In a climate as prone to extremes as Canada's, buildings are often inefficient to heat, light and cool. Fortunately, innovative solutions are being explored through the NSERC Smart Net-zero Energy Buildings Strategic Network (SNEBRN), a nationwide university initiative headquartered at Concordia, which has just received $1 million in new funding from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).
"Through the ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative, our Government is investing in innovative clean energy technologies that create jobs, generate new economic opportunities and protect the environment," said the Honourable Joe Oliver, Canada's Minister of Natural Resources. "This program demonstrates our tangible support for energy projects that drive energy innovation."
The funding will help the network conduct further research and testing of progressive technologies, and to explore how to more efficiently integrate these technologies into buildings. The research has two principle aims: "proof of concept" studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of new technologies, and validation studies that show how these technologies can be integrated in the built environment.
"Concordia is ideally positioned to play a strong role in the nationwide research effort to invent and refine the smart energy solutions of tomorrow," says Alan Shepard, President of Concordia University. "This new grant from NRCan builds on the solar energy expertise established through the Solar Buildings Research Network, which was headquartered at Concordia from 2005-2010."
Created in December 2011 with major funding from the Natural Sciences and Research Council of Canada (NSERC), SNEBRN brings together 29 Canadian researchers from 15 universities to develop the smart net-zero energy homes and commercial buildings of the future. The goal is to invent and implement technologies that make it possible for buildings to generate as much energy as they consume (net-zero), or even to produce more energy than they consume.
Under the directorship of Andreas Athienitis, a professor in Concordia's Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering, SNEBRN is ensuring that engineers obtain the skills they need to become part of Canada's clean energy workforce. "We are now in a period of transformation of buildings, from energy-consuming systems to net energy producers," says Athienitis. "This is helping take our society toward a more sustainable future."
One of the new technologies Athienitis has helped to pioneer is building-integrated photovoltaic thermal systems (BIPV/T). A BIPV/T system produces both electrical and thermal energy. This combination makes it a better energy generator than a standalone photovoltaic system, which converts just solar energy into electricity. A BIPV/T currently helps power and heat Concordia's John Molson School of Business.
"I am delighted that this new funding from NRCan will allow us to help engineers become part of the clean energy workforce that Canada urgently needs," says Athienitis.