Fraunhofer CSE, With Roots In Post-WWII Germany, Eyes South Boston Building as Energy Efficiency Test Bed

9/15/11Follow @xconomy

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looking at. One example is a thermal management technology, which automatically adjusts how much to shade a room, based on the amount of sun pouring in at different times of day. The aim is to eliminate the need for additional AC too cool down a room, by better shading from the sun instead. Overall, it’s not a tech that has been widely adopted in the U.S., says Browne. He hopes the CSE can figure out why, and show enough success for the products for them to take off.

Other types of technology that will make an appearance are radiant floor cooling and heating, glass coating to prevent sunlight from warming up rooms unnecessarily, LED lighting, and sky lighting to more directly focus natural light in a particular part of a room, says Browne. The CSE is also exploring open-floor office space and removable walls, to enable better illumination with natural light.

CSE also hopes to track how different combinations of efficiency technologies work together, to help building managers see an ideal mix of the cleantech products.

“The idea behind a living lab is take all these different technologies, put them in a real building, prove out their ROIs, then help companies develop them, says Browne. “Then there’s demand and then the industry picks up.”

The CSE building will display much of that data in real-time monitors as part of a showcase on its first floor. That showcase will also offer augmented reality displays, where visitors can see 3D visualizations of the different products in the buildings, and zoom in on particular sections of the building and particular efficiency systems.

“The idea of this first floor is to grab people and shake them and see how cool this is,” says Browne. “People can not only see it, but experience it. It helps them make connections between the theory and the practical.”

CSE managing director Nolan Browne

The CSE staff, which now numbers over 40 people and is growing (thanks to expanded work in three of its research topics), will move into the new South Boston facility around this time next year, Browne said.

It will be interesting to see what CSE means for the Innovation District, which the city of Boston has promoting heavily as a tech and startup hotbed. The area has already drawn some tech-focused business from other parts of the state. Fraunhofer has a knack for seeding geographical clusters around the industries it studies, boasts Browne. He points to the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, founded in 1981 in Freiburg, Germany—a city now known as a solar industry hub.

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