Strategic Plan

Syracuse University Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems Strategic Plan

(Updated January 2024)


SyracuseCoE is one of the 14 New York State Centers of Excellence, part of the Empire State Development NYSTAR network driving change and empowering innovation in New York. Led by Syracuse University and in collaboration with academic and industrial partners, SyracuseCoE’s mission is to connect cutting-edge academic talent with industry to create commercializable innovations and to tackle the most challenging problems across multi-scales of the built environment and urban ecosystems. SyracuseCoE’s vision is to become the most engaging and impactful center for innovation in environmental control and energy technologies, regionally and internationally.

SyracuseCoE accomplishes its mission through active engagement of faculty, staff, students and industrial partners in the use-inspired research, development, testing and demonstration of innovative technologies for healthy and efficient buildings, clean energy, and resilient low-carbon communities and cities. It actively involves over 40 faculty members from ECS, SoA, Maxwell, and Arts and Science at Syracuse University, over 20 faculty members from SUNY ESF, SUNY UMU and SUNY Oswego, and more than 60 industrial and community partners. They engage through several SyracuseCoE programs and activities including the Partner Program, Faculty Fellows Program, Innovation Fund Program, externally sponsored research projects, Summer Internship Program, Associated Research Labs Program, and Research & Technology Forums. SyracuseCoE serves both industries and academic researchers by connecting the two, supporting them with state-of-the-art testing and modeling facilities and expertise, providing seed funding, and supporting proposals to seek externally funded projects.

SyracuseCoE’s scope includes clean air, water and energy systems with a focus on finding innovative solutions to global challenges that impact the built environment, communities, and cities. In the following strategic plan, we identify the specific areas in which SyracuseCoE plans to focus and achieve distinctive excellence over the next five years, indicate alignments with the strategic plans of collaborating colleges at Syracuse University, and highlight the goals and approaches to achieving them.

Figure 1: Goals, scope & focus and approach of SyracuseCoE

Distinctive Excellence in Environmental Quality and Energy Systems

Over the next five years, we commit to achieving true distinction across the following interconnected areas:

Research, Development, and Demonstration (RD&D) Excellence

Clean/Healthy Air for Buildings and Communities: The objectives are: 1) to assess the pollution exposure both indoors and out, the associated health risk to building occupants and urban communities, and the impacts of climate change and major urban and industrial development. Near-term priorities include the I-81 reconstruction and Micron manufacturing facilities; 2) to investigate the effects of multidomain factors (air quality, thermal, acoustic, lighting and visual environments) on the health, performance and well-being of building occupants and residences, and 3) to develop mitigation strategies, enabling technologies and intelligent systems for environmental control. SyracuseCoE-affiliated researchers and academic and industrial partners have a successful track record and are nationally and internationally known for their research and technology development in indoor air quality, ventilation, air cleaning/purification, occupant behavior, indoor and urban environmental monitoring and modelling, and intelligent controls of built environmental systems. We will develop an integrated multiscale urban, community and indoor air quality monitoring network and testbed to facilitate the testing and demonstration of environmental control technologies and mitigation strategies, and to provide invaluable data to support multidisciplinary research in the fundamental understanding of the pollutant sources and sinks, transport, transformation across multiple scales (from persons to rooms, to buildings, and to neighborhoods and cities), and their impacts on human health, performance and well-being. Development of enabling technologies will be focused on real-time air quality sensors, novel nano materials (such as MOFs – Metal Organic Frameworks) for air purification and pollutant sensing, and AI/ML-based predictive and adaptive algorithms for smart controls in collaboration with faculty members from all four Departments of ECS, Department of Chemistry/College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geology and Environment/Maxwell School of Public Administration, School of Architecture, and the Center for Advanced Systems Engineering (CASE). Strategic collaborations will also be developed with SUNY ESF and Upstate Medical University in urban air quality monitoring and modeling, and in pollutant exposure and associated health risk assessments.

Clean/Low-Carbon Energy for Buildings and Communities: The objectives are: 1) to develop biobased and low-carbon materials and innovative building enclosure system design and retrofitting solutions to reduce the thermal loads of buildings to save energy and enhance resilience, 2) to evaluate and develop critical technologies for the transition of fossil-fuels to renewable energy transition and building electrification including advanced heat pumps for cold and very cold climate and materials for advanced thermal and electricity storages (e.g., phase change materials and solid state batteries); and 3) to develop intelligent systems for building and community energy system management and controls including energy supply and demand management, grid-interactive energy efficient building services for peak load reduction and shifting, and AI/ML algorithms for model predictive controls based on predicted occupant activity patterns and weather forecasting. SyracuseCoE affiliated researchers have established excellent research capabilities in integrated solutions to building envelope and HVAC retrofitting, biofriendly and low embedded carbon materials for building enclosures, advanced energy storage and conversion systems (solid state batteries and fuel-cells), heat pumps, occupant behavior modeling and impact on energy utilization, smart controls, and grid-interactive building services. SyracuseCoE will develop a multiscale energy technology and system control testbed to further support multidisciplinary research, technology product development, testing and demonstrations. The testbed will be established at the SyracuseCoE headquarters building, including several component technology labs for building material characterization, testing of advanced heat pumps, and testing of the next generation cooling distribution equipment (CDEs) for data centers, whole building testbed and site energy testbed for testing and demonstrating innovative energy systems and advanced control equipment and algorithms.

Clean/Safe Water for Buildings and Communities: The objectives are: 1) to develop sensor networks for monitoring flood water flows and evaluate the effectiveness of green infrastructures such as green roofs and permeable pavements for improving stormwater management and urban microclimate, 2) to improve the understanding of the sources, transport, transformation, fate and remediation of nutrients and trace level organic and inorganic contaminants, and 3) to develop water filtration technologies for improving water quality. SyracuseCoE-affiliated researchers have established track records and are nationally and internationally known for their research and development in lake water pollution remediation, imaging sensor network for water flow monitoring, green roofs and other infrastructure for storm water management, water quality monitoring, water filtration and distribution system management and optimization. SyracuseCoE plans to focus more on issues that are most relevant to the buildings and communities, and urban microenvironmental controls in collaboration with the ECS Center for Environmental Systems Engineering. SyracuseCoE will support the development of a sensor network for water quality and storm water monitoring at SyracuseCoE HQ building and City of Syracuse in collaboration with the Syracuse Smart City project. Emerging issues will be identified through engagement with local community partners and in collaboration with the Center for Sustainable Community Solutions & Environmental Finance Center. Strategic collaborations will be established with the NYS Center of Excellence in Healthy Water Solutions (HWS) co-led by Clarkson University and SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry.

Education, Workforce Training and Outreach Excellence

Interdisciplinary MS Program in Science, Technology and Design for the Built Environment (IMS-STBE): We propose to develop and host the IMS-STBE in collaboration with ECS and SoA. The program will train students to become professionals and researchers having the ability to work in the interdisciplinary areas of science, technology, and design for the built environment including buildings and communities (neighborhoods and cities). The program will emphasize the study of the intersections of four areas:

  • Built environment science and technology.
  • Material ecology and performative envelope system design.
  • Manufactured building design and construction management.
  • Smart and connected communities.

SyracuseCoE HQ will be an ideal place for hosting such an interdisciplinary MS program given that the core faculty members for the program are residing at the building and the ready access to the multiscale testbeds and labs in the building.

Building Assessment Center (BAC): In collaboration with the DoE-Industrial Assessment Center, SyracuseCoE will establish a Syracuse University Building Assessment Center to provide educational and professional training experiences for students in assessing the environmental quality and energy efficiency of various types of non-industrial buildings and making recommendations for significant improvements. Demand for such professionals is high and unmet. SU’s BAC will also offer professional training courses that are available nationwide and internationally based on the emerging needs. One example is the “Airtightness Testing for Large Commercial Buildings: Method and Practice” that is to be offered in collaboration with the Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA). SyracuseCoE will also actively seek external funding to support SU’s BAC, including the DOE’s IAC Program and the DoE’s Building America Program, managed by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL).

Community, National and International Engagements: SyracuseCoE will strengthen its collaborations with local community organizations to propose, organize and participate in projects for developing, demonstrating, and deploying cost-effective strategies and technologies for improving the environmental quality and energy efficiency of buildings, especially in the low- and medium-income communities that are disproportionally more challenged by environmental, health and energy issues. We will also enhance our presence and representation in national and international professional societies such as ASHRAE, AIA, ISIAQ, IAQVEC, AIVC and others, and participate in International Energy Agency (IEA) Annex projects.

Goals: Five Year Vision

Implementing the above strategic plan will position SyracuseCoE as a nationally and internationally recognized innovation center in environmental and energy systems with significant impacts on technology development, testing, demonstration and adoption, job creation and economic development. Specifically, SyracuseCoE will:

  • Expand and enhance its Partner Program to support more industrial sponsored projects for technology product development, testing, verification, demonstration, and deployment.
  • Expand and enhance the engagement with affiliated faculty members to support industrial projects and advance use-inspired academic research to help increase the research output and innovations and their impact on job creation and the economy.
  • Expand and enhance engagement with community partners to address challenging environmental and energy issues, especially those facing low- and medium-income communities.
  • Establish the one-of-a-kind multi-scale system and component testbeds and the multi-disciplinary modeling, simulation, design and visualization platforms for RD&D, education and workforce training, and services to industry.
  • Enhance participation as a leader in national and international collaborative projects such as IEA Annexes, and development of standards relating to the built environment and energy efficiency.
  • Become a leader in professional workforce training and education in the interdisciplinary field of building science, technology, and design.
  • Foster and enhance collaborations among faculty members, and help securing external sponsorship from industries and government agencies including successfully competing for a major research center award such as NSF ERC (Engineering Research Center).

Alignment with the Strategic Plans of Syracuse University, ECS, SoA, Maxwell School of Public Administration, and College of Arts and Sciences

The above SyracuseCoE Strategic Plan including its RD&D focuses and education programs align well with the ECS Strategic Plan’s area of distinctive excellence in “Resilient systems and infrastructure for natural and built environments” and “Engineering for the wellbeing of humans and humanity”. They also align well with School of Architecture’s strategic plan in expanding its research and development in architectural design and building technology research and education. It also supports Maxwell Strategic Plan’s area of distinctive excellence in “Health, Environment, and a Sustainable Future” which addresses critical issues related to the climate change impacts, energy policies, and health disparities. SyracuseCoE Strategic Plan is also consistent with the College of Arts and Sciences’ Strategic Plan’s Objective 5.5: “Strengthen interdisciplinary foci of research and support new collaborations in scholarship”. Specifically, SyracuseCoE will continue to engage Department of Chemistry in developing nano material based environmental sensing, air and water purification and energy storage and conversion technologies.