked at National Research Council of Canada for 8 years before he joined SU. Zhang is a co-leader of the SU-wide research cluster in Energy and Environment that promotes and coordinates multi-disciplinary research on the campus. He is an expert in room air and contaminant distribution, material emissions, air purification, building enclosure performance, and combined heat, air, moisture and pollutant simulations (CHAMPS) for integrative design and intelligent controls of buildings. He has authored/co-authored over 200 technical papers and 3 American national standards. He is Associate Editor of Journal of Science and Technology for the Built Environment (STBE, formerly ASHRAE HVAC&R Research Journal) and The International Journal of Ventilation, and serves as a Member of the Editorial Boards of Building Simulations—an international Journal, International Journal of High-Rise Buildings, and the International Journal of Architectural Frontier Research. He is Fellow of ISIAQ and ASHRAE, and current Chairman of the International Association of Building Physics.  


Eric A. Schiff, Ph.D., Interim Executive Director, SyracuseCoE and Professor of Physics, Syracuse University Eric Schiff has a long history of leading complex research projects that bring together academics, industry scientists and other partners to discover solutions to society’s energy-related problems. He has been a professor of physics at Syracuse University since 1981, leading interdisciplinary research groups and collaborating with laboratories from other universities and private organizations throughout the world. He has been a principal investigator for externally funded research projects from government agencies (Department of Energy, National Science Foundation and the Empire State Development Corp.) and corporations (United Solar Ovonic LLC, Boeing Inc., First Solar Inc., and SRC Inc.). During his time at Syracuse, he has spent half-year sabbaticals at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and at Innovalight, Inc., a startup company. From 2014-1017, he served concurrently as a program director at ARPA-E, an agency of the Department of Energy. There he initiated the SHIELD research program of a dozen research projects seeking inexpensive efficiency retrofits for legacy single-pane windows. He also supervised a portfolio of additional projects on solar energy conversion and other energy technologies. Schiff’s own research accomplishments include development of low-mobility solar cell device physics for thin-film solar cells such as perovskites, amorphous silicon, and cadmium telluride. His fundamental physics contributions include work on electronic transport and defects in semiconductors as well as on plasmonics. He is co-author of more than 100 refereed research publications with more than 4,000 citations and he is co-inventor on three U.S. patents. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. 

Ventilation & Masks: Reducing Airborne Transmission of COVID-19 in a Classroom

We’ve calculated the number of COVID-19 infections that will be spread from a single COVID-19 “superspreader” to students and teachers in a classroom shared for 4 hours. Without masking and with a low ventilation rate, nearly all susceptible students and teachers will be infected. Neither masking nor ventilation alone is sufficient to reduce the infection rate below 10%. Careful use of surgical masks along with good ventilation reduced the estimated infection rate to 2%.

Understanding Organic Pollutants in Waterways

Teng Zeng, Ph.D., Assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science, Syracuse University.

“It’s important to be able to test ideas before applying to a federal agency for a full-blown project. My research projects are all outcomes of early SyracuseCoE support.”

Project: Zeng studies organic pollutants in water systems, both natural—such as lakes and streams—and engineered—such as waste and drinking water facilities. His goal is to understand how organic pollutants enter aquatic systems and the implications for their presence.

Nuts and Bolts: In a project with Sharon Moran, associate professor of environmental studies at SUNY-ESF, Zeng is collaborating with the Upstate Freshwater Institute and New York State Federation of Lake Associations, making use of a citizen science approach to look at patterns of organic pollutants in more than 100 New York lakes. Zeng analyzes water samples collected by volunteers—typically lakefront residents—and communicates findings back to them. Zeng says pollutants enter the water via septic systems or agricultural activities, as well as atmospheric deposition. “The pollutants aren’t necessarily bad for the health of the lake, but information is helpful as a tool to understand watershed management, particularly for lake residents,” he says. “Some lakes are relatively clean while others are heavily impacted by urban or residential activities.” The project was initially funded by SyracuseCoE and later by the National Science Foundation.

That’s Not All: In a project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Zeng is collaborating with SyracuseCoE Faculty Fellow Christa Kelleher, assistant professor of Earth science, and environmental sociologist Rebecca Schewe, associate professor at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, to study the impact of manure and bio-solids on New York waterways. The goal is to understand the impact of bio-solids—treated human waste— used by farmers as fertilizer, which may transmit organic pollutants, including pharmaceutical residue, into waterways. “We want to find out what contaminants are present and, using hydrological modeling, how these contaminants are transported to streams,” Zeng explains.

SyracuseCoE Impact: Zeng says Faculty Fellow grants from SyracuseCoE have been essential to launching his Syracuse University research. “They are the only source of seed grants in my area of research,” he says. “It’s important to be able to test ideas before applying to a federal agency for a full-blown project. My research projects are all outcomes of early SyracuseCoE support.”

Led by Syracuse University, SyracuseCoE engages students, faculty, and collaborators at 200+ firms and institutions to catalyze innovations that improve energy efficiency, environmental quality, and resilience in healthy buildings and cleaner, greener communities.

SyracuseCoE Invites Innovation Fund Proposals that Address the COVID-19 Pandemic

Proposals for up to $10,000 are invited from current SyracuseCoE Partner companies for round 2 of the 2020 Innovation Fund. The Innovation Fund is funded by SyracuseCoE’s Partner Program to help Partners overcome barriers in the process of commercializing potentially transformative innovations.   

The COVID-19 public health emergency has had an unprecedented impact on our nation’s economic health and well-being. Companies throughout New York State are contributing to solutions addressing these challenges, from developing new applications for existing products to complete transformation of manufacturing operations to produce items most needed by frontline workers. To support these efforts, proposals are restricted for this round to innovations that specifically target the COVID-19 public health crisis and are consonant with the Center’s focal areas: indoor environmental quality, renewable energy and energy efficiency, and water resources.

Applications of up to $10,000 are invited from current and new 2020-21 SyracuseCoE Partner Program firms. Companies at all Partner levels — Industry, Affiliate and Start-Up — are invited to apply. Projects must address a COVID-19 challenge with SyracuseCoE’s core focus areas of indoor environmental quality, clean and renewable energy and water resources. We welcome research engagements with faculty and students, support for product development and testing, market analysis, proposal match requirement, and more.

Acumen Detection is an agtech, Start-Up member of the Partner Program who has already put a SyracuseCoE Innovation Fund award to work addressing the pandemic. Acumen, a recipient of a 2020 round 1 award, was previously commercializing its innovative technology for detecting the pathogens causing disease in dairy cows. “The Innovation Fund award we received earlier this year gave us an important opportunity to respond to the need for diagnostic testing reagents,” said CEO of Acumen Detection, Chuck Stormon. “We are adapting our testing technology and helping to find critical solutions for the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Acumen is developing a fast, point-of-use test that would dramatically assist efforts to mitigate the virus as we return to work and school. The company will manufacture and distribute test kits, once FDA Emergency Use Authorization is received. In addition, SyracuseCoE is working closely with the company’s CEO to help identify potential collaborators that can help expedite their path to market on this critical effort.

“The Central New York region has a remarkable record of research, innovation, and commercialization in environmental and energy systems,” said Eric Schiff, interim executive director of SyracuseCoE.  “The Innovation Fund awards have been used by many SyracuseCoE Partner companies to help further the commercialization of new products and services. Winning an award gives companies the potential to play a critical role in helping communities reopen and function safely as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Applications, due by Thursday, September 24, 2020 at 5:00p ET, will be invited to give a brief pitch, via Zoom, with a panel of reviewers in early October, 2020. Visit the SyracuseCoE Innovation Fund webpage to learn more, or, if interested in joining the Partner Program, contact Tamara Rosanio at

Podcast: Experts Agree on Aerosol Transmission of COVID-19: How Can Schools Manage Indoor Air to Stop the Spread?


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Panelist Dr. Jensen Zhang is an associate editor of the professional ASHRAE journal, Science and Technology for the Built Environment. Read his recently published editorial, Integrating IAQ control strategies to reduce the risk of asymptomatic SARS CoV-2 infections in classrooms and open plan offices.

A new school year is beginning soon. Understanding the ventilation and air quality of indoor spaces is critically important. From improved ventilation modifications, to HVAC and air filtration, to physical modification of spaces, this podcast discusses the current knowledge of how to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in indoor environments.

With strong recommendations from 239 scientists from 32 countries, including faculty from Syracuse University, the World Health Organization is now acknowledging the evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through aerosol droplets. Viral particles become airborne when people sneeze, cough, sing, talk or breath.

As students return to campuses and classrooms, how can faculty, teachers and building managers optimize ventilation and filtration strategies to help keep students and faculty healthy?


Cliff I. Davidson, Thomas C. and Colleen L. Wilmot Professor of Engineering, Environmental Engineering Program Director of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Syracuse University

Cliff Davidson is the Thomas and Colleen Wilmot Professor of Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY. He also serves as Director of Environmental Engineering Programs, and Director of the Center for Sustainable Engineering. He received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Environmental Engineering Science from California Institute of Technology. Following his PhD, he joined the Carnegie Mellon faculty where he stayed for 33 years in the Department of Civil Engineering (currently Civil and Environmental Engineering) and the Department of Engineering and Public Policy. He moved to Syracuse University in 2010.

Davidson’s research background is in the area of air quality, especially aerosol interaction with surfaces, including surfaces of fibers in a face mask or filter. He has also worked on environmental sustainability in other areas, such as the design of sustainable cities, the effectiveness of green roofs in reducing urban stormwater runoff, educational innovations for teaching sustainable engineering, and identifying the preferences of individuals and organizations for strategies to adapt to climate change. He has published over 130 papers in refereed journals and another 100 papers in peer-reviewed conference proceedings and book chapters. He has served on the editorial boards of four scientific journals, and is a Fellow in three national organizations, including the American Association for Aerosol Research, where he also served as President. He has recently been chosen as the 2021-2022 Distinguished Lecturer by the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors.

Jianshun “Jensen” Zhang, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Syracuse University and Visiting Professor, School of Architecture and Urban Planning at Nanjing University, China

Jianshun “Jensen” Zhang is Professor and Director of Building Energy and Environmental Systems Laboratory, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Syracuse University (SU), New York, USA, and a Visiting Professor and Chief Researcher of the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at Nanjing University, China. He received his Ph.D. from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and worked at National Research Council of Canada for 8 years before he joined SU.

Dr. Zhang is a co-leader of the SU-wide research cluster in Energy and Environment that promotes and coordinates multi-disciplinary research on the campus. He is an expert in room air and contaminant distribution, material emissions, air purification, building enclosure performance, and combined heat, air, moisture and pollutant simulations (CHAMPS) for integrative design and intelligent controls of buildings. He has authored/co-authored over 200 technical papers and 3 American national standards. He is Associate Editor of Journal of Science and Technology for the Built Environment (STBE, formerly ASHRAE HVAC&R Research Journal) and The International Journal of Ventilation, and serves as a Member of the Editorial Boards of Building Simulations—an international Journal, International Journal of High-Rise Buildings, and the International Journal of Architectural Frontier Research. He is Fellow of ISIAQ and ASHRAE, and current Chairman of the International Association of Building Physics. 

Mike Wetzel, PE, President & CEO, Air Innovations

Michael Wetzel is President and CEO of Air Innovations, a SyracuseCoE Partner firm that specializes in the design and manufacture of environmental control systems. Wetzel is a graduate of Clarkson University where he received a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering. He is a licensed Professional Engineer and is the holder of seven US patents.

Prior to Air Innovations, Wetzel was based in Strasbourg, France for four years working for a multinational company building cleanrooms in Europe and the Mideast. Previously he worked stateside as an engineering manager in the HVAC construction industry.

Occupancy Sensors to Regulate Energy Use

Senem Velipasalar, Ph.D., Associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, College of Engineering and Computer Science, Syracuse University.

“This kind of technology could have many other energy-saving applications.”

Project: Developing a low-cost, high-accuracy sensor platform that detects human presence inside buildings to reduce energy use in residential settings by as much as 30 percent.

Backstory: About 13 percent of all energy produced in the United States is used to heat, cool and ventilate buildings. Much of this energy is wasted by heating, cooling and over-ventilating unoccupied or partially occupied spaces. Existing building automation systems rely mostly on motion detectors and are limited in their reliability and ultimate ability to substantially reduce HVAC energy use.

Nuts and Bolts: Through a $1.2 million ARPA-E grant, Velipasalar is leading a team that partners faculty from SU’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science with SRI International, a leading nonprofit research center with expertise in embedded vision and machine learning. Their goal is developing a sensor platform using an infrared sensor, a visible-range camera, microphone and low-power processor to detect human presence— including in low light conditions and when people are static—and to develop algorithms to analyze and combine data from these sensors to enable occupancy sensing that would be impossible by each sensor alone. “We are making use of off-the-shelf components to develop a battery-operated, stand-alone platform that can perform occupancy detection in an efficient and reliable way on site,” she says.

SyracuseCoE Impact: Velipasalar, who has a strong record
of securing NSF support, credits former SyracuseCoE executive director Ed Bogucz with informing and motivating the team about this funding opportunity, as well as guiding them through the ARPA-E proposal preparation. “The ARPA-E proposal and budget preparation is different from NSF,” she says. “SyracuseCoE was very helpful every step of the way, especially in helping us develop and manage the budget.”

Practical Application: While the ARPA-E project is designed specifically to reduce HVAC energy consumption, Velipasalar says, “This kind of technology could have many other energy-saving applications,” including lighting and sound systems.

Intellectual Collision: Velipasalar’s research is at the intersection of embedded smart cameras, computer vision and machine learning. Her focus on questions related to energy is a more recent development, an outgrowth of her connection with SyracuseCoE. In addition to the ARPA-E project, an ongoing project with Tarek Rakha, former SU assistant professor of architecture and SyracuseCoE Faculty Fellow, investigates heat loss in buildings using thermal cameras on drones. Velipasalar and her Ph.D. student have developed an algorithm that autonomously detects heat leakages from thermal images of building structures. 

Led by Syracuse University, SyracuseCoE engages students, faculty, and collaborators at 200+ firms and institutions to catalyze innovations that improve energy efficiency, environmental quality, and resilience in healthy buildings and cleaner, greener communities.

Start-up tkFabricate joins the Clean Tech Center

The Clean Tech Center at The Tech Garden is a NYSERDA-funded initiative focused on developing clean energy technology companies in Central New York. Clean tech is an emerging sector of products, services and processes that harness renewable energy sources, reduce the carbon footprint and advance sustainability. The Center offers support for entrepreneurs and early-stage companies through incubation, acceleration and retention. Company’s needs are evaluated and customized assistance is provided with funding, technical support, and commercialization. 

One new venture, tkFabricate (tkF), that has joined both the Clean Tech Center and SyracuseCoE Partner Program is aiming to help New York State achieve its goal of a carbon-neutral economy. tkF is partnering with a Dutch initiative, EnergieSprong to develop and implement feasible, affordable and market-driven deep energy retrofits for multifamily residencies. By taking precedent from existing advanced manufacturing processes used in Europe, tkF’s innovative approach promises to minimize tenant disruption by implementing 3D scanning and modeling tools that facilitate design and installation. The construction industry will have increased productivity, resulting in a reduction of installation costs of mechanical systems and building facades via vertical supply chain integration design for manufacturing and assembly.

Acumen Detection: From Cows to COVID-19

Acumen Detection, Inc., is an agtech start-up member of SyracuseCoE that is commercializing its innovative technology for detecting the pathogens causing disease in dairy cows. Operating its R&D and manufacturing out of SyracuseCoE, Acumen’s main technology is based on a DNA early-detection system developed over the years as an SRC, Inc., subsidiary. Originally envisioned during Operation Desert Storm to save the lives of troops that were subjected to chemical or biological attacks, Acumen adapted this technology to revolutionize the dairy industry by helping farmers protect the health of their herds from the spread of mastitis through early detection. 

Now, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Acumen is adapting its testing technology again to address the critical need for diagnostic reagents. Identifying asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus from droplets that settle on surfaces has the potential to significantly improve our indoor air quality and public health. Acumen is working to develop a fast, point-of-use test that would dramatically assist efforts to mitigate the virus as we return to work and school.

To support the company’s activities in these efforts, SyracuseCoE and Syracuse University are providing additional lab space for their immediate use to continue their timely development. A recent SyracuseCoE Innovation Fund grant will help Acumen manufacture and distribute test kits, once FDA Emergency Use Authorization is received. In addition, SyracuseCoE is working closely with the company’s CEO to help identify additional potential laboratory collaborators that can help speed their path to market on this critical effort.