Project: Engineering Tomorrow’s Cities

The cities of tomorrow will put new demands on our buildings. How do we prepare? A recent project to advance sustainable buildings and low-carbon communities underscores the importance of industry-academic collaboration in research and training.

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Over the next 30 years or so, the world’s population is expected to skyrocket from about 7.6 billion today to more than 9 billion — and a resounding 70% of people, the UN estimates, will live in cities.

This begs the questions: How will we prepare our infrastructure to accommodate such a shift? And, how will building delivery change?

Today, the building and HVACR industries are facing a period of evolution. The majority of the existing workforce is aging toward retirement, technology is rapidly advancing and becoming more digital and connected, and the regulatory landscape is a seemingly ever-moving target.

Last year, recognizing the importance of industry and academic collaboration — and the opportunity to work with and train the next generation of engineers and architects, Danfoss launched its Engineering Tomorrow’s Cities initiative in collaboration with Penn State University in Philadelphia. The joint research-education project was part of PSU’s Immersive Internship in Global Sustainability Practices, which was based at the University’s “Living Laboratory” building and energy research facility at The Navy Yard at Philadelphia, under the objective of growing the global workforce needed to support a sustainable, low-carbon community built environment.

The focus of the Engineering Tomorrow’s Cities initiative was on the deployment of innovative technologies and designs to reduce carbon emissions and highlight the important role of engineering in creating the sustainable commercial buildings and communities of tomorrow. Forty interns from 11 countries participated in the program, with research topics ranging from emissions prediction to microgrid operations, energy storage to building automation and the Internet of Things as an enabling platform, building controls to metering, and building-external condition integration.

Research topics included district energy/combined heat and power through a multi-city onsite initiative across Pennsylvania; building/microgrid integration; smart building and demand response technologies; variable speed controls and building equipment; energy storage and building systems and sub-systems integration. (You can learn more about the solutions and recommendations here.)

The project also supported our mutual effort to support the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings, an initiative with global reach to foster a post-carbon economy and deliver on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

UNECE Director for Sustainable Energy Scott Foster commented on the Engineering Tomorrow’s Cities initiative’s output, saying, “students from the Danfoss-Penn State project will seed enterprises around the world with the knowledge and knowhow a new global energy future requires. Much of what we need to succeed is known or just over the horizon. But we need to move that knowledge from the lab to the field and into the population centers growing rapidly around the world. The work Penn State and Danfoss have launched working together is a model that needs to be deployed worldwide and scaled up to match the challenge.”

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