Building Smarts

Assistant professor of architectural engineering focuses research efforts on smart building energy systems

11/21/17

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Today, energy efficiency, renewable energy practices and sustainability are at the heart of the building industry. Designing buildings for tomorrow pushes architects and engineers to innovate through the use of green materials and smart building systems that reduce energy consumption and waste.

Gregory Pavlak, assistant professor of architectural engineering, is working to make energy systems smarter to allow for more renewable energy use.

“As more distributed renewable generation is connected to the electric grid, new challenges surrounding intermittency and variability are introduced,” Pavlak said. “Smart building energy systems can play an important role in addressing these new challenges by dynamically adjusting consumption patterns to better align with the production of renewable energy.” 

Pavlak’s research looks at coordinating portfolios of building systems in order to use less energy, reduced utility costs, and provide beneficial services to the grid. Models and simulations of building system controls are used to determine dynamic operating strategies that consider things such as energy use, cost, peak demand times, and ancillary service opportunities.

He has used this approach to showcase opportunities to increase the efficiency and resiliency of the electric grid.

“Coordinating system operations from a portfolio perspective has shown the potential to save energy when compared to optimizing building operations on an individual basis. This raises important questions regarding the development of effective mechanisms for communicating and incentivizing advanced coordination strategies,” Pavlak said. 

Additionally, enabling increased demand flexibility by pushing more intelligence toward the edge of the grid allows buildings to be more responsive to local conditions. For example, smart building systems can help keep microgrids operating if failures were to occur in the larger electric grid. Equipping smaller pieces of the electric grid with the capability of operating independently can increase the resilience of the electric system by proactively preventing problems and mitigating the impact of unavoidable outages. 

To aid building operators, Pavlak has also worked on a prototype energy signal tool that can assess specific system and entire building energy usage. The signal tool would provide operators with energy metrics from a building, allowing for the tracking of standard and unusual energy use. The tool resembles a traffic light, but displays light colors by comparing expected energy use to actual use.

“As building automation and controls advance, more operational data is being produced. Developing analysis tools that transform data into important decision-making information is critical to being able to close the loop and implement more sustainable actions,” Pavlak said.

 

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Samantha Chavanic

smh5218@engr.psu.edu

“Coordinating system operations from a portfolio perspective has shown the potential to save energy when compared to optimizing building operations on an individual basis. This raises important questions regarding the development of effective mechanisms for communicating and incentivizing advanced coordination strategies."

 
 

About

Widely acknowledged as one of the top Architectural Engineering programs in the world, the Penn State AE Department is dedicated to providing outstanding academic excellence to all of our students. The AE program is focused on preparing students and conducting research in the design, engineering, and construction of building projects.

Department of Architectural Engineering

104 Engineering Unit A

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-6394